RELATED: Gordon reveals final paint scheme Paying a special tribute to Jeff Gordon 's final ride in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, the HMS team has collectively decided to run the famous " Jeff Gordon yellow" car numbers on Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne 's Chevrolets as well. "As (Gordon) drives the No. 24 for the last time this weekend, we want to do something special with all of our teams," Rick Hendrick said in a video released Tuesday on Twitter. "So our drivers and partners have gotten together to run the familiar ' Jeff Gordon yellow' for all of our car numbers at Homestead "We're excited to see those cars united on the track as a way to honor Jeff and support his run for a fifth championship." This weekend, we'll be honoring @JeffGordonWeb in a special way for his final #NASCAR race. #24ever pic.twitter.com/ln4M6Tx4lr — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) November 17, 2015 Each team took to Twitter to share photos of the yellow car numbers. They. Are. BACK! @JimmieJohnson ’s yellow 48’s take the track once again this weekend to celebrate #24ever . pic.twitter.com/1iQOlrqspn — Team Lowe's Racing (@LowesRacing) November 17, 2015 Check out the yellow 88's on @DaleJr 's car this weekend to honor @JeffGordonWeb in his final #NASCAR race. #24ever pic.twitter.com/oWka2vVg78 — Nationwide 88 (@nationwide88) November 17, 2015 Proud to sport a yellow 5 this weekend to honor one of the greatest ever @JeffGordonWeb ! @TeamHendrick @GreatClips pic.twitter.com/9KRGAuQS6Y — Great Clips Racing (@GREATracing) November 17, 2015 And in the spirit of honoring the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion and future Hall of Famer, Sports Illustrated released a look at its cover for this week's publication, too. This week's national cover: @JeffGordonWeb 's victory lap https://t.co/2LfaDqhsDX pic.twitter.com/JH9m8Rz93u — Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 17, 2015
RELATED: Logano leads opening practice at Martinsville Practice 3 recap " Practice 3 results Jimmie Johnson led the final Sprint Cup Series practice at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, topping the leaderboard with a speed of 97.108 mph. The Hendrick Motorsports driver completed his fastest lap on his fourth go-around of "The Paperclip" track out of 67 laps. Johnson has eight wins at Martinsville, tying with Jeff Gordon for the most victories among active Cup drivers at the Virginia short track. Kevin Harvick was second to "Six-Time" with a high speed of 96.721 mph in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Brad Keselowski (96.721 mph), Paul Menard (96.711 mph) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (96.538 mph) rounded out the top-five fastest. Defending race winner Earnhardt Jr. was fastest in Saturday's opening session. Polesitter Joey Logano was seventh-fastest in the closing session at 96.504 mph. Logano was the fastest in Friday's opening practice. The Team Penske driver is going for his fourth consecutive win, along with a ticket to the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kyle Busch was the slowest of the eight-driver Chase field, ranking 26th-fastest (95.854 mph). Denny Hamlin , Martinsville spring race winner, was ninth-fastest (96.386 mph). The Sprint Cup Series returns to the track on Sunday for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at 1:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra, MRN, SiriusXM). Practice 2 recap " Practice 2 results After qualifying 22nd on Friday, Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 picked up some speed for Saturday's first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The Hendrick Motorsports driver topped the leaderboard in his Chevrolet SS with a fast lap of 96.998 mph. Next was the No. 78 Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr ., the fastest during this session among the remaining eight Chase contenders (96.879 mph). Rounding out the top three was Ryan Newman , who circled the .526-mile track at 96.874 mph in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Polesitter Joey Logano showed speed again today, snagging the fourth spot with a high speed of 96.755 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin landed in the fifth position after posting a quick speed of 96.731 mph. Tony Stewart , who finished eighth, left the session with significant damage to his No. 14 after making contact with the wall. Stewart will start the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 in a backup car. Kasey Kahne , who wrecked in qualifying on Friday, will also start in a backup.
