If Hendrick Motorsports wishes to extend its three-driver, five-race winning streak, Jeff Gordon needs to be Jeff Gordon.
The undisputed King of the Road Course has nine career wins on road courses, a robust record considering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series turns left-then-right-then-left-again only twice a year.
And though both Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne each have a win at Sonoma Raceway – site of Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 (3 p.m. ET on TNT) – Gordon remains Hendrick’s best bet to tie a Modern Era record for the longest win streak by a team.
Owner Rick Hendrick’s drivers have won five consecutive races – Gordon at Kansas, Johnson at Charlotte and Dover, Dale Earnhardt Jr.at Pocono and Johnson again at Michigan. That streak is one short of the Modern Era record of six consecutive victories by an owner, set by Hendrick during the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. That year, Gordon won two in a row followed by a four-victory streak that carried Johnson to his second-consecutive series championship.
The Modern Era is considered to have begun in 1972, when the number of races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was drastically reduced, from 48 to 31. The all-time record for consecutive car owner victories is an incredible 16 by Carl Kiekhaefer in 1956. Kiekhaefer, like Hendrick, owned a multi-car team that dominated NASCAR’s top series in 1955-56. Four different drivers won for Kiekhaefer during his streak: Buck Baker, Tim Flock, Herb Thomas and Speedy Thompson.
But first thing’s first – and that’s a sixth straight win. And Gordon, who has scored eight consecutive top 10s at Sonoma, is the team’s best bet.
“I grew up in Vallejo – which is a few miles from the track in Sonoma – but I was always racing on ovals or dirt tracks as a kid,” Gordon said. “It was much later before I turned my first lap at Sonoma while in a driving school preparing for my first Cup start there. I immediately saw the challenges and the fun of racing at Sonoma and on road courses. We’ve worked hard as a team to be competitive on road courses and we’ve had a lot of success at Sonoma. But it’s not an easy track to conquer.”
The only Hendrick driver without a Sonoma victory is Earnhardt, whose current momentum could change a shaky past at the track. In 14 previous Sonoma starts, Earnhardt has yet to finish in the top 10.
Hornish: Part-Time Driver, Full-Time Talent
A black No. 54 Toyota, no matter who’s wheeling it, must frighten the rest of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It’s only natural.
Here’s the only stat anyone needs to know: Over the first 13 races, here’s how many times the No. 54 has finished outside the top five: Zero. Zilch. None.
And it’s not only Kyle Busch. Sam Hornish Jr. has pulled his weight, and then some. In two starts, he’s won (Iowa), and finished fifth (Talladega). In his only other NASCAR Nationwide Series start this season, he finished second in the No. 20 Toyota.
He has another chance this weekend, at Road America, site of Saturday’s Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville (2:45 p.m. ET on ABC) – the first of three road-course races for the series this season.
Hornish’s average finish this season is 2.7 and his season-to-date (three-race) Driver Rating is 119.2 – second only to Busch’s 128.6.
Busch and Hornish have combined to give the No. 54 team four wins and four Coors Light Poles in 13 races this season. Their impressive finishes have put Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 team atop the owner standings by 59 points over second-place, Team Penske’s No. 22 team.
Hornish has a NASCAR Nationwide Series career average finish of 8.6 on road courses. He has made two starts at Road America posting two top-five finishes.
NASCAR this weekend
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 22
The Time: 3 p.m. (ET)
TV: TNT, 2 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 218.9 miles (110 laps)
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Next Race: Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville
The Place: Road America
The Date: Saturday, June 21
The Time: 2:45 p.m. (ET)
TV: ABC 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 202.4 miles (50 laps)