CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Hendrick Motorsports took time in its weekly meetings to address the parts failure that cost Jimmie Johnson a shot at a seventh championship.
Johnson was eliminated in the first round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship when an axle seal broke on his car Sunday at Dover. The failure occurred 103 laps into the race and he finished 41st to fall into the bottom four of the Chase standings.
While the issue could be a quality control problem, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon said HMS discussed ways to "make sure that's not something that bites us going forward.
"If I wrote down the list of inexpensive parts on the car that can fail at anytime on any given weekend, you'd blow your mind," he said. "It's unfortunate that it happened, and trying to actually diagnose exactly what caused it and why it happened, it's tough. Other teams will tell you these kinds of little gremlins can reach out and grab you at any time."
Gordon said HMS, which still has Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase, can take "procedural" steps to guard against failures.
"I think we can take some extra precautions to maybe make it better, but there's more of a long-term solution to it that we can't really address right now," he said.
Earnhardt seemed less concerned with the issue.
"Just a freak accident. The seal can get a nick or tear throughout the weekend moving an axle in and out," he said. "We've never had any problems with our seals and everything's always looked good with our cars. You never know. You hope you don't have an issue with that, and something as simple as that can ruin your day."
AXALTA-DALE JR.: Axalta Coatings Systems will remain with Hendrick Motorsports after Jeff Gordon retires at the end of the year.
Starting next season, Axalta will be a primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet for 13 Sprint Cup Series races. That is an increase of three races per season, and the deal runs through 2018.
Axalta has been with Hendrick for 23 years in some form — the company was rebranded from DuPont — in a relationship that began in 1992 as Gordon's first primary sponsor. Gordon will continue to work with Axalta as a spokesman and adviser.
"We began a journey 23 years ago with Hendrick Motorsports and a young driver named Jeff Gordon," said Nigel Budden, Axalta vice president and head of its North America business. "Eighty poles, 92 wins and four championships later, we are proud of the run we've had with Jeff. Now, we are delighted to continue our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and to adorn the hood of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevy SS with the Axalta logo in 2016."
Axalta has hosted thousands of customers at events and created some of the most iconic paint schemes in NASCAR history. Earlier this month, Axalta and Hendrick broke ground on Axalta's 45,000-square-foot Customer Experience Center that will be located on the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord.
PETTY-FORD: Richard Petty Motorsports is not switching manufacturers.
The team will continue with Ford for 2016 and beyond in a deal many thought would not happen. There had been speculation that RPM, which has been with Ford since 2010, would move to Chevrolet to take the slot vacated when Furniture Row announced it was moving to Toyota next year.
"Richard Petty Motorsports has made steady progress since joining our program, and we're looking forward to seeing them take that next step to being a consistent Chase participant," said Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance. "We feel they have the people in place to achieve that goal, and we're going to do everything we can to provide them the resources to make that happen."
RPM fields Sprint Cup entries for Aric Almirola and Sam Hornish Jr., and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship last year with Almirola. The team will continue to get its engines from Roush Yates engines, and has a services agreement with Roush Fenway Racing.
Team co-owner Richard Petty scored nine of his 200 victories driving a Ford.
"Our relationship with Ford Performance has a history, a present and now a future of winning races and competing for championships," said Petty.
PARROTT TO HELP: JTG Daugherty Racing has enlisted help for driver AJ Allmendinger from Richard Childress Racing.
JTG and RCR have a technical alliance, and it will be used for the remainder of the season as Todd Parrott will help Allmendinger for the final seven races of the season. Parrott is a veteran crew chief and currently the competition director for RCR's Xfinity Series teams. He's being loaned to JTG.
Allmendinger won on the road course at Watkins Glen last year to earn a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. It was the first Chase appearance in JTG team history, but the organization failed to build on it this year.
Allmendinger has just three top-10 finishes this year, is 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings and didn't make the Chase.
"We want JTG Daugherty Racing to succeed," Parrott said. "RCR has a great partnership with the team. With the alliance, it makes sense for me to help out and I want to."