Rick Hendrick's elite team of driver's was supposed to shatter the standards of what can be accomplished in a single season.
Never before had such a group of drivers been assembled under one roof. It includes four of the biggest names in NASCAR: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Mark Martin.
Combined, the group has seven Sprint Cup championships, and 174 wins.
In 2006, Hendrick's team established itself as the dominate unit in NASCAR. The addition of Earnhardt Jr. in '07, and then Martin this past offseason, gave many NASCAR fans the impression that Hendrick Motorsport's would be an unstoppable force in 2009.
So far, that has not been the case.
If the Chase was to start next week, only Gordon would be in.
Currently, Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., and Martin sit 13th, 24th, and 34th in the points, respectively. To follow up with that, Gordon is the only driver of the bunch to run with any consistency this year.
Gordon's average finish is seventh. The other three have a combined average finish of 26th. Gordon has three top 10's to his credit; matching the combined number for his team mates.
The question that many NASCAR fans are asking (especially fans of Hendrick drivers) is, "what is going on here?"
If the same results continue throughout the year, Gordon will be the only Hendrick driver with even a thought of competing for the Sprint Cup, and the other three will be left fighting for 13th place—a far cry from what was meant to be in 2009.
Obviously, there is plenty of time for the Hendrick bunch to turn things around with 22 races remaining before the Chase. I do expect a lot of work to be done in the shop during this bye-week. I also expect Johnson's crew to turn things around and be right in the thick of championship contention.
Unfortunately, Earnhardt Jr. and Martin's poor showings don't give me quite as much optimism. I do not expect them to be Cup contenders. But, I've been wrong before.
Before the year began, Hendrick said he'd be disappointed if just one of his drivers missed the Chase. This year just might turn out to be a disappointment if that's his only mark for which he's measuring success.
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