Quest for 200 wins lingers into Kansas

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It's been some 13 races since HMS last visited victory lane.

Hendrick Motorsports heads to Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday's STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, still in search of that elusive 200th Cup win. It's been some 13 races since HMS last visited victory lane. That may not sound like much, but when your organization is a powerhouse team like Hendrick Motorsports and you're looking for a milestone win like 200, 13 races may seem like an eternity. That's especially true if that winless streak spans parts of two seasons. In this case, the three-month offseason fell smack dab in the middle of this drought.

Why do Hendrick Motorsport drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne -- have reason to be optimistic that win 200 may finally come this weekend? Because Kansas Speedway just so happens to be the site of victory 199 for the organization last fall. Johnson claimed that victory.

“I like the options; we can run anywhere," Johnson said. "It has just been a strong track for me through the years. It’s a lot like Chicago, which is another real strong track for me. There are just certain tracks that just kind of click. Kansas has been one of those for me.”

Whenever it (win 200) happens is going to be very special for the company.

Jimmie Johnson

It's not the Hendrick Motorsports has fallen off the radar since winning at Kansas last year. After all, in the 13 losses since, the four-car organization has compiled statistics that include 14 top-fives, four of those being second-place finishes.

Also worth mentioning -- team owner Rick Hendrick is the winingest owner at Kansas, with four victories. Two of those wins came with Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet and two more from Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet. Both of those drivers will be in Hendrick cars on Sunday.

"For whatever reason, we have run well here since the beginning," Gordon said. "We won the first two races and, even though we experienced engine issues in the fall, we ran well in both races here last year. And I think our cars are even better this year."

Neither Kahne nor Earnhardt have Kansas wins to their credit, but that doesn't mean they haven't run well there. Kahne, while driving for Red Bull Racing, finished second to Johnson in the fall race at Kansas Speedway last year, and Earnhardt, already in his No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet, was second in this race a year ago.

Hendrick Motorsports has come close to win 200 multiple times already in 2012. The organization looked to be on its way to a one-two-three finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway before a restart following a late-race caution ended that chance. Then there was Johnson's domination late in last weekend's race at Texas Motor Speedway before the No. 48 car was passed by the No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford of Greg Biffle in the late-going, as Biffle drove on to the win.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

"Whenever it (win 200) happens is going to be very special for the company," Johnson said. "Again, I just want to win. I don’t care where it is, whatever reason. There are 36, 38 of these things a year, and I want to take home a bunch of trophies. Second is nice, but winning is everything. At Martinsville, we had that warm, fuzzy feeling there. It’s nice to go to tracks where you know you’re going to run well, and you go down there with high hopes but, unfortunately, it doesn’t guarantee much.”

Those races are in the past, though, and next up is Kansas. It's, yet, another opportunity for win 200. And it looks like a good opportunity.

Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Analysis
Tags chevrolet, dale earnhardt jr., featured, hendrick motorsport, jeff gordon, jimmie johnson, kasey kahne, rick hendrick