Owner: Jeff Gordon/Rick Hendrick • Team: Hendrick Motorsports • Crew Chief: Chad Knaus
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Final Points Standing
After First 26 Races
Lead Lap Finishes
Below is the ranking of the team on each type of
track along with the driver's best finish.
1st, Pocono (2)
1st, Darlington (2), Lowe’s (2), Atlanta
With the advent of the Chase for the Championship, it is increasingly difficult to predict a clear-cut favorite for the season ahead. That explains why it is so tough for us to pick between the Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson and the Lowe’s team showed they could overcome adversity, come from behind to win races and be competitive on all types of tracks in 2004. The same, however, can be said for Gordon’s DuPont team.
Johnson was one of only four drivers who had a top 5 on a road course, intermediate, short, plate and flat track. His run of four wins in the last six races of the season has to rank as one of the most impressive comebacks of all time — making up 219 points in the final six races is a remarkable feat. This was done in the wake of the tragic plane crash the Hendrick organization faced at Martinsville.
Look for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to run every bit as strong as they did last year, when they recorded the most wins, top 5s and laps led. All of the elements are in place for this team to win a Championship. While we see Johnson falling just short of that, it may be by fewer than eight points.
Jimmie Johnson and crew were second or better in points in the 18 races leading up to the Chase. And while the Chase did not work in their favor, the recovery from dismal performances at Kansas and Talladega — when they reeled off four wins in five races — was the most notable accomplishment of the season.
Another highlight includes winning both events at three separate venues, a feat not accomplished since 1987. The Lowe’s team found Victory Lane in both races at Darlington, Lowe’s and Pocono.
No season comes without adversity, and Johnson’s ’04 story includes eight finishes of 30th or worse. Three crashes and five motor failures would send most teams packing for the season, but the guidance of Rick Hendrick kept the Johnson train on track. They finished eight points shy of the Nextel Cup, but this team earned the respect they deserve.
• The Good: No question, Johnson’s season was highlighted by three consecutive wins at Charlotte, Martinsville and Atlanta. His climb from 247 points out to 59 points behind was outstanding.
• The Bad: Johnson was flagged for a controversial speeding penalty on pit road at Dover in September. He disputed this, but no one truly knows except the person with the stopwatch.
• The Ugly: Johnson had a streak in August of three blown motors in as many weeks. No matter if he was testing for the Chase or not, the lost points made a difference at Homestead.