Junior has 'Fun' Despite Questions in Kansas
Runner-up Martin Truex Jr. and third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson could have used a victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway to snap winless streaks for both themselves and their organizations.
Truex hasn’t won in 175 races and Michael Waltrip Racing has gone 61 races without a win. Johnson, who has 55 career victories, has only one in his last 36 races, and Hendrick Motorsports has gone the last 14 races without a victory.
That might not seem all that many for Hendrick but ever since Johnson’s win at Kansas last October, Hendrick Motorsports has been prepared to celebrate its 200th Cup victory.
“You want to win for Rick and for yourself and your team,” said Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose own winless streak stretched to 137 races. “Everybody here needs a win for one reason or another. We’re all working really hard.
“I’m not really focusing on it or honing in on it too heavily. You’ve just got to think about what your car is doing and what you need to do to help your car and make your car faster and the wins eventually take care of themselves.”
That’s the philosophy at MWR, where executive vice president Ty Norris could only wonder how much more the team needs to do as Truex led 173 laps at Kansas only to finish second to Denny Hamlin.
“The wins will come, and if we keep doing it like this, they will come in bunches,” Norris said. “It just goes to show how stinking hard it is to win a race at this level when you’ve got world-class competition. … We had a hand on the trophy and Denny had a hand on the trophy and he had a bigger part of the wishbone.”
For his driver, Truex has five second-place finishes since his June 4, 2007 win at Dover.
“I've given wins away and been this disappointed before,” Truex said. “I can remember back at Phoenix (in November 2007), we led about the whole race and the last time the caution came out we stayed out and everybody pitted.
“It's things like that that seem to be the story of my career since my first win. But again, I'm just proud of the team and proud of where we've come.”
Because Truex dominated the race, the sting of not getting to victory lane was a little less on Johnson.
“We ran well but we weren't a dominant car and kind of finished where we should have,” Johnson said. “Today doesn't bother me.
“Sure, I'd love to do it, but the 56 (of Truex) and the 11 (of Hamlin) at the end had more pace than we did.”
Engines still fail
A week after a 500-mile race where only one driver (Brad Keselowski) had engine problems, six drivers had engine trouble in the 400-mile race at Kansas.
Polesitter AJ Allmendinger had a linkage in his throttle body housing break.
“I’m not sure how to explain it other than you’re on the pole one minute riding around leading laps and then next thing you know your car isn’t right,” Allmendinger said.
Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer had valve train issues in their Toyota Racing Development engines. Bobby Labonte broke a rod or a piston in his Triad-built motor.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon and Phoenix Racing’s Kurt Busch (whose team uses Hendrick engines) both ran the final laps down a cylinder.
No worries for Patrick
Danica Patrick shouldn’t be too worried about having to qualify in the No. 10 car when she returns to the Sprint Cup Series in three weeks at Darlington.
David Reutimann, who is driving the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 10 car in the 26 races that Patrick isn’t competing in the car for Stewart-Haas Racing, finished 29th at Kansas and is comfortably inside the top 35 in owner points.
The top 35 are guaranteed starting spots each week, so Patrick’s team needs to be inside the top 35 or she would have to qualify on speed at Darlington.
He is 34th, eight points ahead of 35th (BK Racing’s Landon Cassill) and 19 points ahead of the No. 33 car, which failed to make the race at Kansas with Jeff Green behind the wheel.
The only issue could come in two weeks at Talladega, but the No. 33 team would need to make the race, avoid the big wrecks and post a finish 20 spots better than Reutimann.