Judging by the surface numbers, Chevrolet appears to be having a pretty great 2017 NASCAR season.
Chevy leads the manufacturer points standings over Ford and Toyota while boasting five race winners, most recently Kasey Kahne’s victory in the Brickyard 400. Jimmie Johnson, who is tied with Martin Truex Jr. with a season-high three wins, is in the running for his eighth championship, while Kyle Larson has started on the pole more than any other driver.
Yet the biggest Chevy team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage is concerned.
Chase Elliott’s No. 24 was the lone bowtie-badged machine to finish in the top 10 in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway, and Kahne’s win on July 23 was Hendrick Motorsports’ first since Johnson took the checkered flag first at Dover International Speedway on June 4. Johnson didn’t need to be reminded of that after wrecking out at Pocono after only 57 laps.
“I think we are missing a little bit of speed, and then to have luck kind of not go our way the last few weeks, I mean, we want the momentum going the right direction for us,” Johnson said, per Motorsport.com. “We are getting close to the end of the regular season, so, ideally, we would like to get things rolling.”
On one hand, it’s easy to dismiss Johnson’s recent results on factors besides a lack of speed. Collisions have a way of ruining a racer’s chances regardless of how fast his car is, and Johnson has wrecked in three races since Dover.
On the other hand, the much-hyped Elliott is still seeking his first Cup victory and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is mired in a winless final season. Kahne, his Indy win aside, has not been relevant for much of the year.
Johnson’s been down this road before, however. Last season, the No. 48 team looked lost until catching fire late en route to Johnson’s seventh title. And if anybody can find speed out of nowhere — or finagle some strategy or something under the hood to put his driver in a better position to compete — it’s crew chief Chad Knaus.
Still, it’s a lot easier to win races when you don’t need to pull strings just to be competitive. Johnson knows what a championship-worthy car feels like, and right now, he doesn’t think he has one.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images