Any momentum that Hendrick Motorsports had following Jeff Gordon’s win last weekend at Dover was thoroughly erased in today’s Contender Round opener at Kansas Speedway.
Gordon’s 14th-place showing wound up being the best from the HMS camp, as he and all of his teammates – defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (pictured), and Kasey Kahne – all suffered through a tough Sunday.
Following an early race run-in with Jamie McMurray, Gordon lost gobs of track position and was unable to completely recover in the end.
“We were having a pretty solid day…until the 1 car got loose and into our left rear,” Gordon told ESPN. “He was just way over his head. I know he had a good car, he’s been running good, but he just got loose and got into me and got me in the wall.
“We had a little damage but we lost all that track position. It’s so hard to get it back at this place. We somewhat got it back on that last restart. I was just real loose. I’ve been a little loose, but not that loose and we fell back. We just kind of struggled and hung on there.
“A lot of people had trouble today, so today was a real survival day. We did that. I just feel like we could’ve finished a lot better than that.”
As for Kahne, he finished 22nd after running in the Top 5 with 40 laps to go. He made his final stop at Lap 228 of 267 only to have the caution come out a few laps later for Greg Biffle’s run-in with the wall.
Down one lap, Kahne took the wave around to get back with the leaders for the restart with 33 laps to go. But one lap later, Kahne got loose in Turn 1 and was unable to save his No. 5 Chevy from tagging the wall.
“I was catching the leaders again – the last half of a run, I was usually catching the leaders – and I was slowly reeling them in,” Kahne said about his late-race turn of fortune. “But something was happening with my tire. I was just ready to crash and just made it to pit road before it blew. And then we got behind.
“I tried to come from 19th and on the outside, I passed like five or six cars and was feeling good. Then I lost the back and hit the wall. My day was over at that point.”
As for Earnhardt and Johnson, they each were impacted by severe wrecks this afternoon. Earnhardt’s tire failure and crash before the halfway point ultimately relegated him to 39th, while Johnson’s crash at Lap 84 kicked him to a 40th-place finish – his worst run in the Chase since Homestead 2005.
Put it all together and all four Hendrick pilots are now on the advance bubble heading to the middle race of the Contender Round next weekend at Charlotte.
Gordon occupies the eighth and final Chase Grid position that will go to the Eliminator Round. He has an eight-point gap over teammate Kahne in ninth, while Earnhardt fell to 11th at 25 points behind Gordon and Johnson dropped to 12th (last among the remaining Chasers) at 27 points back.
And with the chaotic Talladega Superspeedway on the horizon for the next elimination race, Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 in Charlotte may now be HMS’ most important race of the season.
For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.
Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.
Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.
Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.
It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.
Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.
The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.
The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.
In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.
Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.
Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.
Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
Levi Kitchen – W
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
Max Anstie – E
Tom Vialle – E
Max Vohland – W
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
Chris Blose – E
Chance Hymas – E
Enzo Lopes – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Pierce Brown – W
Phil Nicoletti – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).