DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – “It’s no secret, we didn’t have the year we wanted last year,” said team owner Rick Hendrick after his cars qualified 1-2-3-4 for the Daytona 500 a year ago this weekend. The same can kind of be said for the next 36 races after that comment too.
Jimmie Johnson missed the playoffs for the first time of his NASCAR career last season. He also went through two different crew chiefs – Kevin Meendering for the first 21 and Cliff Daniels for the final 15.
Alex Bowman finally reached victory lane, but he and his teammate William Byron failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs.
Chase Elliott won again at Watkins Glen to go along with triumphs in Talladega (April) and on the ROVAL (September) but he was bounced in the Round of 8 again.
What can they do to get back to a championship level organization? Well, it all starts in Daytona.
2018 and 2019 were far from a typical Hendrick Motorsports season. They started off strong in earning the Daytona 500 pole each of the last two years but it was arguably all down hill from there.
Johnson, enters 2020 on the heels of his three worst statistical seasons ever. He hasn’t won a points paying race in 95 races. He has a combined nine top five finishes over the last three years. He went from four in 2017 down to two in 2018 and back up to three in 2019. He had 11 top 10s in 2017 and 2018 and 12 last year. On top of that, he only led 217 laps in 2017. He led just 40 in 2018 and 131 last year.
Despite a Daytona 500 pole in Feb. 2018, Bowman had only three top five finishes and 11 top 10’s after. He led just 71 laps. Last year, he did get that win on June 30 but only had seven top five finishes overall and 12 top 10’s.
Byron, had no top five finishes in 2018 but did improve a lot in 2019. Can he get his first career victory in year 3 at Hendrick?
Elliott, has been the lone bright spot in ending a 99 race winless streak and reaching victory lane three times – all in the final 15 races, in 2018. He started slow but picked things up back again in August of last year. Can he put a full season together in 2020?
Hendrick hopes so. For an organization with 256 premiere series wins and 11 championships, the time is now.
They qualified 1-2-3-4 for the Daytona 500 last year. They should be strong this year. Their problem is, they need better cars in the race.
HMS saw their five year streak of Daytona 500 poles end last Sunday. The results in the ‘500 though in those years – 33rd, 37th, 14th, 17th and 21st respectively.
They’ve failed to get their cars capable of competing in the race itself.
Being strong in superspeedway qualifying is one thing, being good in the draft is another. They’ve failed to be strong in the draft the last four years.
HMS may have won 10 races at Daytona since 2013, but they haven’t won the Daytona 500 since 2014 and haven’t won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 since 2015. After failing to score a points paying victory on the famed 2.5-mile track over the last four years, 2020 is time to end that drought.