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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hendrick Motorsports Pushing The Envelope

For several years, the Hendrick organization, especially the 48 team, has been known for preparing for the Chase and then excelling during the final 10 races of the year.  Often the Lowe’s team has sacrificed domination earlier in the year in order to have dominant cars prepared for the Chase.
This weekend at the New Hampshire International Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports will be pushing the envelope.  Often teams will debut new chassis throughout the year, but this week at least 3 of the 4 Hendrick teams will be sporting a new ride.  Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., and Martin are all listed as bringing a new chassis to the “Magic Mile”, and both the 88 and the 5 are listed as untested new chassis.   The 24 may or may not be new, but they do not generally post their chassis selection prior to the race weekend. 
One would have to wonder if the Hendrick teams have found something in particular or if it is merely coincidence that they are bringing 3 new chassis to the track this week.  Although it is quite possible that they are all non-related, it looks like they possibly have found something in their engineering that they feel comfortable will produce results, especially since they are relying mostly on their 7 post shaker and computer models, etc. for their information on the untested chassis.
Someone more experienced and knowledgeable about the engineering and fabrication that go into the chassis development could probably give more insight about how much testing is needed these days prior to the track, but from someone on the outside looking in, this seems to be an aggressive move.   Of course, Hendrick has made some aggressive moves in recent months…  After moving three of your drivers to different teams within the Hendrick stable at the end of last year, sending three new cars to the track on one weekend does seem mild.
Last weekend Hendrick drivers moved around quite a bit.  Johnson moved down 2 spots and lost 7 points, Gordon moved down 8 spots and lost 22 points, Earnhardt Jr. gained 5 spots and lost 1 point, and Martin gained 14 points on 13th place, the consolation spot at the end of the year.  If Hendrick has found something in its chassis engineering, the teams could definitely be dominant this weekend.  Three of the four drivers have won before at Loudon: Gordon twice, Johnson three times, and Martin once.
Time has seemed to look favorably on Hendrick’s last aggressive move, and time will tell on this move as well.  (Two and a half days to be exact…) 
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