By: Ashley McCubbin
Through the past four weeks, Hendrick Motorsports has been able to visit victory lane, and in dominating fashion with stellar performances by all four drivers.
Kyle Larson has led the way, scoring a pair of wins and no finishes worse than second. However, Chase Elliott is on his tail with a victory at the Circuit of the Americas and no results off the podium.
While Elliott may be the road course ace, it was Larson who got the better of him at Sonoma Raceway, dominating by winning all three stages and scoring the victory. Looking back on the day, the defending series champion could not pinpoint a particular spot he got beat.
“There were spots on the track where I thought I was a tick better, and there were spots on the track he was better,” Elliott told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Then there were spots I thought we were fairly even. Needed to have a tick more to get after it. Proud of our team. I thought we were solid. Just need a little bit.”
Although a gap remained between the pair through the final 20 laps as Larson got the better of Elliott on every restart, they battled closely through the second segment. The bumper of the No. 5 gave a couple taps to the No. 9 along the way, as they traded lanes through the winding course with moments side-by-side. Even with contact along the way, nothing seemed to cross the lane with neither getting too far out of shape.
“I feel like you do have to race each other a little bit differently. You don’t want to run into each other and damage their car or damage yours, take out two opportunities for our organization to get a win,” Larson told News From The Pits. “At the same time we got to run hard because we’re battling up front for these wins with each other. It’s been cool to get to race really hard with Chase especially. William (Byron) and Alex (Bowman) have been doing a great job this year, to have us all getting wins, battling up front all throughout the race, it’s awesome.
“I think, too, we all want to see each other do good. We work really well together. I think we all learn something off of each other each week.”
Ultimately, motorsports brings forth a unique element of teamwork and competition. While everybody works under the same roof for Rick Hendrick, it’s no secret each individual driver and team would like to see their group in victory lane over their fellow mate.
Knowing they are currently their own competition and to a degree, separated themselves from the rest of the pack, conversation whether lines get drawn in the sand may arise. However, Elliott does not see that happening.
“I mean, everything is kind of an open book,” Elliott said. “It has been since I’ve been here. We just have to continue to push. I don’t think anything really changes there.”
If the same road continues through the summer, which could be the real test for Hendrick Motorsports as they are known for struggling then, Larson is easily in position to emerge as the championship favorite.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s still a lot of racing left,” Larson commented. “I think if you were to point right now at a favorite, I think for sure you’d have to look at us, with us running up front, leading lots of laps, getting the stage wins, things like that, and now getting a couple race wins these last two weeks.
“Like I said, it’s still a long ways left to go. Teams are going to get better. Teams are going to fade. I just hope we’re a team that continues to get better, keeps getting these wins, hopefully be battling my teammates for a championship in Phoenix later this year.”