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NASCAR

Hendrick Motorsports 2013 Team Preview

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR’s super team is getting stronger, well at least they seem to be. Hendrick Motorsports is known as the powerhouse team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. They have four drivers, each of which are clear contenders for the championship as the green flag for the season is waved annually.

In 2012, Hendrick Motorsports drivers combined to win ten races finishing third, fourth, 10th and 12th once the checkered flag was waved at Homestead, which was won by a Hendrick Motorsports driver. That driver was Jeff Gordon who miraculously made the Chase for the Sprint Cup after starting out the season with some of the worst luck he’s ever endured. Gordon ended up finishing the year 10th in points with two wins and poles, 11 top-fives and 18 top-10′s, which showed he can still contend for a championship.

Gordon will be reuniting with Alan Gustafson during the 2013 season as the two hope to have a stronger campaign with the new body. AARP’s Drive to End Hunger campaign will continue to sponsor Gordon’s No. 24 car for 22 races, while Dupont will be on board for 12 races. Pepsi usually sponsors a race or two for the team, but so far, nothing has been announced for the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Kasey Kahne also had a rough start to his inaugural season at Hendrick Motorsports, but the 32-year-old driver was able to drive to victory lane twice in 2012, and finished the year just behind his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, as Kahne ended the season fourth in points. His team has sponsorship openings for six races in 2013, which should be covered by either Great Clips or Hendrickcars.com (owned by team owner Rick Hendrick). Kahne is signed through 2014, and is expected to make another title run in 2013, as long as he can continue the momentum he had at the second half of the 2012 season.

Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has brought a lot of marketing ideas to Hendrick Motorsports as well as some major corporate sponsorship’s. Earnhardt Jr. was able to break the terrible 143-race losing streak he had since 2009 as he won at Michigan which made the Hendrick Motorsports folks rather happy. The fans were pretty happy too.

Pepsi Co. announced they would be scaling back their sponsorship during the 2013 season, which isn’t a good sign for the sport’s most popular driver. They could be worried that he may have another concussion that will keep him out for more races such as it did in October, but lets face it, either way the guy will get sponsors more exposure than any other driver, let alone athlete in all of sports. The National Guard will continue to sponsor the team as Earnhardt Jr. looks to take advantage of the resources which Hendrick Motorsports has given him.

Finally, there’s good ol’ five-time. Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won a championship in a whole two years. Two years for Jimmie Johnson to not win a championship is like Rusty Wallace coming out of retirement. However, Johnson was able to rebound from an “off” 2011 season as he won five races in 2012 and made a good run at the championship until the end. Not a single thing will change for Johnson in 2013. Well besides his paint scheme, but other than that, nothing is changing as always. Chad Knaus has kept the team stable since their first season in 2002, and has since dominated the sport. Johnson was fifth in testing at Charlotte as he was the fastest Chevrolet driver by six positions. Expect Johnson to have a chance to either rule the competition once again or struggle like he did in 2011.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.