No down year here; Rick Hendrick continues to dominate NASCAR, despite end of Jimmie Johnson reign
It’s 2012, and Jimmie Johnson is not the defending champion for the first time in many years.
Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards battled for the championship, and if it weren’t for Tony Stewart’s amazing run in the Chase, Edwards would have claimed the title for the Ford camp. Many were excited by this news, claiming that Hendrick’s grip on the sport was loosening and his teams no longer were dominant.
But I must point out to this crowd that, in the end, Rick Hendrick still came out on top. No, none of his four teams won the title. But Tony Stewart did, using mostly Hendrick equipment due to SHR’s strong affiliation with Hendrick. When Tony started Stewart-Haas Racing, he was not starting a new team, he was taking over an existing team that was already affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports.
As a satellite team of Hendrick, he had their equipment, making SHR essentially another Hendrick operation. You can argue the semantics and say it’s different, but deep down we all know it’s true.
So what does that mean? Well, even though Jimmie Johnson didn’t win the championship, and Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t win the championship, Rick Hendrick essentially remained the championship team for the sixth year in a row.
So while it’s easy for the anti-Jimmie / anti-Hendrick crowd to get excited about the “change” that happened in 2011, a quick reality check will show that nothing really changed.
Jimmie was still strong, and will likely return to form in 2011. Stewart might make another run. Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr. and now Kasey Kahne have good chances of winning it all in 2012. So a seventh consecutive Hendrick title is a very real possibility.
Unless someone from the Roush camp, or the Penske camp, or the RCR camp or the Gibbs camp, can actually take the title away from the Hendrick umbrella, NASCAR will continue to be the domain of Rick Hendrick.