CONCORD, N.C. (release) -- Jimmie Johnson’s five-year reign as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was ended in 2011 by Stewart Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart. While everyone knew it was eventually going to happen, that doesn’t mean that Johnson and the entire Hendrick Motorsports stable are just going to sit back and take it.
On the contrary, the team intends to go out in 2012 and reclaim the Sprint Cup title.
“I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t have all four cars in the Chase and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t win the championship,” team owner Rick Hendrick said at the Hendrick Motorsports stop Wednesday afternoon during Media Tour. “I can’t remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year.”
“I think we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been and if we don’t get it (the championship) it's going to be our fault,” Hendrick said.
Jeff Gordon, a winner of four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles, will look to bring home another championship for Hendrick this year.
“He (Hendrick) provides us with the most amazing equipment and people,” Gordon said. “As drivers, when you come to work for Hendrick Motorsports, you know you better step up you game. You need to put your game face on.”
Johnson, who won five-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships from 2006 to 2010, says he is hungrier than ever.
“I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been,” Johnson said. “I certainly know what my team is capable of and I know what I’m capable of and I have lofty goals for myself this year.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who is coming off one of his better seasons in recent memory after finishing seventh in the final point standings, is hoping to continue that momentum in 2012.
“We were working with some ideas that Kenny Francis had started bringing to the table and just as a team we were continuously improving and learning things about the cars,” Earnhardt said. “I thought if we could have had three or four more weeks of racing then we could continue to improve.
“It is good to have the time off, but at the same time we were continuing to build and get better and that was something that you hate to have to stop,” Earnhardt noted.
Jury Duty Pulls Kahne From Media Tour
Hendrick Motorsports has been waiting since 2010 to formally introduce Kasey Kahne as the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Impala. That was supposed to happen during Wednesday’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour stop at Hendrick Motorsports.
Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly work out that way.
Kahne, who will be sponsored by Farmers Insurance this year, was summoned to jury duty and was unable make himself available for Wednesday’s media events. Regardless, Kahne is expected to make an excellent addition to a team with 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup championships to its credit.
“We’re really excited to have Kasey Kahne join our organization,” said Rick Hendrick. “They (Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis) fit in like a glove and we’re really excited to have them added to our organization.”
Naturally, Kahne was the target for a few friendly jokes during the proceedings by his new Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
“For anybody that questions the privileges that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers get along the way and the celebrity that we may have, I think Kasey Kahne is a perfect example,” Gordon said. “Not being able to get out of jury duty is where we stand.”