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Only Yesterday: 300 – Rise of an Empire for Rick Hendrick

On Sunday (Sept. 24), Hendrick Motorsports notched a milestone win in NASCAR history — William Byron captured the team’s 300th win, coming at Texas Motor Speedway.

Arguably, Kyle Larson should have been the one to get the honor. But tight racing with Bubba Wallace caused Larson to lose control of his car and slam the outside wall with a handful of laps to go, ending his day after leading 99 laps.

There are many wins that have shaped HMS’ history. Once a startup one-car team, the team is now a four-car super team. As each milestone victory came, it was met with admiration and humility from those within the team, as well as fellow competitors.

Averaging almost eight wins per season, with some of the greatest drivers of all time, HMS has amassed 14 NASCAR Cup Series championships.

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And it all started in 1984.

Win No. 1

Just as Rick Hendrick decided to cease operations of his team (then called All-Star Racing) in 1984, the team entered one last race at Martinsville Speedway on March 30 with 1982 Cup Rookie of the Year Geoffrey Bodine.

And as fate would have it, the team would win its first race in its last race. Well, what was supposed to be its last race.

The win eventually led to a deal with Levi Garrett, leading to the iconic yellow and white car Bodine drove throughout the late 1980s.

Win No. 50

Fresh off of his first of four championships, Jeff Gordon was quickly rising to superstardom come 1996. He achieved HMS’s 50th win at Darlington Raceway on March 24, 1996, almost 12 years after the team’s first win. Gordon finished second in the championship in 1996 (to teammate Terry Labonte) before going back-to-back in 1997 and 1998.

Win No. 100

Gordon was also responsible for HMS’ 100th win, which came at Michigan International Speedway on June 10, 2001, en route to his fourth and final championship.

Wins No. 128 and 129

On Oct. 24, 2004, after the Cup Series race at Martinsville, news broke that a Hendrick team plane crashed into a mountain near Stuart, Va. The crash killed everyone on board, most notably Hendrick’s brother John, his two daughters, Hendrick chief engine builder Randy Dorton and Rick’s own son Ricky, a rising star in NASCAR who had won his lone race in the Craftsman Truck Series at Kansas Speedway in 2001. Ricky was also the heir apparent to his father’s race team one day.

HMS teams were not informed until after the race. Jimmie Johnson captured the win that day, but victory lane celebrations did not occur, as all HMS drivers and personnel were summoned to a meeting, where they then learned of the accident.

Beginning the next race at Atlanta Motor Speedway through the rest of the season, all four HMS cars, as well as the Hendrick-affiliated No. 0 Haas CNC Racing car of Ward Burton, carried decals on the hood and TV panel with the 10 crash victims enclosed in a burnt orange oval with the phrase “Always in our hearts” across the top.

Johnson went onto win Atlanta, healing the hearts of many. In victory lane, Johnson and his crew paid tribute to Ricky by wearing their hats backwards, as Ricky so often did — a tribute that HMS continues to pay to this day in victory lane.

Win No. 150

Johnson won the 150th race for HMS at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 11, 2007. It was the first win of the season for both Johnson and HMS, fresh off of Johnson’s first of what would eventually be five straight and seven career championships.

Win No. 200

Johnson again achieved another HMS milestone win, winning the 2012 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Again, it was the first win of the season for both Johnson and Hendrick. Johnson ended up second in the championship in 2012 but then won his sixth title the following season in 2013.

Win No. 250

The new era at HMS officially began at Watkins Glen International in 2018.

With Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired, Kasey Kahne no longer on the team (and also nearing retirement) and Johnson on the back side of his full-time career, the up-and-coming young gun Chase Elliott became the flagship driver of the team. However, his first two seasons replacing Gordon in the No. 24 resulted in several runner-up finishes, but no wins.

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Elliott then took over the No. 9 in a nod to his father Bill in 2018, when he finally notched career win No. 1 at The Glen. Elliott had to hold off Martin Truex Jr. in a wild fuel-mileage race, in which Truex ran out of fuel two corners from the finish, allowing Elliott to pull away.

In scoring career win No. 1, Elliott earned HMS’s 250th win in its history. Elliott ran out of fuel on the cool-down lap, and in one of the cooler moments in recent NASCAR history, Johnson pushed Elliott around back to the start-finish line to celebrate the win.

Win No. 269

Larson won his second of 10 races in his debut season with HMS in 2021 at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The win was No. 269 for HMS, breaking a tie with Petty Enterprises for the most all-time wins by a single organization.

