Just Sayin’: Hendrick Motorsports Struggles at Daytona

5By Jared Turner

  • To have been the focus of so much hype during Speedweeks, Hendrick Motorsports laid a bit of an egg in the 500. Of the four Hendrick drivers, the best finisher was Kasey Kahne in 13th. Hendrick drivers Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both wrecked on their own accord, and Jimmie Johnson, much like Kahne, was basically a non-factor. While a rough Daytona 500 is certainly no cause for alarm for an organization as potent as Hendrick, it did indicate perhaps that the edge the Hendrick drivers – Earnhardt Jr., in particular – have held at plate tracks in recent years may be going away.
  • Looking for the biggest surprise of the 2016 Daytona 500? Look no further than eighth-place finisher Regan Smith, who turned in a downright impressive performance in his first outing with the perennially underfunded, under-resourced Tommy Baldwin Racing organization that he joined just three weeks ago. “I’m proud of this team,” said Smith, who has competed in the XFINITY Series the past few years for front-running JR Motorsports. “It’s a small team. We work hard. Tommy pours everything he’s got into this race team. And we’ve got some great partners and great investors, and we’re going to work hard all year.”
  • Racing for the first time in nearly a year after being called on to sub for injured Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers had a rough go of it throughout Daytona Speedweeks. After wrecking hard following a tire failure in the Sprint Unlimited, Vickers ran into more trouble in the 500 when his No. 14 Chevy spun on Lap 56 of 200. Although he soldiered on to finish 26th, it wasn’t the kind of return to the sport that Vickers had wanted or imagined. If Vickers wants to be called on multiple times to substitute in the No. 14 car, such mediocrity likely won’t be sufficient.