Hendrick Motorsports: Home of the 2012 Sprint Cup Champion?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the hottest Hendrick Motorsports driver in the points, but with all four teams finishing in the top six at Kentucky, we may have a preview of where the next Cup champion will come from.
The Quaker State 400 ended with Kasey Kahne second, Earnhardt fourth, Jeff Gordon fifth and Jimmie Johnson sixth.
Earnhardt is currently second in the standings, 11 markers behind leader, Matt Kenseth. Johnson is third in points, 23 markers out of the lead.
Gordon remains winless with only two top-five finishes, but his No. 24 team seems to be gaining ground on all the bad luck that has relegated him to 18th in the standings.
Prior to finishing fifth at Kentucky, he had two sixth-place finishes at Sonoma and Michigan. Gordon must win two races to guarantee a shot at the wild-card slots in the Chase.
Kahne had a rocket ship by the end of the Quaker State 400, but ran out of laps in an effort to catch the winner, Brad Keselowski.
The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Chevrolet has one win this season. With nine races left, he may well get the much-needed second win that could secure his wild-card Chase position. He is 14th in the points.
Johnson and the Lowe's No. 48 is showing championship performance with two wins, three top-five finishes, a sixth place and 11th place finish out of the last seven races.
It is highly likely that he will win yet one more race to tie Brad Keselowski's three wins this season. He is showing consistency that should keep him strong in the points.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team may have the potential to steal a championship in stealth mode with his consistent performance and a win or two when the Chase rolls around.
Earnhardt has a win, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes so far and he has completed every lap of every race.
Typically the summer stretch is Earnhardt's toughest time, but with the exception of one road course, Watkins Glen, the next nine races are at tracks where Junior should stay on target for top-10 finishes.
Hot streaks come for drivers as surely as the hot weather of summer. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart are likely candidates to remain well within the top 10 heading to the Chase.
Kahne and Kyle Busch may be the ones to watch for the coveted wild-card slots as the preseason unravels toward the Chase. Keselowski is 10th in the standings and should remain in the top 10.
At the conclusion of the 26th points race in Richmond, it should look the same from around the seventh or eighth place up in the standings with a few shifts.
Drivers floating towards the bottom of the list of those pretty much locked into the Chase have their work cut out for them with competition becoming more fierce.
It just may be that Gordon and Carl Edwards won't find Victory Lane. Failure of those two drivers to make the Chase would be shocking.
The 10-race Chase could be chock full of surprises like the one Stewart gave us last year, but it truly looks to be a battle of RFR and HMS.
Roush Fenway Racing drivers Greg Biffle and Kenseth are certain threats for capturing the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
When the checkered flag waves at Homestead, you may want to have placed your bets on Hendrick Motorsports. The awarding of the Cup title could be wild with a sixth for Johnson or first for Junior.
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