CONCORD, N.C. – Excitement is high at Hendrick Motorsports as the 2013 season inches even closer. On Wednesday, team owner Rick Hendrick joined his drivers Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the organization’s stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. They chatted about the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the new Chevrolet SS and more during the afternoon session.
“Obviously, with the new car, we’re excited to get things going,” said team owner Rick Hendrick, who was flanked by Kahne and Gordon to his right and Johnson and Earnhardt to his left. “There’s a lot of anticipation to get this season started, and I think I can speak for all four drivers when I say they’re ready to get to Daytona.”
Kahne, who missed last year’s Sprint Media Tour because of jury duty, readily agreed. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS is geared up and ready to pick up where he left off in 2012.
“We had a great season in 2012, but we also left a lot on the table,” said Kahne, who finished with two victories and fourth in the final standings – his best career result. “I’ve been here a year now, and it’s an unbelievable place, and everyone knows the opportunity Mr. H gives us, so we want to take full advantage of that.”
Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, will look to pick up right where he left off at the end of last season.
“I know we wanted to race again the next week,” said Gordon, who closed out last season with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I just never got a good feel for [the Car of Tomorrow]. It was better over the last couple years, but it just never fit me well. This new car – now that’s a race car.”
After a string of five straight championships, this will be the second straight season in which Johnson isn’t the defending champion. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS contended for the championship during the 2012 season and ultimately concluded ranked third in the standings.
“I feel like through those five years there was some pressure on me that I didn’t know existed until the streak ended,” said Johnson, who earned five Cup victories in 2012, including Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th Sprint Cup win. “Starting the 2011 season, I was aware of that and kind of a clean sheet of paper. Time to start a new streak if I can or turn a page to what’s next.”
Like Johnson, Earnhardt told the media on Wednesday that he is excited by the way the new Chevrolet SS drives. Earnhardt will pilot the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS to start the season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“I’ve been very happy with the way it drives; the way it feels in the corner,” Earnhardt said. “Like Jimmie said, the aerodynamics are a bit more forgiving. It’s just a good-looking race car. You get excited about getting in it and going around the racetrack and I think the fans are definitely excited about the opportunity this car presents and the direction the sport is going. I know from what I’ve heard from our drivers, we are all pretty pumped up about it, too.”