Hendrick Motorsports has always been known as a top-tier team in NASCAR since it’s inception in 1984. No challenge was too great for the Chevrolet team, racing its way up to 252 wins in NASCAR’s Cup Series. In recent years, Hendrick Motorsports has been the top destination for the sport’s biggest names and young talent. Having the best talent in the cars has not faired well for one of the biggest teams in NASCAR though. In 2018 they only managed to reach victory lane three times. This number is far below the expectations of the team as all three wins came from the No. 9 car driven by Chase Elliott.
The 2018 Season
The struggles seemed to set in with the introduction of the new Camaro ZL1 at the beginning of the 2018 season. The Camaro led Austin Dillon to a historic Daytona 500 victory, but clearly was not the best car on the race track as it did not make it to victory lane again until Watkins Glen on August 5. Like the Camaro as a whole, the four Hendrick Motorsports cars were significantly lack luster running mid-pack at best in most of the races. The average finishes for them were as follows: No. 9 Chase Elliott (12.25), No. 24 William Byron (22.08), No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (16.72), No. 88 Alex Bowman (17.00).
This type of running average does not allow for many chances to get better. Today’s NASCAR is all about data. The drivers provide data like how the car is handling and what the car needs to drive better. The current Gen-6 cars are very aerodynamically dependent and run extremely different in clean and dirty air. Dirty air is a term that is used to describe the air after it has been disturbed by another car. When running in the middle of the pack, the drivers are unable to know what their cars can do in clean air. This makes it incredibly difficult to gather the data needed to get better.
When are improvements coming?
After Hendrick Motorsports driver, Chase Elliott, closed the season with three victories and a sixth-place finish in the Cup standings, the future seemed bright at the Hendrick camp. Unfortunately, the offseason does not look to have provided any bright spots in the organization as far as finding speed. In the first three races of the season, the Hendrick Motorsports team has not shined, other than Jimmie Johnson’s controversial Clash victory in February. The team just cannot find the speed they are in desperate need of to compete with the Ford Mustangs and the Toyota Camrys. With 39 races under the new Camaro, the question is when will Hendrick Motorsports get back to the top of the charts on Sundays?