With an eye on the looming Chase for the Sprint Cup, Hendrick Motorsports tested yesterday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will host the second of the 10 Chase races in late September.
Chmapionship leader Jimmie Johnson, who rallied from dead last on the grid to finish sixth earlier this summer at NHMS, admitted that saving one of their allotted tests for this time of year makes for “a big workload” but maintained that it was the right strategy.
“Everybody has to work a lot harder and maybe enter the Chase a little overworked and not as fresh as some other years,” Johnson said according to a transcript provided by Hendrick Motorsports.
“But, strategically, when we look at laying out our test sessions it makes total sense if all four cars are in a good place with points, to save our tests for Chase tracks. That’s what we’ve elected to do.”
One of the other Hendrick drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., echoed Johnson’s sentiments.
“If we are fortunate enough to make the Chase, [New Hampshire] is one of the important races in the Chase, so we’re trying to get off to a good start and the race is real key,” he said.
With four regular season races left on the Cup calendar, Johnson has already clinched a Chase spot and Earnhardt remains in decent shape at sixth in the championship. But teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon took some damage to their Chase hopes after both of their runs last Sunday at Watkins Glen ended with wrecks.
Kahne may have two wins in his back pocket, but after getting crashed out at the Glen, he fell from the Top 10 into one of the two Wild Card spots. Considering how tight the battle has been for those particular positions, that’s probably not a situation he’d like to be in.
Gordon, on the other hand, has it even worse. He’s winless so far in 2013, and dropped to 13th in the championship after his early incident last Sunday. At New Hampshire, he acknowledged his rocky season but is refusing to give up.
“That’s why we’re here and that’s why we’ll be [testing] in Richmond next week,” he said. “But we’re going to work hard and get everything we can. So the approach is still the same; we go week to week, trying to get the best finish we can, whether we’re in the Chase or not in the Chase.
“We know if we accomplish what we set out to do every week, we’ll make it in the Chase. That’s all we can do right now.”