Monday, March 12, 2012

Hendrick Garage: Looking for Luck in Las Vegas

Kasey Kahne enjoys the pre-race flyover as he prepares for the Kobalt Tools 400.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

It’s Vegas baby, that’s where the four Hendrick drivers and the Sprint Cup Series drivers find themselves this week. Will the Hendrick drivers win big, or walk away empty handed? Would lady luck grant one of these four drivers a big win?

Kasey Kahne  - No. 5
Being the newest driver at Hendrick Motorsports has proven to be hard for Kahne. So far the No.5 driver has had a rough start, but could luck be on his side?

Kahne won the pole during Friday’s qualifying, setting a new track record of 28.35 seconds. As the race started Kahne lost the lead quickly to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne would keep falling back and found himself 10th. On Lap 205 Kahne made a pit stop which cost  him a lot of time due to a lug nut issue on the right rear tire. The final lap of the race Kahne was running up in 7th when he made contact with the wall and ended up finishing 19th and is now 26th in the point standings.

After winning his first pole with Hendrick Motorsports Kahne said, "..It's great to win a pole and it feels good. It the first one with Hendrick Motorsports and it’s good to get it out of the way early in the season."

Jeff Gordon - No. 24 
Someone hoping for a little luck would be the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon. Starting 16th, Gordon hoped to make his charge to the front. By Lap 67 Gordon was 7th and looked to be have a good car. The caution came out, Gordon took four tires causing him to fall behind others who opted for two. From there on Gordon never got a handle on his car and was battling his car all day. Gordon ended up finishing 12th and is now 17th in points.

Jimmie Johnson - No. 48
Luck sure wasn’t on 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s side while in Las Vegas. During Saturday's practice he crashed and had to resort to a back up car placing him in the rear of the field for the start of the race. On Lap 98 Johnson took the lead and would go on to lead 35 laps, pretty great lady luck maybe lady luck was there after all?

Johnson tried hard to beat Tony Stewart and battled until the very end of the race but couldn’t out run the No. 14 of Stewart. Johnson finished 2nd and is now 23rd in the points.

We had a great race car all day long," said Johnson "I wish we could have had this KOBALT Tools Chevrolet over in Victory Lane for the KOBALT race. But, we'll just have to try it again next time. Great race car. To be out here in a back-up (car) and to drive from dead-last to the lead and then finish second is pretty awesome. Hate coming up short. Glad to be on the West Coast and see all my fans. Look forward to doing it again soon."

Also of note, tomorrow we'll find out if Johnson will be without crew chief Chad Knaus for six weeks. Will Rick Hendrick win the appeal and save the dynamic duo? Stay tuned for more information tomorrow, Skirts and Scuffs will have it all covered.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - No. 88
The winless streak keeps growing, but could Dale Earnhardt Jr. get lady luck on his side and end it?

Earnhardt Jr. started out the race 4th but quickly took the lead and would end up leading the first 43 laps. A caution proved to be the end of Earnhardt Jr’s luck, after taking four tires caused him to fall back mid-pack where he’d stay for the reminder of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led over 70 laps and finished the race in 10th and now is 4th in points.

“Yeah, I think we should have run better than that and the team felt like we should have been better than that and we are just a little bit disappointed," Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. "Our car was tight at the start of the race, we were fast and I knew before the end of the race we were going to have to free my car up and I never let Steve (Letarte) do it. I just never told him enough and never gave him enough freedom today that he felt like he needed to free the car up. When we got in traffic the car was just really tight and it’s a lesson that you learn a long, long time ago and we just didn't do a good job of working on the car during the race. It was more my fault than anything really. I didn't give him enough information I guess.”


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