Uncanny: Powerful Hendrick Motorsports goes from four to just one team left in Chase

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Hendrick Motorsports has never seen a day like Sunday.

It came into the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway with four teams in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

When the checkered flag fell after 194 laps – six more than the scheduled 188 – as hard as it may seem to believe, only one HMS driver will advance to the Eliminator Round.

You can forget about:

  • Jimmie Johnson’s bid to defend last year’s championship and his hope to win a seventh Sprint Cup crown.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bid to earn his first-ever Sprint Cup championship and to send Steve Letarte out as a championship-winning crew chief. Letarte is leaving HMS after this season to become an analyst on NBC telecasts of NASCAR races next season.
  • Kasey Kahne’s Cinderella-like hopes to move into the third round of the Chase.

As NASCAR moves to the next race at Martinsville, only the patriarch of the four HMS drivers, four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon, will be left to represent the team in the Eliminator Round.

His so-called “Drive For Five” bid for a fifth career Cup championship and his first since 2001 is still alive and well.

“I’m just mentally drained right now,” Gordon told ESPN. “It’s always tough to race here at Talladega and put yourself in position and know your championship hopes are right there in that final moment. It’s nerve-wracking.

“I’m proud of this team and the job they did. We fought hard.

“I’m just glad we made it. I can’t wait for Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, all great tracks for us. This team has done some amazing work this year, these next three are where we’re really going to shine and show them.”

Gordon acknowledged how difficult it is to know he is the only driver left to salvage HMS’s championship hopes, but at the same time, it’s somewhat of a byproduct of racing at Talladega and the situation the three now-eliminated drivers faced coming into Sunday’s race.

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “We knew that Jimmie and Junior were in tough positions, but if anyone could win this race, either one of those guys could.

“Kasey raced hard all day. I really thought he was going to make it.

“These are three guys that could have been factors in this championship. Great teams, great drivers and friends of mine and I hate to see them not in there.

“But we’re going to try to make Hendrick proud and go out there and get ourselves to Homestead.”

Kahne missed the Eliminator Round by just three points. When interviewed by ESPN after the race, he seemed as if he was still in disbelief that he fell short.

“You just try and get the best finish you can,” Kahne said. “I’m in 20th (position in the race) and got back up to 11th.

“It was tough if you weren’t in the top few spots. Once I was 10th, eighth, it was really difficult to get back up to that point and that was it.”

30 Seconds to Know: How does the Chase Eliminator round work?

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Andretti United team names drivers for inaugural Extreme E season

Extreme E drivers Andretti
Extreme E
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The Extreme E team formed by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports named Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen as its drivers Monday for the series’ inaugural 2021 season.

Munnings is a successful veteran of rally series. Hansen is a past winner and champion in the World Rallycross Championship.

They both will race in the environmentally conscious electric SUV series that will hold events in five areas around the world that are threatened by climate change. Chip Ganassi Racing and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton also are fielding cars in Extreme E, which will feature male and female co-drivers on every team.

Catie Munnings

“I’m so excited to join Andretti United Extreme E,” Munnings said in a release. ““I was really intrigued when I first heard about Extreme E, I just knew I had to be involved. The male / female racing partnership is a fantastic and exciting new concept. The season has incredible locations and the racing will be very exciting. It will be a new challenge for the teams and drivers, and I’m so thrilled to be working with such a strong team.

“The championship is a really innovative concept, it’s combining motorsport and science and will produce an important legacy in each race location. Bringing the platform that motorsport has in line with the awareness that the planet needs right now is awesome and a really important message.”

Timmy Hansen

Said Hansen: “Going into the Extreme E will be a new chapter in my career, one that I am extremely excited about. It is something brand new, not only for me, but the whole of motorsport. The format is something

we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”