CAN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS WIN ANOTHER CUP?
FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2000, RICK HENDRICK didn't have a driver in the top five of the final standings in '11, though that pales next to last year's real low point. On Oct. 31 the Gulfstream G150 in which he was riding crashed upon landing in Key West, leaving him with four broken ribs and a broken clavicle. (Everyone survived.)
Hendrick—and his race teams—will be at full strength at the Daytona 500. This year's biggest addition to Hendrick Motorsports, which has won 10 titles since 1995, may not be potential contender Kasey Kahne but Kenny Francis, Kahne's 42-year-old crew chief. Jimmie Johnson has long admired Francis, and the five-time champ believes that at an organization known for sharing data well, Francis will be one of the team's most potent weapons in 2012. "Everywhere Kenny has gone he's been able to find speed in his cars," says Johnson of Francis, who has been on Kahne's pit box since '06. "I can't wait to hear his ideas and learn from him. He'll be huge [for us]."
And a crucial ingredient for Johnson, SI's pick to win the 2012 Cup title and put Hendrick back on top.