It wasn’t that long ago we were asking, “What the heck is wrong with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas?” It was just one short season ago when the “new” Toyota Camry first hit the pavement in the NASCAR world, and they looked every bit off as what we have seen from the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 thus far. No need to panic, right?
Chevrolet Behind the Field in 2018
Perhaps it is too early to write off the Chevrolet like some did early last season with the new Camry. Once the engineers, Crew Chiefs, and Drivers from Joe Gibbs, along with a team with Martin Truex Jr. at the helm, figured out their new equipment, it was pretty much lights out for the rest of the NASCAR field. So those of you ready to write off the new Chevrolet, take notice of the Toyota history. A lot can change and it can change fast.
The candle holder for Chevrolet these past several seasons has been the stable of cars out of Hendrick Motor Sports. There is little argument that Chevy hasn’t got their cars figured out yet so far this season. Time in the wind tunnel is just not the same as time on the track, racing other cars. Surely, the fans of Chevy and their teams need to be patient. There are some real smart people in those camps and they’ll figure it out.
There may be more to the “slump” of the Chevy’s though than just the car. That standard bearer, Hendrick, has essentially a rebuilt team. Gone in recent years are the veterans, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Those are some awfully big shoes to fill. Factor in that 7 time NASCAR Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson, is now another year older, and you can understand the difficulty the Hendrick team may have being at the top of the leaderboards week after week. This might take some time.
You lose 3/4ths of your team and you can call it a transition period with a capital T. I can’t get myself to type the word “old” to describe Jimmie Johnson, but we’ve seen several drivers in the recent seasons, walk away from the sport at or near Jimmie’s age. It’s probably OK for the optimistic in us to believe that soon this team will be at the top once again but there’s a lot more at play here than just the new car.
Neither Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman or 20 year old William Byron have won a Monster Energy Series Cup race as yet. We’ve seen glimpses of hope from Chase Elliott. He sure does look like a future star. And young William Byron won the Xfinity Championship last season as a teenager. His future looks bright as well. Alex Bowman? Well, if Dale Earnhardt Jr. recommends him, who am I to think he isn’t going to take home some trophies.
There certainly are some difficult challenges ahead for the Hendrick team. The newness of the equipment alone would be enough to keep teams up at night, factor in the newness of the drivers and this “slump” might not be as easily dissolved as what we saw the Toyota’s do in 2017.
It’s anybody’s guess at this point how long it will take Hendrick and the Chevrolets to get back on top. I’d just make the argument that we might not want to use the Joe Gibbs 2017 turnaround as a yard stick. This might take some time.
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