DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Team owner, Rick Hendrick, Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, stand on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

I’ve tried to convince myself to be patient. After all it took the Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing half a season when they introduced the new Camry to turn their season around.  But its the total lack of speed from the Hendrick Motorsports team led by Jimmie Johnson that’s worrisome.

Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports Struggles Continue

The Monster Energy Cup Series moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for its 20th race of the season and the Chevy’s continue to lag behind the Toyota’s of Joe Gibbs Racing and Martin Truex Jr plus the Ford in the Stewart Haas Racing camp.  I’m officially in the “worried” camp.

There have been times this season, albeit not many when the Chevy driven by Kyle Larson has been in the front of the field. To me, that is an anomaly. Kyle Larson is almost a freak of nature when it comes to racing. We often see the young Larson driving on parts of the track where no other driver dares go. Even given that, perhaps the folks over at Chip Ganassi Racing are further ahead in their program than Hendrick.  It’s possible but looking at the point standings as they are today, and he sits just 8th in points.  Not exactly setting the world on fire.

Look, Jimmie Johnson didn’t all of a sudden forget how to drive and Chad Knaus hasn’t forgotten how to prepare and adjust a race car.  This is a systemic problem and all eyes point to the new Chevrolet Camero ZL1.  At Sunday’s race at Kentucky, you have to scroll down to ninth position to find the name Kyle Larson, the top Chevrolet finisher.  Keep scrolling to the 13th position to find the top finisher in the Hendrick Motorsport camp of Chase Elliott who finished one spot ahead of his teammate Jimmie Johnson.  In one word for Chevy, Ugly.

What Is Wrong?

A few weeks ago I had a chance to chat with Hendrick Driver Alex Bowman.  I asked him if Hendrick had an idea what they were missing with the new car.  “I think we’re a little bit off on more than just the Camero body.”

He went on to explain that he thought it was a lot of small areas including the engine.  We all anticipated some early season struggles for the Chevy’s and in particular the Hendrick cars.  In the last couple of seasons, they’ve lost veterans Jeff Gordon and the popular Dale Earnhardt Jr and replaced them with the very talented but young Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Chase Elliott.  But we are now past the halfway point in the season and any progress they are making is not noticeable on the track.

For cripes sake, Jimmie Johnson, the 7-time Cup Champion was lapped Saturday night before the end of the first stage.  That’s Jimmie Johnson we’re talking about here, not Timmy Hill.  Johnson didn’t all of a sudden forget how to drive and Chad Knauss hasn’t forgotten how to formulate a winning game plan.  This is all on the folks at Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports.  The solutions to their struggles rest with the capable men and women at the Hendrick facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The bad news?  The struggles continue

The good news?  Well, Alex Bowman can best tell us.  “I think if we all buckle down, me do a better job of driving the car, the chassis shop do a little better, the body shop do better and the engine shop do a little better that will all produce a better product on the track.”

We have every reason to believe that Hendrick and the fellow Chevy teams will turn this around.  There are some great minds at work figuring out what to do next.  I’m just shocked its taken them this long.

Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:45 as I join the gang on The Frank Truatt Morning Show discussing the world of NASCAR. Tune in to 1110AM, 93.5FM or streamed worldwide at wtbq.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.

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