CONCORD, N.C. -- A weather-shortened race at Pocono left the Hendrick Motorsports drivers without a last-chance shot to move forward for position.
The drivers were on the move from the rear of the field the entire race, with Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne running in the top 10 the majority of the race.
In a race that saw several cautions, contact between drivers and even a red flag for fog, the organization's drivers left Pocono with several lessons.
Take a look at what we learned at Pocono Raceway.
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's team faced opposition from the get-go at Pocono Raceway. Johnson's team pointed out to him over the radio on Lap 2 that he had a hole in the nose of his Chevrolet.
"I really don’t know where it came from," Johnson said. "But, it was just above the bumper bar where the bowtie sits on the nose of the car. There’s a huge rip there."
Any damage on the race car effects the machine's handling, and Johnson said the balance of his race car was off. However, throughout several trips to pit road, the No. 48 team was able to patch up the damage, although it cost Johnson positions on the track.
"We had the balance back on the car, but it’s just really slow on the straights," Johnson said. "I feel like the air is being deflected up and maybe it’s starving the cowl and getting the air in the engine to have it run down the straightaways like it should. But we’re fighting through it and trying to get it going the right way.”
Jeff Gordon also had a setback while piloting the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS.
While restarting seventh on Lap 110, Gordon's seatbelts became loose, causing him to drop back and lose his top-10 running position. The driver said it had happened earlier on pit road and he thought he had latched it correctly.
"We were in a pretty good position on the restart and went to take off and as soon as I went into second and third, just that little bit of a side movement just pulled it out," Gordon said. "It would go in and sort of latch, but when you wiggled it from left to right, it would pop right out."
Gordon was able to secure the belt but made a trip down pit road to have the No. 88 Nationwide team check it out.
"I don’t know if there is something lodged in there or what happened or why it took so long for that to play out," Gordon said. "But I knew I couldn’t go down into Turn 1 on these crazy restarts without a right-side seatbelt. So, I came in under that stop. We worked on it and now it’s good."
Rookie Chase Elliott had his fair share of close racing during Monday's race at Pocono.
He had a close call with another Rookie of the Year contender early in the race but needed to take what he could in order to gain track position.
“I hated to put anybody in a bad spot," Elliott said. "I had a bad segment of events prior to that and I was trying to stop the bleeding doing all I could do. I felt like we were falling back. We were losing too many spots and I had to do something to try to keep from continuing to fall back and lose all that track position."
While contact was not made between Elliott and that driver, another incident later in the race did result in a trip to the garage for Elliott and the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team.
While making a move for position, Elliott did make contact with a fellow competitor, sending both of them into the wall out of Turn 1.
"I thought I slowed down enough to not get loose, but got loose and collected Joey (Logano)," Elliott said. "So, I apologize to those guys. It was completely my fault. And I apologize to my guys. Man, they gave me a good car. I need to re-think my evaluation of how I’m going to approach these races because it’s not working out right now.”
TURNING A CORNER
With Johnson's win at Fontana this spring being the organization's most recent win, the teams are hoping to step things up as The Chase gets closer.
Johnson said he left Indianapolis thinking they were headed uphill.
“You leave Indy and think absolutely, and you have a long agonizing today from Lap 2, and you forget what happened at Indy," Johnson said. "It’s crazy how humbling this sport is."
While Johnson said it may not have been the No. 48 team's day, other Hendrick Motorsports drivers were seeing progress.
"The good news, and I’ve watched the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) and I can’t believe how fast that car is down the straights and through the corners," Johnson said. "I know track position isn’t working for him right now via strategy, but watching him pick cars off and move forward looks good. So, we may not have sunshine right now on the No. 48, but maybe on another car at Hendrick Motorsports. And we’ll keep stacking these pennies and hopefully be better when it comes down to the Chase.”
Elliott also said that progress is on the horizon for the No. 24 team, although he said it comes down to driver decisions.
"It’s just poor decisions on my behalf I think, is the biggest thing," the rookie said. "So, the best way to fix it is obviously to see it at first and notice it and just go to work and like I said, rethink my approach."
And with the solid cars the No. 24 team is giving Elliott, that shouldn't be a problem.
"We’ve had good cars," Elliott said. "We had a good car today. I felt like we were a step in the right direction from where we had been the last couple of weeks, which I felt like was a good sign."