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NASCAR NEWS 

Brad Keselowski: Hendrick NASCAR teams 'a season ahead' on power

Hendrick is a "a season ahead" of its NASCAR Sprint Cup rivals in engine development, according to Penske's Brad Keselowski.

Alongside its own four Chevrolets for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne, Hendrick also supplies machinery for the four-car Stewart-Haas team and Ganassi's two entries.

Hendrick-powered cars filled six of the top eight places in last weekend's Michigan race, while the team itself has won the last five Cup rounds, including three victories in four races for six-time champion Johnson.

Penske Ford driver Keselowski finished third behind Johnson and Stewart-Haas' Kevin Harvick on Sunday.

"It's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else," said the 2012 Cup champion.

"Usually that's not something you catch up with in one season. They're probably a full season ahead.

Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt currently hold the top three positions in the drivers' championship, although the points scores will be largely irrelevant under the new knockout Chase system.

Keselowski believes the competitive balance of recent races is likely to set the tone for the rest of the season.

"I don't really think there is anybody in the wings," he said.

"You might see some small gains from some teams but I don't see anything significant coming.

"Right now the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to being balanced track to track. The Hendrick cars are probably the best where it takes power to run.

"I think what you're going to find in the development cycle has been found by this time in the year. Maybe there's a little bit more left on the table, but not enough to take a team that's not there to be there.

"What you're seeing right now is probably the top five or 10 that it's going to be when it comes down to money time in the Chase."

JOHNSON: PENSKE HAS GREAT PACE TOO

Johnson argued that Penske's qualifying and practice speed showed its cars were a match for Hendrick, and suggested that Stewart-Haas' Harvick - who has won twice this year but been left frustrated by incidents and pit delays in many races - is the actual benchmark.

"You look [at Penske] on Fridays and how much speed they have," said Johnson.

"They seem to have big short-term speed, and we're slowly working our way in that direction.

"But I'd say the car that seems to be the best car off the truck to when the chequered falls is still the #4 car [Harvick], week in and week out."

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