RELATED: Gordon keeps pedal down on way to Homestead Hendrick Motorsports , winner of six of the last nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, fields four teams but only one will be going for the 2015 championship later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . It's a fact that team owner Rick Hendrick doesn't like to be reminded of, given his organization's run of success in the series. Three Hendrick drivers qualified for this year's 16-team Chase for the Sprint Cup field -- Jeff Gordon , a four-time champ; Jimmie Johnson , winner of six titles; and Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt is still chasing his first Sprint Cup crown. Teammate Kasey Kahne was the only Hendrick driver who failed to earn a berth in the 10-race playoff. Gordon qualified for the Championship Round at Homestead thanks to a win last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Johnson failed to advance past the first round, while Earnhardt was eliminated after the second three-race segment. With only Gordon still title eligible, how does the organization balance what's best for the No. 24 team while not ignoring the needs of its other teams in the remaining three races? "The cool thing about our deal," Hendrick told NASCAR.com, "is all the stuff is the same. We don't play favorites over any of them. We give them the best stuff we've got -- all four of them. "So it won't be any different the next few races." While Gordon's efforts are top of mind, it's just as valuable for his other teams to continue to succeed as the season winds down, Hendrick said. It's just as important for Jimmie, Kasey and Dale," Hendrick said. "Dale's won twice, Jimmie's won four times this year, so it would be nice if Kasey could get a win. He's been running really well here lately, running up in the top five and top 10. "For all of those teams to end the year on a high is important because that momentum rolls you into next year. You go into the off-season kind of feeling like 'Man, I can't wait to go to Daytona.' "So yeah, it's important for all of them to run good."
CONCORD, N.C. -- Hendrick Motorsports is in the midst of playoff season and enjoying the success of three of its drivers who are competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And although one of NASCAR's most successful racing teams is focused on finishing off the 2015 season with another championship, they are also working on building a brighter future for years to come. The Hendrick organization hosted its first Signing Day for its developmental pit crew program Wednesday at its lavish No. 48 and 88 shop. Their introduction came against the backdrop of the shop's banners and trophies, honoring achievements set by the teams of Terry Labonte , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson and more. The seven men who participated in Signing Day are all former collegiate athletes and were chosen out of over 150 candidates for the annual recruitment process. The newcomers hope to pursue awards of their own, similar to the ones they are constantly surrounded by and to become a part of the company's lucrative 31-year history. Andy Papathanassiou, Director of Human Performance at Hendrick , opened the ceremony saying, "It's the people (here) that make the difference. And if you treat your people well they're going to want to perform not only for themselves but for you and for the company and for the team, and not only is that the best solution, it's the only solution to truly become a champion and to keep that championship mentality going." Another thing Papathanassiou highlighted was that the seven chosen are "not just here because they are big, strong guys … they're here for the way they think." And they all come from diverse backgrounds, most of which have little to do with NASCAR. Mike McClure, a former WWE prospect, was an All-American wrestler at Michigan State University and, too, an All-American in academics. McClure was at Michigan International Speedway for a race where he was recruited for the program. After receiving debilitating injuries in his journey to become a professional wrestler, McClure pursued the opportunity with Hendrick and is now working on honing his craft as a fueler and jackman. "Even on day one, I could tell they were genuine and they cared about the people here," explained McClure. Another recruit, Rod Cox, too, had "briefly seen NASCAR on TV," but knew he found his passion during his training at Hendrick . Cox, who played football at North Carolina State University and earned a degree in civil engineering, was convinced to join the organization after Coach Keith Flynn, Developmental Pit Crew Director, spoke to his football coach. "I met Coach Flynn and he was the greatest guy I had ever met," said Cox, an aspiring tire changer. "Everyone around here loves their job. I wake up in the morning like 'Man, I can’t wait to go practice and do my drills and lift weights and just enjoy everyone here.' " At the end of the event, Papathanassiou told NASCAR.com about how he is excited about the future and looking forward to the next chapter at Hendrick , with a new driver joining its Sprint Cup roster in Chase Elliott . "I think what's next for us is … we will have to redefine ourselves as a company. It's very exciting, especially with a guy like Chase Elliott . We could be on another 20-year run … another 20-year dominance."
