Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon gathered Wednesday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for testing ahead of next month's Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at the track.
The trio sat down to discuss just how testing is preparing them for the rest of the season, the battle for the last few spots in the Chase and even how Tony Stewart's injury has affected their title hopes.
As the race to the Chase dwindles down, Gordon is hoping that the tests benefit his team as the season makes its way into September.
"Anything we can learn here that we can take somewhere else to help us get in the Chase is crucial," Gordon said, according to a release from the track.
With the hopes of the Chase dangling in their future, the drivers feel that they have what it takes to make the cut.
"We've got a good cushion right now over the guy in 11th and that's the way you want to keep it, " Earnhardt said. "We had a tough weekend, points-wise, at Watkins Glen and we don't want to repeat that in these last few races before the Chase."
In preparation for the Chase, Earnhardt wants to avoid losing the cushion the team has built for themselves in order to have a smooth transition into the remaining races.
Gordon has a slightly different mindset as they head into the final races before the Chase.
"My approach has always been the same," Gordon said. "It doesn't change, whether you're trying to make it into the Chase or trying to win a championship or wherever you're at, you go week to week and try to get the most out of it and get your best result. Sometimes that's battling for a win, sometimes that's battling for 10th, sometimes that's running a wrecked race car to get every point you can."
As for the impact that Stewart's injury has had on drivers, Johnson feels that not much will change drivers' ideas of participating in extracurricular races.
"I don't think it's going to change much on that front because we all have contracts that state we need approval from sponsor, from team, to compete in these other cars," Johnson said. "So drivers that have already worked out those details with their team and sponsors -- that stuff is already in play for the year ? We all know the risks. When you choose to run other races and divisions, you work through all those things."
Prior to his injury, Tony Stewart stood as an exceptional threat to racers that were hoping to make it into the Chase.
"Anybody and everybody in the top 15 is a threat," Johnson said when asked how Stewart's absence effects his title hopes. "But Tony, when he gets hot, man, he gets hot. You just don't know when that streak's going to come.
With the cushion that Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson have built for themselves, their combined knowledge gained through testing and Stewart's unexpected absence, the drivers of Hendrick Motorsports are motivated to finish the season on top.
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