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NASCAR: Can Hendrick Motorsports Return to Form?

Rick Hendrick, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott

Rick Hendrick, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott

If you’re a Hendrick Motorsports fan still seeking something to cure the pain of last season’s poor results, consider this: The last time Hendrick Motorsports collected three or fewer race wins in a season (1993), it won four of the next five Cup championships. Chin up, right?

Last season was a disaster by Hendrick standards, with the new design of the Chevrolet Camaro throwing a major wrench in the team’s plans. Jimmie Johnson went winless for the first time in his full-time career. Rookie William Byron missed the playoffs. Alex Bowman finished last in the playoffs. Only Chase Elliott scratched out three wins and made the third round of the playoffs.

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The sheer dominance that Hendrick has shown for the past 25 seasons of Cup competition makes a continued downturn seem unlikely. History aside, Elliott’s late-season speed (his three wins came in August and after) should act as a barometer that things were getting better.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s major offseason move — he’s not working with Chad Knaus for the first time in his Cup career — should light a new fire in the No. 48 team as crew chief Kevin Meendering takes over. And let’s be real: Bowman and Byron — budget hires for a team hoping youth could pay off as it did with Johnson and Jeff Gordon back in the day — will show inevitable improvement in their second seasons with the team, especially with the 2019 rules package that should tighten up the competition and reward teams like Hendrick that have massive engineering departments.