The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", "The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", "The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Chase Elliott as the weakest link? It's hard to imagine that being the case for the reigning XFINITY Series champion, but Elliott was upfront with this feeling that will indeed be the case in 2016 when he embarks on his first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. "I know for a fact going to the 24 team next year, I'm going to be by far the weakest link in the chain," Elliott said during a media availability at Atlanta Motor Speedway during a NASCAR open team test. “I just really feel like that's a good group and I feel like if I can step up and do my job, there's no reason why we can't give ourselves a chance to compete for a win. I think that would be great but I just have a real long ways to go myself, personally to get to that point right now." Elliott was at Atlanta to test the 2016 rules package that will see reduced downforce as a prevalent part of the package. He also tested the package at Michigan International Speedway last week. In a race he admitted he'd "like to forget" due to a 41st-place finish, Elliott drove with the reduced downforce package over Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway . Elliott made five starts this season in the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Martinsville in March, Richmond in April, Charlotte in May, Indianapolis in July and Darlington in September). His best finish was a 16th-place result at Richmond. "Those five races that we ran this year were not where I wanted to be by any means," Elliott said. "I didn't feel like I did a very good job at all to be completely honest with you. I thought I did very, very poorly, personally in the Cup races that we ran this year. The 19-year-old doesn't believe he is being hard on himself, just honest. "I just like to be honest with myself and the situation," Elliott explained. "When you show up to the racetrack like we have this year, for those Cup races, showing up in really good equipment, there's no excuse to go and not run better for me. I look at that across the board. I just try to be honest with myself and if I don't feel like I did the job I need to do, I like to just be upfront with my mind and myself personally first." And while he is his toughest critic at times, his dream of becoming a full-time driver in the sport's top series is moving closer and closer. Prior to the start of the 2015 season after four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon had already announced that 2015 would be his final full-time season, Hendrick tapped Elliott to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet starting in 2016. “I'm really looking forward to next season," Elliott said. "The more days we spend doing tests like this I think it starts to set in for me that the next time we come to this track will be next year in the 24 car we'll be racing Sprint Cup , full-time. All those things are things I've dreamed of doing for a very long time. … "I just hope to make the most of a great opportunity that's in front of me."
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Regan Smith , 33 points out of the lead in NASCAR's XFINITY Series, will not be returning to JR Motorsports for the 2016 season, according to the 32-year-old driver. After finishing fifth in Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway , Smith told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider he was looking for a new ride. "I know I'm not coming back to JR Motorsports next year for sure," Smith said, "so I want to go out strong at the end here and do everything we can over these last three (races) to try and catch the 60 (points leader Chris Buescher ). We're going to need help now to do that but certainly been a good three years so we want to have a good last three races." Later, Smith tweeted: Sounds like tv didn't show my post race interview but to confirm, I will not be returning to the 7 car next season. — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) October 17, 2015 Smith has been driving the No. 7 JRM Chevrolet full-time since 2013; he made a single start with the team to close the '12 season, winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway . All six of his victories in the series have come with JRM. The organization, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner Rick Hendrick , fields three full-time XFINITY Series teams as well as one team in the Camping World Truck Series. Earnhardt Jr. announced earlier this month that veteran driver Elliott Sadler would join JRM for 2016, along with sponsor OneMain Financial. Chase Elliott , the 2014 series champion and driver of the team's No. 9 Chevrolet, will move up to Sprint Cup with Hendrick Motorsports next season, taking over the No. 24 entry currently driven by Jeff Gordon . Smith's team carries sponsorship from TaxSlayer.com, which recently announced it would continue its support for '16. Smith finished second to Elliott in last year's championship battle and third the previous season. Saturday's race marked his 199th career start in the series. He has two wins this season (at Mid-Ohio and Dover) and trails Buescher by 33 and Elliott by 27 with 30 of 33 races completed. He also has one victory in the Sprint Cup Series (2011 at Darlington Raceway ).
