Rick Hendrick to win cup for 14th NASCAR Championship


FILE - Rick Hendrick celebrates at Victory Lane after winning the season championship in the <a class=NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on Sunday, November 8, 2020. Chase Elliott drove the car into the race. Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s most successful team – the stock car version of the Lakers or the Celtics, perhaps the New York Yankees in motorsport. (AP Photo / Ralph Freso, file)” title=”FILE – Rick Hendrick celebrates at Victory Lane after winning the season championship in the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on Sunday, November 8, 2020. Chase Elliott drove the car into the race. Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s most successful team – the stock car version of the Lakers or the Celtics, perhaps the New York Yankees in motorsport. (AP Photo / Ralph Freso, file)” loading=”lazy”/>

FILE – Rick Hendrick celebrates at Victory Lane after winning the season championship in the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on Sunday, November 8, 2020. Chase Elliott drove the car into the race. Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s most successful team – the stock car version of the Lakers or the Celtics, perhaps the New York Yankees in motorsport. (AP Photo / Ralph Freso, file)

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Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s most successful team – the stock car version of the Lakers or the Celtics, perhaps the New York Yankees in motorsport.

Rick Hendrick has built a beast of organization since joining NASCAR in 1984. The team was called All-Star Racing and Geoff Bodine was its driver, but Hendrick went to the Daytona 500 without a sponsor.

Bodine only got the ride because he stopped at the flagship Hendrick City Chevrolet dealership looking for a NASCAR ride on the same day Tim Richmond was to tell the young team if he wanted the job. Richmond had only been offered the seat because a deal between Hendrick and Richard Petty had collapsed.

Over the next 37 years, Hendrick Motorsports became the most successful team in NASCAR history. In May, HMS surpassed the empire’s long-held record of 268 Cup wins, and the organization is now celebrating its 14th Cup Series championship with Kyle Larson’s first title.

There are parallels to this year’s championship and that first season of 1984. Both times Hendrick played and followed his instincts. He had no sponsors in 1984, but was prepared to fund Bodine himself – a plan that worked until Hendrick was set to break just five races in the season.

Hendrick was on the verge of folding the team until Bodine avoided closing with a victory at Martinsville Speedway. Hendrick had let Northwestern Security Life put his logos on the car for free, and the company agreed to sponsor the remainder of the season after Martinsville’s victory.

HMS now has 280 Cup wins and his 14th title went to Larson, who got a second chance at NASCAR this year when Hendrick ended Larson’s nearly year-long ban for using a racial slur.

Hendrick did not have a sponsor again, had to finance the car out of his own pocket again and was ready to give it a try again. He knew Larson – the so-called “Next Jeff Gordon” – was going to be good when given fast race cars. He didn’t expect the results to be so dramatic.

“Did I think he could win 10 races and win the championship? Said Hendrick. “I mean, I thought he would be quick. I thought the team would be good. But I had no idea.

Larson won 10 points races, the million dollar All-Star race, broke Jeff Gordon’s 20-year record for most laps led in a season, and has practically dominated the competition all of the season. year. The entire Hendrick organization has been improved, accumulating 18 victories.

All four Hendrick drivers made the playoffs; Larson and Chase Elliott, the 2020 champion, have both qualified for the final four winners.

Hendrick will be celebrated this week in Nashville at NASCAR’s annual year-end celebration, his first chance to win the Cup in five years. He last accepted the Championship trophy in 2016, the seventh and final record title for Jimmie Johnson.

This championship was a last hurray before the juggernaut Hendrick stumbled.

A painful rebuild to replace retired superstars Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. left HMS with a young team anchored by Johnson and slowed down by mediocre cars. The four-car team went three years without advancing a single driver in the championship’s final four, and it wasn’t until 2020 and in Johnson’s last NASCAR race that Elliott ended a streak. warm end of the season to win his first Cup.

There hasn’t been a party for Elliott’s Championship due to COVID-19, so it won’t be until Thursday at Music City Center that Hendrick personally picks up another cup.

Of course, Hendrick is a car salesman and he knows a good deal when he sees one.

Its Chevrolets were still fast this season and its young lineup was starting to flourish. And as expected, Larson wins when he rides in fast cars. A lot.

He was not sponsored at the start and it was only halfway through the season that Hendrick signed both a full time sponsor and Larson for an extension until 2023. The sponsor is HendrickCars. com, the clearinghouse for all Hendrick dealers.

But that doesn’t make the money any less real, and the bean counters at Hendrick Automotive felt Larson was worthy of his marketing budget.

The end result was a looping celebration for Hendrick and his wife, Linda, who have watched Larson all season dominate in the flagship No.5 Chevrolet that is a tribute to their late son. Number 5 was Hendrick’s original car number, used by Bodine in the 1984 inaugural season, and driven to the 1996 Cup Championship by Terry Labonte.

It had been reserved for Ricky Hendrick, who drove the No.5 in 22 Xfinity Series races in 2002 before early retirement from racing. Hendrick’s only son then moved on to the business side of the racing empire, but was killed in 2004 along with nine other people when their plane to Martinsville Speedway crashed into a Virginia mountain. Ricky Hendrick was 24.

No.5 was unused from 2017 to 2020 and then brought back this year when Larson joined the team. The car was styled and often in a paint scheme that was a tribute to Hendrick’s late son.

“My wife and I when we watch this auto race it does something to us, paying homage to our son, the number, the colors,” said Hendrick. ” I love this color. I love this car. So it’s very, very special to be able to win this and celebrate your colors, your number and your life.


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