Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson (left) shares a laugh with Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner/driver Tony Stewart.
Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images
So we started the season with seven different winners in seven different races. Five different teams won. Then all of sudden, Hendrick Motorsports came alive and has won the last five in a row. I’d like to sit here and tell you it’s been one magical thing that flipped that switch, but I can’t.
If you remember, we started the 2014 season with a lot of new variables. We had the aero changes. We had Goodyear busting out a new tire for different racetracks and different races. We had the new changes to the Chase format plus the qualifying procedure. Obviously, I think the biggest variable was the no ride-height rule for 2014 — the setup approach to these cars.
The setups are all over the place. I bet if you could lay out the setup sheets of all 43 cars from Sunday’s Michigan race, while they all wouldn’t be different, I’d still wager that 25 to 30 of them would have been. They all are trying to obtain the same goal; they just have a lot of different ways of getting there.
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Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in February, we all know that it and Talladega are different animals. The Hendrick cars were running okay as a whole but they were just a little behind with the new rules package. I think it would be safe to say that of the four teams, the No. 48 was behind the most.
One thing, while I don’t think it’s a secret, I do think has pretty much has flown under the radar is the subtle change in the Hendrick Motorsports/Stewart-Haas Racing alliance. The alliance has been in place since 2009 when Stewart-Haas Racing was formed.
I think this is the first year where everyone on both sides of the equation is working as one, and we all have seen the amazing results of that. I think with the driver lineup over at Stewart-Haas this year, the information and data are flowing both ways. I think Hendrick Motorsports probably feels for the first time they are getting back as much as they are giving, which is what a true alliance is all about.
We’ve had 15 races so far this season. Team Penske has won three of those 15. Of those remaining 12 races, nine of them have been won by the alliance of Hendrick and Stewart-Haas. The scary thing is, I don’t see that trend slowing down anytime soon.