Monday, July 30, 2012

Hendrick Garage: Jimmie Johnson kisses the bricks once again

The No. 48 team lines up to kiss the bricks at Indy.
Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images for NASCAR
After an off weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returned to racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A historic track where everyone wants to have the honor of doing one thing - kissing the bricks. Would one of the Hendrick drivers get to continue that tradition?

Kasey Kahne, No. 5

Kasey Kahne was the talk of the weekend. After leading first practice and running 4th in final practice, everyone had him picked as the winner for Sunday’s Brickyard 400. Kahne also ran in the Nationwide race, taking the pole position for the series' inaugural trip to the Brickyard. Kahne looked to be getting his weekend off on the right foot.

Kahne spent his day mid-pack; his car just couldn’t get that speed like his teammates had. He finished his day in 12th, but with two wins he has secured a wild-card spot in the Chase.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24

Returning to the track where he has won four times, Jeff Gordon was hoping to make it five wins. Besides, if Gordon wants any hope of making the Chase, he needs to win races. The No. 24 looked great all day; he stayed in the top five and even tried battling his teammate Jimmie Johnson for the lead. On Lap 72 during green flag stops Gordon led one lap before hitting pit road.

Even though Gordon didn't win, he had a great finish of fifth. Even with that finish, the outlook is very bleak for his chances on making the Chase. Gordon did gain two positions and is up to 15th in the points standings.


Jimmie Johnson, No. 48

Jimmie Johnson has been lucky enough to kiss these bricks three times. Returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Johnson showed his hunger to kiss them again and tie Jeff Gordon as the only NASCAR driver with four wins at the Brickyard."

From the drop of the green flag Johnson had his eyes set on the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin and on Lap 29 after challenging him, Johnson finally got the lead. From then on, Johnson dominated the race and was well on his way to a victory.  Leading a total of 99 laps, Johnson's No.48 was on a mission and that mission was to win the race. Once he took the lead on Lap 132 Johnson said goodbye to the field and drove off.

Jimmie Johnson and daughter Genevieve bow down to kiss the bricks.
Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Johnson now has not one, not two... but four wins at the Brickyard! A moment he got to share with his daughter Genevieve.  

Is "Mr. Five-Time" on his way to another championship? In my opinion, he’s looking strong and hungry for more wins. Fourth in points, he’s looking to be a huge factor as we near closer to the Chase.

"Wow, man that victory lap to go around the track is something special," Johnson said on the memorable victory lap. "A big thank you to all the fans out there cheering, it lets it really soak in. To come here and win is a huge honor, then to have four wins - I’m at a loss for words. I can tell you this, I’m so proud of my team. I’m so proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Lowe’s, KOBALT Tools and Chevrolet. Chad Knaus gave me one heck of a race car today and pit road was awesome too. It was a total team effort and we put it on them today. That was nice."

Credit: Jerry Markland, Getty Images for NASCAR
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88

One thing is for certain: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a comeback season. The only driver to compete every lap so far, Earnhardt Jr. is looking to be a championship contender.

Starting 20th should have been a long day for the No. 88 team; however, by Lap 40 he was already up to 10th  position. From then on, Earnhardt Jr’s. day was uneventful and was spent racing his way to the top 10, where he quietly stayed.

As a late-race accident took out Matt Kenseth Earnhardt Jr. took over the points lead, something he hasn’t held since 2004 and something JR Nation can celebrate. Finishing fourth just solidified his lead. Now the question remains: Can Earnhardt Jr. keep his momentum and maybe, just maybe, win the championship?

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