By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Hendrick Motorsports’ sprawling campus sits in the shadows of Charlotte Motor Speedway, so it was only fitting that Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was the place that the four-car juggernaut surpassed Petty Enterprises to be the winningest team in NASCAR Cup Series history.
Petty Enterprises had been the gold standard in the Cup Series, with 268 wins over the course of a 50-year span from 1949 to 1999, including 10 championships, but the torch now passes to Hendrick Motorsports to be the standard bearer from now into the future.
Asked what he’ll remember most from record-breaking win No. 269, team owner Rick Hendrick noted that winning at Charlotte makes the feat even more special.
“I’m going to remember that I really wanted to break the record at home,” Hendrick said. “I really wanted to do it in Charlotte.
“I’ll remember that I started about a mile from here in a little tin building and never thought I’d win a NASCAR race. I didn’t think I belonged when I got to Daytona the first time when I looked at the Wood Brothers and Junior Johnson and Richard Petty, and I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing here.
“You know, I think about all those things, and I think about breaking this record, because again, it’s huge for our company to win 269 races.”
As Kyle Larson crossed the line to score the victory on Sunday, it was poetic that he dominated the race in a car with the No. 5 plastered on the side of the door, the same car number that Geoff Bodine won the team’s first race with as All-Star Racing at Martinsville in April 1984.
Prior to that crucial first win, Hendrick was close to throwing in the towel before Bodine’s victory gave the team the kickstart it needed to continue running. As they say, the rest is history.
Since the first win at Martinsville, it has taken 37 years, one month, and one day for HMS surpass the win record, with 20 different drivers, including all four of its current stable of drivers, contributing to the total over the course of the more than three-decade trek toward the surpassing the Petty Enterprises record that had stood since 1960.
“I was very fortunate when I started,” Hendrick said of the team’s journey over the years. “I thought we had another deal that was coming together that didn’t, and so I was there with no sponsor, and I think we started with five people, and Harry was making 500 a week. You can put that in today’s terms.
“You know, I think Randy Dorton had a little engine shop, and he came on board, and so Randy was a big part of the foundation of our company.
“Then we brought Tim Richmond in, and it just — it’s been one brick at a time. I’ve got a lot of people that have been there forever. Look at Chad and Jeff Andrews and all these guys. We just kind of have built it from 5,000 square feet to what it is today, and from five people to over 600.
“It’s been a lot of years but a lot of just — any business you’re in, it’s all about people, getting people to work together, and I preach this to them all the time, you’ll never tear down a good organization from the outside, it’ll happen from the inside.
“We’ve stuck together through some really tough times like the crash, but we stayed together. Sometimes you have — the biggest problem I have, I have drivers retiring, Darrell Waltrip and then Dale, then Jeff, Jimmie, then you start again. You see these kids that are 14 years old and you take a shot.
“I think I’m good for the future. I think at my age I don’t have to — with the average age of 26, I think I’m set.”
Drivers that have won races for Hendrick Motorsports include: Bodine, Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip, Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Jerry Nadeau, Jimmie Johnson, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Larson.
Gordon and Johnson have claimed the lion’s share of the wins and championships for the organization, with Gordon’s 93 career wins and Johnson’s 83 career wins, placing them third and sixth, respectively, on the all-time wins list.
In addition to the wins, Hendrick Motorsports has claimed 13 championships along the way. Seven championships belong to Johnson, while Gordon has four titles to his name, and Labonte and Elliott have scored a championship apiece.
Through the first 15 races of the 2021 season, HMS has been flexing its muscles to show just how strong an organization it is, with all four of its drivers winning at least one race. The last month in particular has been especially stout for the team, with it winning the last three races on the schedule (Dover, Circuit of The Americas, and Charlotte), including a 1-2-3-4 finish at Dover two weeks ago.
“I’ve had a lot of really good drivers,” Hendrick said. “I’ve been really blessed if you look at everybody that’s won a race with us, from Bodine to Tim Richmond to Waltrip. You can look at Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson with seven championships. All of them have unique features.
“I think Kyle is going to win a lot of races. Chase is already a champion. I’m really excited about how William is running every single week and Alex, too.
“It’s like having a bunch of kids. You love them all the same. It’s just each one of them has different strengths and characteristics, but at the end of the day they work well together.”
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