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Head2Head: Hendrick or No. 11 -- which will hit 200 first?

April 23, 2012, ,

Denny Hamlin's win in the No. 11 last Sunday at Kansas meant the No. 11 was the winningest car number in Cup Series history, breaking a tie with the No. 43. But as the No. 11 broke one tie, it entered into another. Still sitting at 199 Cup victories after Jimmie Johnson's victory at Kansas last October is Hendrick Motorsports. The team has been close to hitting the 200 milestone, but has come short all season.

Which will get to 200 victories first -- Hendrick or No. 11?


It's very tempting to think the No. 11, driven by Denny Hamlin, will just waltz into Richmond, dominate as he is expected to, and give the No. 11 its 200th victory, once again leaving Hendrick waiting another week for its milestone. But don't let temptation get the best of you.

Yes, Hamlin is fantastic at Richmond, but two wins in 12 starts isn't as dominant as it seems. And let's remember, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all multiple race winners at the .75-mile short track. Even Kasey Kahne has visited Victory Lane -- so all five have a legitimate shot at the win.

Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb have shown they are performing at the top of their game right now, no one can argue that. But let's not sell the Hendrick drivers short. Johnson hasn't finished worse than 12th since his Lap 1 crash at Daytona and has led laps in six of the past seven races. Earnhardt has been a model of consistency with an average finish of 8.0 (third best in the series) and has four consecutive top-10s. Gordon and Kahne are wild-cards, but both are more than capable of dominating at Richmond.

And there is no guarantee any of the five will find Victory Lane at Richmond. If one of them doesn't, this guessing game heads to Talladega. And I think we all agree the Hendrick foursome is an overwhelming favorite over Hamlin at that track.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

The first time a driver first strapped into a car bearing the No. 11, Skimp Hersey drove it to an 18th-place finish in the first NASCAR race in history at the old Charlotte Fairgrounds. Now it's on the cusp of becoming the first car number to reach the 200-victory total in NASCAR's top national touring series.

Denny Hamlin drives the No. 11 these days. He won $248,691 for capturing last Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway behind the wheel of the car -- or precisely $248,666 more than the 25 bucks Hersey scored for his inaugural run in the No. 11 in 1949.

Driving the No. 11 car is special in NASCAR because of the racing royalty that has done so over the years. Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly in the '50s. In 1957 the No. 11 won its first race with Parnelli Jones behind the wheel. Since then, names like Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Mario Andretti, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Geoff Bodine and Bill Elliott all took the No. 11 to Victory Lane before Hamlin took over.

Hamlin already has won twice in it this season, and now he heads to Richmond -- where he has two victories. So history is on his side when it comes to getting that elusive 200th all-time win ahead of Hendrick Motorsports. And when they get there, you can bet on one thing: no one will Skimp on the prize money handed out for it.

Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

So, which will come first -- the 200th victory for Hendrick Motorsports or the 200th victory for No. 11? Bill Kimm likes the odds of four drivers over one while Joe Menzer thinks the No. 11 looks too strong right now. Read their thoughts and weigh in with who you think will hit 200 first in the comments below.