It almost seems preordained: The two most powerful teams of the 2014 Sprint Cup season going head-to-head for supremacy on the sport’s most hallowed ground.
Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske have combined for 11 wins in 19 races this season. Throw in Hendrick-powered Stewart Haas Racing and you have 14 in 19.
And coming to the green tomorrow for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the two sides are well-represented in the front end of the grid.
Starting alongside SHR pole sitter Kevin Harvick on the front row will be HMS’ Jeff Gordon. Behind them will be Penske’s Brad Keselowski on the inside of Row 2.
Then there’s Tony Stewart (SHR) in Row 3, Kurt Busch (SHR) and Juan Pablo Montoya (Penske) in Row 4, Joey Logano (Penske) and Kasey Kahne (HMS) in Row 5, and Jimmie Johnson (HMS) in Row 6.
You get the picture. Those that aren’t affiliated with Hendrick or Penske are likely going to have their work cut out for them tomorrow.
“We certainly look at all the Hendrick cars – and the Stewart Haas cars having Hendrick chassis and Hendrick engines and just how good they’ve been – then Penske: to me, they’re the team to beat outside of what we have,” Gordon said today at IMS regarding the teams’ rivalry.
“At times, they’ve been better than us and at times, we’ve been better than them.”
Right now, one could argue that Penske’s been better as Keselowski has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races. But Keselowski noted that while Penske and Hendrick have been the strongest teams so far, a lot can still change in the weeks ahead.
“You never know what somebody else has in their hands – much like if you’re playing a game of poker,” he said. “You think we have the two strongest hands with Penske and Hendrick, and certainly, that’s been the case to this date in the season. But you don’t know what’s out there.
“I find it hard to believe that [Joe Gibbs Racing] is gonna go a whole year without a dominant car. It’s not like them. So I’m sure they’re going to catch on as the season progresses – and maybe [Michael Waltrip Racing] or [Richard Childress Racing], who knows?
“But we’re a long ways from over and while I think you can look at the past – it’s an indicator to the future, but not a complete premonition.”
Still, it would seem that the world’s greatest race course is set for a fight between the sport’s heavyweights. And while Keselowski is wise to say that the past isn’t a window into the future, both he and Gordon surely hope that doing well at Indy will ultimately foreshadow a championship celebration this fall.