Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traditional NASCAR Powers See Slow Start

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traditional NASCAR Powers See Slow Start

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Brad Keselowski gave Penske Racing another victory last Sunday at the Martinsville Speedway.

It also gave Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing another loss.

While the season is just six races old, curiosity slowly is turning into concern for the two most-successful teams in the sport.

The two organizations combined to win 40 of 72 races in the previous two seasons. A year ago, Hendrick and Gibbs already had two wins each in the first six races, and the four drivers at Gibbs won every race in April.

This season, zero.

And with six of the eight drivers ranked outside the top 10, including Matt Kenseth way back in 22nd and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 25th, and the fast starts by Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, a pair of car owners who also flourish in the Indy Car Series, some believe there may be a shift in power in the garage area.

At least one driver, Gibb's Kyle Busch, thinks that's a good thing.

"Yeah, we've had a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I think it's probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There needs to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races. You see RCR [Richard Childress Racing] has done that. You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven't won in the last couple years."

Keselowski has two wins this year, while Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing) have one apiece.

Roger Penske, who celebrated his organization's 1,000th win last Sunday, understands even the best teams, like Hendrick and Gibbs, go through peaks and valleys in a 36-race season.

"Look, I think we're very competitive right now, but you look at the 42 [Larson], how strong he was the last couple of weeks, it's handling and it's power and it's of course driving," Penske said. "I hope we can continue to do that, but I certainly don't think they're out of the mix at all. It might look like it for a moment, but I have the highest regard for those guys."

Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson has been through slumps before. …

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