Friday, March 22, 2013
Hendrick power on display in 2013
By Tom McKean and Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Info
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesHendrick Motorsports, arguably the strongest team in the Cup Series, has jumped out to an impressive start this season.
Jimmie Johnson's dominance at Fontana is one reason Hendrick's strong start in 2013 should continue.
In 2012, Hendrick didn’t earn a victory until Darlington, which was the 11th event of the season. This season the team already has claimed two of the first four races.
Kasey Kahne's win last week in Bristol only helped strengthen Hendrick's 2013 season. The combination of Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon have led 451 laps through four events compared to just 167 at this time last year.
What’s more, California is one of Johnson’s strongest venues. His 5.4 average finish at California is not only the best in track history, but the best by any active driver at any track (minimum 15 starts).
Meanwhile, Earnhardt Jr. is off to the best start in his Sprint Cup Series career. This is the first time he’s started a season with four straight top-10 finishes.
Qualifying won’t likely be imperative in Fontana. In the past 57 Cup Series events (dating back to the 2011 Brickyard 400) only three drivers have won from the pole. In fact, drivers starting 15th have won more often (5), than those drivers who started on the pole.
California has also not been kind to the early leader, as no lap-one leader has ever gone on to win at the track. It’s the only lap that an eventual race winner at California has never led.
Gibbs Winless at Auto Club
Joe Gibbs Racing has 101 Cup Series wins, but has never won at California. It's the only active track where his team has not won Cup Series race. However, with a win this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing will become the first team to win at least once on every active track. It’s ironic that Gibbs hasn’t won a Cup event at California because they have won a series-record eight straight Nationwide events at California.
Who could capture the checkered at California for JGR? New arrival Matt Kenseth seems like a possible candidate, he’s won four Sprint Cup and three Nationwide series races at the two-mile oval.
But a better bet could be Kyle Busch, who has a record five Nationwide Series wins at the track. His first Sprint Cup win also came at the track in 2005, when he was still driving for … Hendrick Motorsports.
Busch has led more than 70 percent of the total laps in the last two California races, but finished second and third, respectively, in those races.