Hendrick Motorsports long ago established itself as the premier racing organization in NASCAR.
With 10 Sprint Cup Series championships in the past 18 years and a combined 215 wins, Hendrick created the current model of success by surrounding himself with the best mechanics and drivers in the business.
But Joe Gibbs knows a little something about success, too. He’s one of the few car owners to beat Hendrick in the past 18 years, getting two championships for Tony Stewart and one with Bobby Labonte.
After two Chase for the Championship races, Gibbs is in position to win a fourth.
Matt Kenseth won the first two races in the playoffs. JGR teammate Kyle Busch has finished second in both races.
And together they’ve won 11 of the first 28 races this year.
So have they supplanted Hendrick Motorsports as the best team in NASCAR?
“I think this sport goes in circles all the time,” Busch said. “You see a lot of teams that prosper and do really well and then they sort of go back on their down swing ... and whether or not we’re on top, I don’t think that’s an answer that can be written until after (season finale at) Homestead.”
Jimmie Johnson continues to carry the Hendrick banner. He has four wins this year and is the only driver of the four teammates that qualified for the playoffs who’s in contention to challenge Kenseth and Busch. He started the Chase with fifth- and fourth-place finishes, but lost ground. Still, he isn’t too concerned.
“We’re in a good spot,” he said. “If we put together our best races (the rest of the way), we’ll be in contention for the championship.”
If JGR doesn’t stumble, it may not matter.
“I mean, at the end of the day I don’t think it matters if anybody thinks you’re the favorite or if you’re the underdog,” Kenseth said. “At the end of Homestead, it just matters who has more points.”
Kenseth is careful not to get too comfortable.
Since Hendrick’s last championship in 2010, his organization has a combined 21 wins while running four fulltime teams. Gibbs has 23 combined wins with three teams during that same period.
“It couldn’t have started any better than what it did, but it’s only (two races) out of 10 and there’s a lot of racing to do and each and every week is different,” Kenseth said.