MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Hendrick Motorsports remains without a victory after Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 but not without a lot of promise.
Jeff Gordon did not have quite enough to run down race winner Denny Hamlin in the final laps but the pole-winner still finished a season's best second at Martinsville Speedway, where his Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson had won the past three Sprint Cup Series races.
Johnson wasn't far behind, finishing fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - who battled Gordon for the lead for several laps - finished sixth and Casey Mears was seventh, his best in the young season.
Not bad for an organization some in the media have deemed to be struggling so far in 2008.
"There's been a lot of criticism that I think has been unnecessary on Hendrick. I think today pretty much proved where we're at. We dominated this race," said Gordon.
"We may not have won it. That's what happened to us at other races, too.
"I understand when you compare to last year and how strong we were and how many races we'd won at this point of the season. You're just not going to have every year like that."
Following Sunday's race, Gordon (ninth) and Johnson (10th) both moved back into the top 12, joining Earnhardt Jr. (fourth). And Mears, who has struggled at the start of the 2008 season, jumped six spots in points to 27th.
"It definitely was what we needed ... We had a rough start to the season and some bad luck. The good thing is everybody held their heads up pretty high," said Mears.
"We know that we are competitive and this is a good start for us to rebound and go on from here.
"There was a side of me right there at the end that wanted to be more aggressive and try to get those last couple of spots. At the same time, we really aren't in a position to do that."
Earnhardt Jr., who has posted the most consistent finishes of the Hendrick drivers so far this season, was itching to snap his 68-race winless streak.
"We have to do this every week. If we can't get those wins right now, it is best to get what we can get and build upon making the Chase," he said.
"We tried really hard today and it just didn't work out for us.
"I am not really disappointed. I know my guys are, but I am not, trust me. Tony (Eury) Jr. (crew chief) and the guys are disappointed with it. They saw that car run up front all day and they wanted to finish there."