Hendrick Motorsports Claims Team Parity: Prove It at the Brickyard 400

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 06:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy Chevrolet, and Mark Martin, driver of the #5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, poses after qualifying on the front row for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 6, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Rick Hendrick promised parity with all of his teams at the beginning of this season.

Hendrick Motorsports has the chance to unload four cars, each capable of winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

The shop housing the GoDaddy.com No. 5 driven by Mark Martin and the Amp Energy/National Guard No. 88 driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. remain the HMS laggards.

Jeff Gordon has four wins at the famed Brickyard and is a favorite to win once again.

Gordon ranks second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series points standings.

Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line first at the Brickyard 400 in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Johnson is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings.

Both of the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champions are battling for the fifth title this year.

It is a given, Chad Knaus, crew chief for the Lowe's No. 48 will bring a car ready to qualify well and win the race.

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Steve Letarte is working as hard to get his driver, Gordon, in victory lane as he has to get himself in fighting form with a major weight loss.

Johnson has five wins this season which give him the extra 50 bonus points going into the Chase as of this time.

Gordon has yet to win this season, but maneuvers his car into second place finishes showing just how close he is to a win.

Gordon spoke of winning the Brickyard 400 saying, "Well, there's no doubt it would be a huge, huge victory for us.  The timing might be just right."

He added, "We need these bonus points to really prove to ourselves and everyone else that we can compete for the championship."

So with half of the Hendrick stable expected to do well at the Brickyard, we take a closer look at the lesser half of the equation.

Mark Martin was hot last year finishing second to Johnson for the Sprint Cup title.

In 2009 Martin started from the pole at the Brickyard 400 and finished second to Johnson.

This season has not been as much fun for Martin driver of the GoDaddy.com No. 5 Chevrolet.

Currently he ranks 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings.  He is 496 points out of first place.

Martin's first experience in the HMS No. 5 was in October of 2008 for a Goodyear tire test at Indy.

Crew chief Alan Gustafson for the No. 5 has chosen Chassis No. 5-550 for Sunday's race.

It is the same chassis Martin drove to second place last year at the Brickyard.

Martin spoke of racing at Indy saying, "I didn't think this type car, a stock car, would be good at that kind of track.  I can honestly say I was wrong.  I love going back to Indy to race."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his 498th start in a NASCAR national series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After a miserable race at Chicagoland, Earnhardt Jr. found himself once again 13th in the NASCAR points standings, but only 15 points out of the top 12.

In 2009 Junior qualified his No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevy third for the Brickyard 400.

He ran no lower than ninth when engine failure took him out on lap 127 of 160.

Crew chief Lance McGrew will unload Chassis No. 88-612 for the No. 88 team.

The chassis is new and untested.  The chassis will indicate just how much parity there is at Hendrick Motorsports.

Given that Johnson, Gordon and Martin will have chassis set-ups that are capable of winning.

It remains to be seen if the geometry of the No. 88 car will be identical to the other three cars or totally off the mark and unable to qualify well.

So often, Junior's qualifying attempts are mid-pack, but at Indy passing is very difficult, so qualifying well is paramount to finishing well.

Junior spoke of winning at the Brickyard by saying, "I think about the history of this track and how it's survived the war and closed down and opened back up and everything that it's been through."

A win at any track would be important for Earnhardt Jr. at this stage in his winless streak, but the Brickyard is special.  His legendary father was a winner there.

McGrew said of his driver, "It's a track Dale really loves, and he's such a historian when it comes to NASCAR and racing in general that kissing the bricks would have to be pretty incredible."

Only seven races remain until the Chase.

The upcoming race at a track drivers place second to Daytona in importance for winning leads to drama for all teams.

Hendrick Motorsports has some pretty impressive statistics at the Brickyard with 16 races and 57 entries.  They have seven wins, 17 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes with 661 laps led.

Each of the four drivers at Hendrick Motorsports have their own agenda at Indy.  They each need and want a win for somewhat different reasons.

Rick Hendrick said there was parity with all of his teams.  If that is the case, now is the time to prove it at the Brickyard 400.


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