Coming into last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports drivers had captured seven of the most recent eight NASCAR Cup Series events and were expected to continue that dominance. But instead of dominating, the Hendrick bunch was uncharacteristically mediocre. While Hendrick driver Alex Bowman led the organization with a fourth-place finish and fellow Hendrick driver Chase Elliott came home seventh, the Hendrick cars of Kyle Larson and William Byron crossed the finish line in 18th and 20th, respectively. That result was especially shocking for Larson, who ripped off three consecutive points wins (four if you count the All-Star Race) not all that long ago and for several weeks seemingly couldn’t be stopped.
Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. finished second and third at Atlanta, respectively, while first-year teammate Christopher Bell ran eighth. Is it possible that after two months of racing largely dominated by Hendrick Motorsports that the competition has finally caught up?
“I think these days we are all so close,” said Truex, the 2018 Cup Series champion. “Atlanta is such a handling track. If you hit it just right, you are going to be really, really strong. It’s so hard. It’s like every other week: There is different guys that run good. It’s crazy this season how it’s been. These cars have been really sensitive. It’s hard to hit it right, and that’s what it takes. Whoever does it most consistently is going to be the one to beat. Hendrick cars, don’t count them out — that’s for sure.”