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NASCAR NOTES: HMS teams are all smiles except one

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Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"
(Source: John Harrelson /Getty Images) (Source: John Harrelson /Getty Images)

With three race wins and one All Star victory in the last four weeks, Hendrick Motorsports' Teams are all smiles except one - former champion Jeff Gordon is struggling.

Jimmie Johnson's victory at the Monster Mile in Dover last Sunday gave him two wins at the halfway mark of NASCAR's regular season. Add a convincing victory in the All Star event along the way and suddenly the talk of a sixth Cup Series Championship begins to surface.

Although Johnson doesn't want to talk about it, many are picking his No. 48 team as the one to beat for the 2012 title.

"I think things are very good for our company," Johnson said after the event. "We know the areas where we found some raw speed and now we are fine-tuning from here. I think two wins puts us in a very nice position. We need to keep the pressure on and roll into September with the same thing in order to win a championship."

With two teams already in the win column, the focus is to get the other two to follow suit. The No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems poised to move forward. His 11 Top 10 finishes in the first 13 races are more than any other driver and his is the only team to complete all competitive laps so far this season.

With the consistency question out of the way, the only thing standing between Junior and victory is closing the deal.

The No. 24 team of four-time champion Jeff Gordon faces the biggest challenge if team owner Rick Hendrick wants to get all his teams into the Chase. To say that Gordon has been bitten by the bad luck bug would be an understatement.

Sitting in 21st position in the point standings at the season's halfway mark, Gordon finds himself in jeopardy of not making the Top 10 by the postseason. His best chance to make the Chase is to start winning.

"We don't care about finishing Top 15 or Top 10 right now. That does nothing for us," Gordon said. "We need wins."

Gordon has run well this season but has been the victim of some very bad luck in virtually every race. For a time last Sunday, it appeared that Gordon was close to changing his fortune.

"The fastest car doesn't always win the race," Gordon said. "It's always more frustrating when you've got a car that can win and show it by going up there and taking the lead."

Gordon overcame his first bad break, a loose wheel on lap 250, which put him a lap down. However, when climbing back through the field after his last pit stop, a caution came out for a questionable piece of debris that put the former champion a lap down for the second time.

The unfortunate events seemed to seal his fate for another afternoon and didn't sit well with the frustrated driver.

"Yeah, I can't wait to see that debris on TV," Gordon said. "I'd like to see it, because I certainly never saw it. I'm not going to make any comments until I see what their reasoning for it was."

There isn't much you can do about changing a team's luck, but if Gordon is to make the Chase, he will have to start winning races. The No. 24 team has had speed and cars that have been capable of winning. The only thing they need is to overcome the bad luck and they will be Chase bound.

You can rest assured that the Hendrick organization will be working hard to help him do just that.

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