Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Hendrick: Gibbs has 'lapped me'
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick says fellow Sprint Cup owner Joe Gibbs has done more than catch Hendrick Motorsports in performance this season.
"Looks like he passed me," the owner of HMS said during Tuesday's grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "He didn't [catch] me. He lapped me."
Joe Gibbs Racing has won the past two Cup races and four of the past six since NASCAR switched from the wing to the spoiler. Denny Hamlin, who won Saturday night at Darlington, has won three of those. Kyle Busch won the other.
HMS, which won three of the first five races with four-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, is winless during that stretch.
But it's not just wins that has JGR looking like the organization to beat 11 races into the season. Hamlin and Busch have combined to lead 695 laps in the past six races after leading only 76 in the first five.
Johnson hasn't led a lap in the past two races and has failed to finish two of the past three. Mark Martin has led only one lap in the past five races and only 42 overall, compared to a year ago, when he'd led more than 200 laps and had two wins by this point.
Jeff Gordon has led a lot of laps (709) but doesn't have a win to show for it.
"I tell you guys every year when we do the media tour you're going to be asking me in the summer what's wrong? What happened? You fell off, what gives, what's the problem?" Hendrick said. "The problem is you have things out of your control or mechanical and you're not as sharp with the spoiler as somebody else is.
"And then luck has a big part of it."
Hendrick has won the previous four Cup titles and nine of the past 15. Gibbs has won three of the other six, but none since Tony Stewart in 2005.
JGR president J.D Gibbs said no one can say it has caught or passed Hendrick until after the season and the champion is crowned.
"The only way to figure that out is the end of the year and you're on the stage," he said. "If you're on stage you are the guy. If not, you've got work to do."
Hendrick believes his organization has a lot of work to do after the way the past month went, from DNFs to on-track squabbles between Johnson and Gordon that he jokingly said almost had him sending both to the hospital with "my foot up [their] butt."
"Nobody is going to stay on top forever," Hendrick said. "All I want to do is be competitive. That's the same thing I've said to you for 20 years. I'll be saying it if I'm here 10 years from now."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.