What has happened to Chevrolet?

Chevrolet drivers Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman

So far in 2019 there have been three races won by Toyotas as Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have scored those victories in this young season. At the same time, Ford drivers have taken two checkered flags as Team Penske pilots Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have each paid a visit to victory lane. However, those who campaign on behalf of the Chevrolet name plate have failed to earn a win thus far on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

More alarming for the fans and teams of the ‘Bow Tie’ brand, Chevrolet has not even threatened to bring home a trophy in 2019. This coming after a season in which the popular American manufacturer only tallied four wins with three of those coming from one driver. Only one Chevy driver advanced into the ‘Round of 8’ in last year’s NASCAR Playoffs and none of their drivers went to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to claim the MENCS crown.

Only one Chevrolet driver so far in 2019 has finished within the top-5 as Chip Ganassi Racing wheel man Kurt Busch placed third in Atlanta and fifth in Las Vegas. Busch has also earned two other top-10 results during the season’s first five events while fellow CGR competitor Kyle Larson has also landed within the top-10 twice this season.

What is perhaps most startling of all the Chevrolet organizations is the lack of performance from powerful Hendrick Motorsports. The company that has amassed a total of 12 NASCAR Cup Series championships has failed to place a single car within the top-5 this season and has only earned a total of three top-10s in the first five races among its four cars.

Seven-time NASCAR champ and Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson currently sits 14th in the MENCS standings with two top-10 finishes to his credit. This coming after the off-season announcement that he and long time crew chief Chad Knaus would be split by the organization. Alex Bowman and William Byron(the driver Knaus now works with) have not managed a single top-10 so far and sit 16th and 19th in the standings respectively.

The lone HMS driver to win in 2018 was Chase Elliott as he scored three triumphs, which included the first of his career. However, his 2019 campaign has not started off well in terms of high finishes as he has only one top-10 even though he has been consistent enough to place himself 12th in the standings.

But overall, it is safe to say that the folks at Hendrick Motorsports are not performing as well as they would like up to this point in the season.

CGR’s Kurt Busch(1) and RCR’s Austin Dillon

Aside from Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, the other well established Chevrolet organization is Richard Childress Racing. That former championship winning company has had little to hang its hat on since winning the 2018 season opening Daytona 500 with driver Austin Dillon. Although he has had some promising runs this year, rookie Daniel Hemric has not scored a top-10 this season while Dillon has earned one such finish. Hemric is currently mired in the 27th position in the standings while Dillon ranks 20th.

It must be noted here that JTG-Daugherty drivers Chris Buescher and Ryan Preece have earned a total of two top-10s for Chevrolet while Ty Dillon’s Germain Racing machine has also grabbed a top-10 for the brand.

Obviously, the major Chevrolet teams have not run exceptionally well so far. But there are some non-Chevy teams that would also fit into that category.

While there may be some manufacturer specific issues at work here, the reality is that this may not be as much of a Chevrolet situation as much as it is a case of domination by two organizations, Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing, who just happen to be Ford and Toyota teams.

One thing is almost certain, folks at Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Richard Childress Racing are no doubt working extremely hard to bring Chevrolet back up to speed.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

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