Kahne also picks up new primary sponsor for three races in 2015 RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today MORE: Rodden to step in as No. 5 crew chief Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday morning that it has signed driver Kasey Kahne to a three-year contract extension, keeping him in the fold through 2018 . "I've found a home at Hendrick Motorsports ," said Kahne in a team release. "We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we're headed as a team and a company. It's the right place for me, and I'm looking forward to being here for a long time." The news comes one day after a major shakeup with Hendrick's No. 5 Chevrolet team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with Keith Rodden accepting a crew chief role and Kenny Francis, atop Kahne's pit box since the 2005 season finale, shifting to the position of vehicle technical director. Kahne, an 11-year veteran and 17-time winner in NASCAR's premier series, and Francis joined the Hendrick organization in 2012. "It's extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey," said Rick Hendrick , owner of Hendrick Motorsports said in a team release. "I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We're committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come." In addition, Kahne will have LiftMaster on board as a primary sponsor for three races in the 2015 Sprint Cup season as well as an associate sponsor for the rest of the races. The agreement will be for the next three seasons (2015 to 2017). LiftMaster will be the primary sponsor for Kahne on May 24 (Charlotte), July 11 (Kentucky) and October 18 (Kansas). "It means a lot to have support from a great company like LiftMaster," Kahne said in a release. "The No. 5 team has high expectations for 2015, and they'll be with us as the primary sponsor at three tracks where we're traditionally very fast. All of us are looking forward to representing them throughout the season and developing a successful long-term relationship." We’re excited to join @KaseyKahne & @TeamHendrick starting in 2015! http://t.co/kZJdDPiroS pic.twitter.com/2aP8Oy7CJr — LiftMaster (@LiftMaster) November 20, 2014 The 34-year-old driver has won five times in Hendrick equipment and notched his best-ever finish in the season standings -- fourth -- in his first year with the team. Last season was a struggle, however, with Kahne posting just three top-five finishes and winding up 15th in the final standings. Kahne qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a Labor Day weekend victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the next-to-last race of the regular season. Kahne survived the first round of eliminations in the new-look Chase, but was ousted in the Contender Round, the second three-race leg of the postseason. Kahne agreed to join Hendrick in April 2010, replacing veteran driver Mark Martin . After signing the multiyear agreement, Kahne finished out most of the season in Richard Petty Motorsports' Fords, then spent the last five races of 2010 and all of 2011 driving Red Bull Racing's Toyotas before finally landing in the No. 5 Chevy. Re-signing Kahne, whose contract was set to expire after the 2015 season, helps solidify the Hendrick driver lineup. Team cornerstone Jeff Gordon , a four-time series champion, signed a lifetime contract with Hendrick in 1999. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson is also under contract through 2015, and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the sport's most popular driver, is signed through 2017. With Hendrick at the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four teams and the unlikelihood of Johnson departing after 2015, speculation will likely rise about the future of 18-year-old prodigy Chase Elliott , the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion who is under contract to Hendrick and drives for the affiliated JR Motorsports team with co-owner Earnhardt. Team owner Rick Hendrick said Nov. 8 after Elliott became the series' youngest champion that the young driver's career arc will likely include a handful of Sprint Cup races next season, but that there is no accelerated timetable to place him in NASCAR's premier series on a full-time basis. Elliott will return next year to defend his title in what will be known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series, driving JRM equipment. "Another year of seasoning here will be good for him, and we're not in any hurry," Hendrick said. "He's 18 years old." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: See who is in the Chase Officials with Hendrick Motorsports have announced two-year contract extensions for six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and primary team sponsor Lowe's. The extensions, which were announced today via press release, run through the 2017 season. Johnson, 39, is the No. 1 seed in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , which gets underway with Sunday's myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). A four-time winner this season, Johnson is attempting to become only the third driver in series history to win seven premier series titles, joining Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. He is a 74-time race winner in the series and is only two victories short of tying Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time win list. Johnson is the only driver to capture five consecutive Sprint Cup championships (2006-10). He and crew chief Chad Knaus have been paired together at Hendrick since the 2002 season. "My relationship with Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports means so much," Johnson said in a team release. "To me, this just reinforces how committed Lowe's is to our sport and to our partnership. It says a lot to have one sponsor and one team for this amount of time. I