Since Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag last fall at Kansas Speedway – the 199th time a Rick Hendrick-owned car has won a Sprint Cup race – it seemed only a matter of time before Hendrick Motorsports scored its 200th victory.
But despite several close calls – including two weeks ago at Martinsville when Johnson and Jeff Gordon combined to lead 443 of the 515 laps completed, but wrecked two laps from the finish – that monumental win has continued to elude NASCAR's preeminent organization.
For much of Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, it appeared like number 200 was a near-certainty, as Johnson led a race-high 156 laps and was in the lead with less than 40 laps to go.
At the same time, Gordon – who had started 34th and methodically picked his way towards the front – was consistently one of the fastest cars on the track while Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were fixtures in the back half of the top-10.
But 31 laps from the finish, Greg Biffle powered underneath Johnson into Turn 3 to take the lead and drove off into the night to post his first victory since 2010. Johnson, who scraped the wall a few laps later, wasn't able to mount a challenge and was forced to settle for second.
Gordon, Kahne and Earnhardt never got the late-race caution they needed to close the gap on the leaders and finished fourth, seventh and 10th, respectively.
Consequently, Hendrick's quest for 200 wins continues for yet another week.
"I thought Jimmie had it tonight," Kahne said. "I wasn't worried about it, I thought it was over. Every time I looked up there the 48 was leading. Then I guess 15 (laps) to go I looked up and the 16 was leading. Then I thought, ‘Well maybe not today.' I don't know, those guys have been working hard since before I got here. They have been trying to get that 200th. It would be great to get it soon. Any one of the four, we need to get it done and get past that."
For Johnson, his runner-up finish accompanied with his near-miss at Martinsville left him feeling aggravated.
Martinsville bothered him more, Johnson said, "but they're both frustrating."
"The racer in me wants to win," he said. "We've been really close over the last five or six months. You look through last year even through different points, leading a lot of races and didn't execute at the end for whatever reason. It's nice to be running well. It's nice to be in this position. But I want to get back to our winning ways really soon."
Although none of the four Hendrick cars ended the night in Victory Lane, the Samsung Mobile 500 did represent the best weekend of the year for the team, as all four drivers finished the race inside the top 10 for the first time this season.
Johnson's runner-up finish moved him up to eighth in points; Gordon and Kahne were both finally able to put together a complete race where they weren't plagued by bad luck; and Earnhardt Jr. posted his fifth top-10 in seven starts and leaves Texas tied with Matt Kenseth for second in the standings.
But even all that positivity couldn't erase the fact that Hendrick hasn't won a race in 13 tries.
"To be honest, it hasn't played much on my mind because I just want to win and I know winning is what my job is about; winning is what Hendrick Motorsports is about, and if we win we'll take care of the 200th," Johnson said. "I seem to think about the 200th after the fact and think, 'Man, Martinsville could have been an amazing one-two-three. ... I think about it more after the fact, not leading up to or during the event."
As to whether to the pressure of getting that 200th win was affecting the team, Earnhardt Jr. was quick to dismiss such a notion afterwards.
"It doesn't bother me," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Everybody's been in this sport long enough to know that Rick's going to win a lot more races and all the drivers that he's got driving for him are going to win a lot, so we'll be fine. It does bring it into the spotlight when we get close like we have been, but we just need to be patient and keep doing what we're doing.
"We've got fast cars. We're a better company than we were last year. The speed is great and Jimmie has gotten better speed over the last couple of weeks. Jeff is just a win waiting to happen. I think you can say the same thing about Kasey."
The next opportunity for Hendrick Motorsports to finally get that elusive 200th win comes Sunday at Kansas Speedway, the site of its last victory.
"Yeah, I mean, whenever it happens is going to be very special for the company," Johnson said. "Again, I just want to win. I don't care where it is, whatever reason. There's 36, 38 of these things a year, and I want to take home a bunch of trophies. Second is nice, but winning is everything."