Win No. 300

Byron finally earned win No. 300 for the team at Texas after Larson grabbed win No. 299 a few weeks prior at the Southern 500 at Darlington. Because of Larson’s and Wallace’s dominance of the race, Byron led just six laps en route to his 10th career win.

Hendrick Driver Victories by the Numbers

Jeff Gordon (93): Gordon spent his entire career with HMS, winning three Daytona 500s, three Coca-Cola 600s (including his first career win in 1994), five Brickyard 400s (including the inaugural event, also in 1994) and six Southern 500s. The four-time champion also had three All-Star Race wins and two Busch Clash victories. His final career victory came, fittingly, at Martinsville in 2015.

Jimmie Johnson (83): Johnson also spent his entire full-time career with HMS, winning two Daytona 500s, four Coca-Cola 600s and Brickyard 400s and two Southern 500s. Johnson also holds win records at Dover Motor Speedway (11), Charlotte (9) — at one point named Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Johnson’s sponsor for most of his career — and Texas (7). The most recent seven-time champion also won four All-Star Races and is a two-time winner of the Busch Clash.

Chase Elliott (18): Elliott has spent his entire career so far with HMS. The 2020 champion’s only marquee victory so far, points or non-points, is the 2020 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kyle Larson (16): Larson joined Hendrick in 2021, earning wins at the 2021 Coca-Cola 600 and 2023 Southern 500. Larson also has won two of his three All-Star Race wins with Hendrick.

Terry Labonte (12): Labonte spent 1994-2004 with HMS full time plus part-time seasons in 2005 and 2006. Labonte won his second All-Star Race in 1999 and second Southern 500 in 2003, his final career win.

William Byron (10): Byron also has spent his entire career to this point with HMS. His first win came at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9): Earnhardt joined HMS in 2008 and stayed with the team until his 2017 retirement. He won his second Busch Clash with the team in 2008 and second Daytona 500 in 2014.

Darrell Waltrip (9): Waltrip spent 1987-90 with HMS, winning the 1989 Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

Tim Richmond (9): Richmond spent his last full-time season and one part-time season with HMS, with his lone crown jewel with the team coming in the 1986 Southern 500.

Geoff Bodine (7): Its first driver, Bodine spent six years with the team, winning the team’s first-ever race as well as the 1986 Daytona 500, the team’s first and his only.

Alex Bowman (7): Bowman drove for HMS in 10 races in 2016 in relief of an injured Earnhardt before joining the team full time in 2018, switching from the No. 88 to the No. 48 in 2021. His first win came at Chicagoland Speedway in 2019.

Kasey Kahne (6): Kahne raced for HMS from 2012-17, winning the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 and the 2017 Brickyard 400. The latter was his final career win.

Mark Martin (5): Originally supposed to drive one full-time season and two part time, Martin ended up driving three full-time seasons for HMS from 2009-11. All five of his wins came in 2009, including the Southern 500.

Ken Schrader (4): Schrader spent 1989-96 driving the No. 25 for HMS. He won the 1989 Busch Clash with the team.

Kyle Busch (4): Busch’s Cup career began at HMS, driving for the team part time in 2003-04 and full time from 2005-07. At the time of his first career win, coming at Auto Club Speedway in 2005, Busch was the youngest winner in Cup history at age 20.

Ricky Rudd (4): Rudd drove for HMS from 1990-93, winning a race each year.

Jerry Nadeau (1): Nadeau spent two and a half seasons with HMS from 2000-02, winning his lone race at Atlanta.

Brian Vickers (1): Vickers spent his first three full-time seasons (as well as a part-time stint in 2003) with HMS. He won the 2003 Busch Series championship with the team, and his lone Cup win with the team came at Talladega Superspeedway in 2006. Vickers also won the 2005 All-Star Open.

Casey Mears (1): Mears spent two seasons with HMS, competing in the No. 25 in 2007 and the No. 5 in 2008. His lone career win came on a wild fuel-mileage gamble in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600.

Joe Nemechek (1): Nemechek spent the back two-thirds of 2002 and first two-thirds of 2003 with HMS, winning one race with the team at Richmond Raceway in 2003.


20 drivers. 1,337 races. 300 wins. And many other drivers, crew and personnel across all three premier series (and the ARCA Menards Series) along the way helped shape Hendrick Motorsports into the empire it is today. With year 40 around the corner, and Gordon likely in line to take over the team in due time, who’s to say that all-time win record will ever be broken?

Here’s to 300 more.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He is an editor and co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer and dabbles in SRX coverage too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He's a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Rick’s two biggest victories:
1.a phony Leukemia diagnosis to stay out of prison.
2 a million dollar check to the Clinton Foundation for a pardon.

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