For the next few days, we will offer a team-by-team, driver-by-driver preview of the 2018 season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Who ever thought we’d see the day? Jimmie Johnson is now the old man at Hendrick Motorsports. Just a few short years ago, the seven-time champ was the resident kid at HMS with the likes of Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in tow. Times have changed.
With his impressive resume, Johnson has been the standard bearer at Hendrick Motorsports for some time. Now, he is also the elder statesman with a crew of young ‘uns that includes Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron. No word if the vending machines at the shop now include PB&J sandwiches and juice boxes. Sorry, bad dad joke, I know.
No question it’s a new idea at Hendrick Motorsports. Even Jimmie Johnson is in a different position than what he has enjoyed in the past. Just this week, he opined that he had never worked harder in 2017, only to get less in return. A bad JJ year is better than most for any other mere mortal, but it just never seemed like the 42-year old was a dyed in the wool threat to take a record-setting eighth title. Expect a highly motivated 48 crew this year. It will just be a matter of what kind of results it will yield.
Chase Elliott continued to run up front in 2017, but that first career Cup win continued to elude him. Some would say he would get too conservative with the race on the line. It’s just a matter of Bill’s boy learning to close the deal. It will happen. I said it, this is the year Chase Elliott kicks the door down.
Hendrick Motorsports has long been like the New York Yankees of racing. They always manage to land the big veteran names and the hot prospects. William Byron is expected to be the next big thing. Before he even finished high school, Byron was already tearing it up in the Camping World Truck Series. Then he moved on to the Xfinity Series, where once again, he was kicking it and taking names. It won’t be quite that easy at the Cup level. So we think.
Alex Bowman has managed to parlay his relative success driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. into a full-time gig in the 88. He’s always managed to fare well with any opportunity given, now it’s time to stand and deliver. I don’t know that I ever necessarily saw talent that just bowled me over, but people smarter than me see something really good in Bowman. Now Hendrick Motorsports is poised to give him a legit shot. Go get it, Alex.
This will be a very different year for Hendrick Motorsports, if only because besides Johnson, this team has gotten very young. It could be though they will show themselves to be very young AND very talented.