With other teams announcing everything from new partnerships to new drivers, it’s par for the course for Hendrick Motorsports, which returns with the same lineup and crews from a 2012 season that saw all four teams make the Chase for the Championship.
“Obviously, with the new car, we’re excited to get things going,” said team owner Rick Hendrick, who was flanked by Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon to his right and Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to his left. “There’s a lot of anticipation to get this season started, and I think I can speak for all four drivers when I say they’re ready to get to Daytona.”
Kahne, who missed last year’s Sprint Media Tour because of jury duty, is geared up and ready to pick up where he left off in 2012.
“We had a great season in 2012, but we also left a lot on the table,” said Kahne, who finished with two victories and fourth in points. “I’ve been here a year now, and it’s an unbelievable place, and everyone knows the opportunity Mr. H gives us, so we want to take full advantage of that.”
Gordon will look to pick up right where he left off at the end of last season.
“I know we wanted to race again the next week,” said Gordon, who closed out last season with a victory at Homestead. “I just never got a good feel for [the Car of Tomorrow]. It was better over the last couple years, but it just never fit me well. This new car – now that’s a race car.”
After a string of five straight championships, this will be the second straight season in which Johnson isn’t the defending champion.
“I feel like through those five years there was some pressure on me that I didn’t know existed until the streak ended,” said Johnson, who finished third in points last season. “Starting the 2011 season, I was aware of that and kind of a clean sheet of paper. Time to start a new streak if I can or turn a page to what’s next.”
Earnhardt Jr. admits that it’s been a rough start to a season that’s yet to begin.
“I thought long and hard, and that’s probably the most embarrassed I have been in a long time,” said Earnhardt, who spun out Marcos Ambrose during a drafting practice session that collected 12 cars in its wake. “I feel like I short-handed a lot of people at that test … That was tough, but it was a learning experience. You have to get past it, and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”