DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Last weekend, it looked like Hendrick Motorsports was indeed back. Three of their four drivers finished in the top eight at the Chicagoland Speedway including Alex Bowman taking the win.
In fact, they had two cars finish in the top four overall. The speed was there, more so than Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.
For Sunday’s rain delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400, it was back. For the second stage, they finished 2-3-4-7. They were all in the lead group in the end but unfortunately, half of their fleet was involved in the Lap 118 “Big One” in Turn 1 when Austin Dillon moved down to block Clint Bowyer for the lead in the first corner.
Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman who were running up front at the time were collected. But, William Byron and Jimmie Johnson weren’t and they’d finish 2-3 on Sunday afternoon when rain halted the race on Lap 127 of 160.
For Byron, it was his first top five of the season and fourth top 10 result in his last six starts on the season. It was also his first top 20 of his career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona too.
Johnson’s third place finish in his No. 48 Chevrolet was his fourth top eight result in the last seven races. It was also his first top five at Daytona since a runner-up in the 2015 Coke Zero Sugar 400.
HMS finished 1-2 at Talladega back in April. They qualified 1-2-3-4 for February’s Daytona 500 and had three of the top four starters for this race last year too.
In terms of Elliott, he’s searching for luck again. Sunday’s 35th place finish was his fourth straight result outside of the top 10. See, the five races prior saw him finish in the top five in each. The 10 races prior to that, he had just one top 10.
Now, his last four finishes in his No. 9 Chevrolet are – 20th, 37th, 11th and 35th respectively. This up and down season is certainly weighing on him. He has led 409 laps and taken two stage wins, but he also has one top 10 in 13 races too. In Daytona overall, Elliott has finishes of 37th, 14th, 33rd and 17th respectively in the Daytona 500 and 32nd, 22nd, 34th and now 35th in the 400 in July.
So, as we head to the Kentucky Speedway next weekend, a track that HMS has never won at, they look to have the speed to contend with anyone, minus Elliott.