Hendrick’s house league

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

TORONTO - It was just three seasons ago that NASCAR bosses stomped on team owner Jack Roush with both feet when they felt he had an unfair advantage with five cars in the circuit.

Rules were rewritten on the spot outlawing Roush and any other owner from having more than four teams in their garage.

So what do those same NASCAR bosses do with a Hendrick Motorsports that has a de facto six teams? Hendrick owns four teams outright (No. 24 Jeff Gordon, No. 48 Jimmie Johnson, No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and No. 5 Mark Martin) and there are two Stewart Haas Racing teams (No. 14 Tony Stewart and No. 39 Ryan Newman) for which it builds engines and chassis.

And now Kasey Kahne has signed a deal with HMS to drive for that outfit in 2012 and probably next season in a Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.

It might be easier for NASCAR just to rename its top loop the Hendrick Racing Sprint Cup.

Friday, at qualifying for the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Kahne was cagey about his plans for 2011 when everyone but team owner Tony Stewart has him pegged to drive for that team next season.

“You guys need to talk to Kasey because we don’t know anything about it,” Stewart said.

Stewart won the pole position Friday with a lap of 191.327 m.p.h. Sam Hornish Jr. will start beside him in the No. 77 Penske Racing Dodge with Greg Biffle in the No.16 Ford and Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet on the second row.

IndyCar

Last season, Will Power showed up for work at Penske Racing like a jockey without a horse at Woodbine.

Yet he persevered, despite limited seat time — he ran just six of the 18 IndyCar series races. In those six races, however, he finished in the Top 10 every time and won at the Honda Edmonton Indy.

This season he will race the whole series and on Sunday in the IZOD IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach he will be going for his third win in the first four events.

On Friday, Power set the tone by topping the speed charts with a 99.221-m.p.h. trip around the 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit.

He leads the series championship and is focused on keeping the No. 3 Penske Dallara on top.

“Of course I am going to the event looking for a win, but I know that it will be a tough race and with that in mind I am focused on bringing home the best result that I can in order to maintain the championship points lead,” Power told ESPN.

Formula 1

In the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix practices Friday, the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were first and third on the Shanghai International Circuit with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg second fastest.

Button, the defending world driving champion, insisted afterwards, however, that the Red Bull cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will be the cars to beat in Saturday qualifying.

“I don’t think the Red Bulls have showed their hand yet,” Button said. “The Ferraris had a tough day and they’ve been testing lots of straightline speed packages. But the Red Bulls will be quick and they are the ones to beat.”

Hamilton, who clocked a time of one minute, 35.217 seconds, said to win the race on Sunday he will have to find a way to stay with the Red Bulls on Saturday.

“Ideally, we’d like to get into Q3 and have a top-five start tomorrow which would enable us to have a competitive run for the win,” he said.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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