Rick Hendrick's 'amazing empire' may just be getting started

After a slow start to the 2020 season, Chase Elliott ended up winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship – Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet’s first title since 2016.

Race winner Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro MetroTech
Race winner Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro MetroTech
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro MetroTech celebrates his victory
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, celebrates after winning the 2020 Nascar Cup Series Championship
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, celebrates after winning the 2020 Nascar Cup Series Championship
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, celebrates after winning the 2020 Nascar Cup Series Championship
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally celebrates his win
Race winner William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Axalta celebrates his win
Pole Award winner Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally and William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Axalta

Capturing the championship of the highest form of motorsports in the United States is a goal that is certainly difficult to top.

However, with its performance so far this season, Hendrick is making its 2020 season look like a subpar outing.

The Cup Series still has 11 races remaining before the start of the 2021 playoffs and already all four of Hendrick’s drivers – Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman – have won races, collecting six victories among them.

Larson, who joined the organization in the offseason replacing seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, has already led more 1,100 laps – 346 more than the next-highest driver (Denny Hamlin, 754).

Just in the last three weeks, HMS has set a record to become the first four-car team in NASCAR history to sweep the top-four finishing positions in a race (Dover, Del.); and with Larson’s win in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Hendrick became the winningest organization in Cup history, with victory No. 269.

Elliott’s win May 23 at the Circuit of the Americas allowed HMS to tie the previous record holder, Petty Enterprises (268).

The all-time wins leader

For team owner Rick Hendrick, it’s a milestone that’s still hard to comprehend.

“When we were like at 200 wins, just thinking that you’re going to win 269 and beat Richard (Petty)’s number, I never thought we’d get there,” Hendrick said. “Then all of a sudden the momentum started and we had a good run last year and this year.

“My dad always told me your biggest asset are your folks. You put key people together with good communication and good things will happen. If you remember, I had a one-car team and I went to two, and everybody said, ‘You can't win with a two-car team,’ but I did it.

“In the automobile business you have good people, you spread them out and they got great experience, then you add another and another, and together if they communicate, they’re stronger. I think we kind of broke that mold.”

Perhaps fittingly, Hendrick’s newest driver – Larson – was the one to provide HMS its record-breaking win and driving the No. 5 Chevrolet, the same number of the car to give Hendrick win No. 1 in 1984.

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Racing for Rick Hendrick

Larson, who previously competed for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Cup Series before he was fired for using a racial slur during the live broadcast of an iRacing event, hasn’t had long to get accustomed to his new home, particularly with numerous COVID-19 pandemic protocols in place until just recently.

Clearly, though, the change in surroundings has left an impression with the 28-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif.

“It’s an amazing place. Everything about the compound there at Hendrick Motorsports (in Charlotte, N.C.) is perfect. Everything down to the way they mow the lawn. It looks amazing,” Larson said.

“They put a level of effort into everything and pride in everything. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that our cars are this good. (Hendrick) has built such an amazing empire, and everybody there loves to work there, too.

“I think that’s the most important thing. They all respect him and love to work for him and (because of that) want to do a good job for him that results follow.”

And those results right now speak volumes.

Barring a sudden and drastic change in fortune, Hendrick doesn’t appear in danger of losing its status as the team to beat anytime soon.

“I think I’m good for the future,” Hendrick, 71, said. “I think at my age … with the average age of (my drivers at) 26, I think I’m set."

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