Bumps seen for Hendrick

Jul 3, 2007 7:30 AM

If the future is anything like the past with the "Car of Tomorrow," it’s going to be a Hendrick Motorsports runaway.

I know, the last three COT races have been won by drivers other than Hendrick. It’s encouraging that two of last three races produced first time winners. However, there hasn’t been one bump in the road for this team, in particular Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

The "Dynamic Duo" have been masters on every track and have been two of the three most consistent COT drivers on tour. Denny Hamlin would be the other on the COT list. Next season, the "Dynamic Duo" will drive the COT all season at every track. Hopefully by then they’ll just call it a "Car" and we can drop the whole label.

Beyond just having the best cars, Hendrick will be joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The trio of high profile drivers under one stable will make them the "Superfriends" of NASCAR. It also puts to rest what many NASCAR fans had hoped for — the "Feud of Tomorrow."

Ever since the passing of Dale Sr., fans have been looking for the next driver to knock Gordon around the track a little bit. That’s not likely to happen as teammates.

Saturday night’s Cup race at Daytona marks the half way point of the season. This will also be the last time we see the "Car with No Future" in a restrictor plate race. The next plate race run will be at Talladega and they’ll be using the COT.

I believe I can be optimistic and give hope that there might be someone else as a possible candidate to win other than a favorite. This is who lies in front of you if looking to bet on a medium range shot at 15 or 20/1. First up is the "Dynamic Duo," each co-favorites to win at 5/1. Next in line is Tony Stewart at 6/1. Stewart will be going for his third straight Pepsi 400 win, which would tie the "Silver Fox" David Pearson.

Hendrick Motorsports has been very stingy at restrictor plate races in the last four seasons. Gordon had gone six straight without winning a plate race until taking Talladega this year. Prior to that winless streak, Gordon had won 4-of-6 plate races. Johnson finished second at Talladega this year.

Last season, Johnson won the Daytona 500 and the first Talladega race. For kickers, it was Brian Vickers who rolled in as a nice 35/1 choice in last season’s fall Talladega race. Definitely not a bad run for one organization.

This year’s Daytona 500 showed us that someone can step up against Hendrick. Not only did Kevin Harvick join select plate winners club, but Mark Martin was sitting pretty as well and came inches from winning. Maybe there is a possibility of David beating Goliath this week.

Las Vegas brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch would seem like the top candidates to come in as a decent payout. The brothers have been up front for most of the last two seasons of plate racing, but something always seems to happen. Kyle was right behind Mark Martin and in front of Kevin Harvick with a lap to go in the Daytona 500. Greg Biffle spun Kyle out, while Harvick got closer and eventually won.

Kurt seems to run up front in every plate race since joining Penske. In his last 5 plate races, Busch has ended up third on three occasions. He’s been knocking on the door to the plate race winners club for some time now, including his time with Roush where he had eight top 5 finishes.

Let’s go for some bombs this week. Throw out the "Dynamic Duo," because I’m stupid. Take a chance with both Penske cars and the lower level Hendrick vehicles. Because Stewart runs so well for 400 miles at Daytona, you have to include him. Harvick is another one to look at, however, sweeping Daytona isn’t something that occurs too often. The last driver to sweep Daytona was Bobby Allison in 1982.

TNT upgrades Daytona

Turner Network Television (TNT), home of NASCAR programming for 24 consecutive seasons, goes under the lights this Saturday when the network televises the Pepsi 400. The network will debut a new television format.

This year’s coverage features Wide Open Coverage, a unique television format that will have no national commercial interruptions, only three local ad breaks per hour and an innovative on-screen video box for sponsor branded content.

The branded content for all 10 sponsors includes a mix of vignettes running 60 seconds to two minutes in length, and features notable faces from around the world of NASCAR such as drivers Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Robby Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Mark Martin, Regan Smith and Kurt Busch.

TNT will rev its race day coverage at 2:30 p.m. PST with a one-hour program entitled "24x24: Wide Open with Jeff Gordon," which focuses on the driver of the No. 24 whose championship career includes 79 Nextel Cup Series victories and 63 career poles. The feature will be followed by the network’s pre-race coverage which begins with NASCAR on TNT Live at 3:30 p.m. PST, followed by Allstate Countdown to Green at 4:30 p.m. PST. The Pepsi 400 will begin at 5 p.m. PST.




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Casey Mears




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