couldn't be prouder to represent everyone at Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports . This is my home, and I'm looking forward to many more victories together as a team." Knaus, whose latest contract extension runs through 2018, won championships as a crewman with teammate Jeff Gordon in '95 and '97 prior to being named crew chief for Johnson. "The contributions Jimmie and Chad have made to Hendrick Motorsports can't be overstated," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "When Lowe's took a chance by sponsoring the No. 48 team back in 2001, we never could've envisioned the results. It's a championship combination and genuine partnership that we're proud to continue and committed to develop even further." RELATED: Johnson discusses his outlook heading into the Chase Lowe's, the North Carolina-based home improvement chain, has been the No. 48 team's primary sponsor since 2002. It also backed the team for three races in 2001. The company funded the efforts of drivers Brett Bodine ('95-96) and Mike Skinner ('97-01) before aligning with Hendrick . "Their dedication … not only to Hendrick Motorsports but to the NASCAR community and our fans, has been absolutely incredible," Hendrick said. "We're fortunate to work with a company that's truly passionate about our sport and shares many of our organization's core values." Hendrick teams have won 11 premier series titles and 237 races since debuting in NASCAR in 1984 as a single-car entity with driver Geoff Bodine. RELATED: Where will Johnson be for Chase Across North America? In addition to Johnson, HMS also fields NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries for drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne . Gordon, a four-time series champion, will retire from driving at the end of 2015. He will be replaced by defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott . Earnhardt Jr. is signed through the 2017 season while Kahne's contract was renewed late last year and will keep the Enumclaw, Washington, native on board through 2018. Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. will join Johnson in this year's 16-team Chase field.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- That high-pitched whir unique to Joe Gibbs Racing 's air wrenches could be coming to the pit boxes of one of the Toyota organization's closest rivals in the near future. Hendrick Motorsports ' motivations for hiring front-tire changer Nick Odell to Jeff Gordon 's No. 24 team last week came into clearer focus Tuesday at the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Contender Round Media Day. Odell, Gordon said, wasn't merely brought in for his nimble work during pit stops, but also for his institutional and technical skill, which helped in the development of JGR's enhanced air guns. "That was an opportunity to get someone that is highly regarded on pit road, very knowledgeable about more than just changing tires," Gordon said during media rotations at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "He was somebody that a lot of people wanted to get their hands on, and Nick had to make his own choice and decision where he was going to end up going. I'm very proud that he came to our organization. I think it's going to pick our program up, which I feel like we've been off. "I mean, we train guys, we have very talented individuals, but it goes further than that. Now we're starting to see where these pit guns are a crucial part of pit stops. It's something we've been working on, and now it helps us take it to the next level." RELATED: Pit crew changes for Gordon, Earnhardt Jr. Odell's move came at the expense of specifically the No. 18 team with driver Kyle Busch , who lost a seven-year veteran from his over-the-wall crew, but generally for Joe Gibbs Racing , which unveiled the high-speed air guns -- known for their distinctively shrill whine -- during the 2014 season. The upgrade in equipment, combined with JGR's already quick personnel, has helped the team shave precious tenths of a second off its pit stops. Busch said he anticipated a similar air wrench design making its debut at Hendrick Motorsports ' four-car outfit in "six, seven, eight months," and that JGR will face even tighter competition on pit road next season. "I feel like Nick Odell, he's one of my best friends. I'm friends with all my guys, and if any of them left, I'd be hurt about it," Busch said. "I didn't want to see Nick go, but things happen for a reason I guess in this business. Certainly being a part of Joe Gibbs Racing and the development work and everything that we've done into those air guns, obviously Nick was a part of that and knows some of that stuff, so he's a guy who does have some of that knowledge and will share it, I'm sure, with the Hendrick Motorsports group." If Busch's timetable for air-gun development is accurate, Gordon won't have an opportunity to directly feel the impact. The four-time champion will be ceding his seat to defending XFINITY champion Chase Elliott at season's end, and changes to the 2016 rules package may reduce the premium on gaining spots during pit-stop exchanges. Gordon said that doesn't mean that teams will place lesser emphasis on seeking every advantage possible to speed up pit-road service. "I think you're just always trying to find out where you need more strength and what can make you better," Gordon said. "Track position has become so important. I think next year it'll be less important because of the aerodynamics, and I think that's great for the sport, but we're never going to stop trying to figure out how to find time on pit road if it's possible and to do it consistently. Right now, I think it's so crucial. The aerodynamic and power combination we have this year, it is so difficult to pass once you get the green flag and get strung out. Very, very difficult."