Column: Hendrick Checks His Personal Bucket List | NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — Hendrick Motorsports began as an All-Star Racing in an outdated store with wood-panelled partitions and simply sufficient area for its eight staff.

Rick Hendrick scraped collectively sufficient cash to launch an unsponsored NASCAR group for the 1984 season. He owned a Metropolis Chevrolet in Charlotte for simply over 5 years, however racing was his past love, so he gave it a shot as NASCAR’s progress started to stretch throughout its southern borders.

All-Star Racing nearly broke two months into its inaugural season earlier than Jeff Bodine – driver three! -Save the season and hold the wheels turning the way in which they’re now The winningest group in NASCAR historical past.

Bodine’s victory at Martinsville within the eighth race of the 1984 season cemented the bond with Normal Motors that introduced Hendrick to the highest of two totally different industries. The Hendrick Automotive Group is the biggest privately owned auto dealership group in the USA, and Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s model of the New York Yankees.

Hendrick Stadium has at all times been NASCAR’s go-to. Solely to NASCAR, drivers have by no means been allowed to cruise in different sequence. They’re extremely compensated for driving Hendrick Chevrolets and Hendrick did not need to get harm whereas finishing up his self-importance tasks.

Nicely, Hendrik is now 73 years outdated and his drivers – younger sufficient to be his grandchildren – need to race something with wheels. With significantly improved security options, Hendrick has eased up and now permits his drivers to stretch their legs a bit.

Subsequent? Indianapolis 500.

Rick Hendrick, the boss who barely allowed his drivers to experience bikes in the course of the NASCAR season, agreed to let it go Kyle Larson racing the Indy 500. Larson will attempt to “double up” and race each the Coca-Cola 600—a house race that is virtually held inside screaming distance of Hendrick Motorsports’ sprawling campus—and the Indy 500 on the identical day in late Might.

Much more attention-grabbing is that Hendrik will likely be a co-owner of the automotive. And that can come as he is additionally sending one among NASCAR’s new next-generation vehicles to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

That is proper, Hendrick, a hardcore NASCAR participant with 14 Cup Collection titles, crosses racing off his bucket checklist. His change in method to his drivers has given his boss the chance to work outdoors of normal vehicles and in true Hendrik kind, he does not fiddle.

Hendrik has used his deep sources and put his finest individuals into giving him the prospect to race on the largest phases on the planet. Jimmie Johnson has helped Hendrick get into endurance races within the IMSA sports activities automotive program for the final two seasons. The trouble was run by Chad Knauss and certain, IMSA is owned by NASCAR, but it surely was one thing totally different and Hendrick gave the pores and skin within the sport on the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

That opened discussions a couple of NASCAR challenge particular for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race this June. NASCAR needed to point out its new next-generation automotive in a particular class, and Hendrick mentioned he would handle the trouble with Normal Motors.

The deal initially angered rivals who had been fast to overhaul the Le Mans challenge giving Hendrick’s employees unfair entry to the subsequent era. There at the moment are knowledge sharing agreements in place and Hendrick is already going to Le Mans with a squad that’s anticipated to incorporate Johnson.

Final week phrase got here out that Hendrik has let Larsson go to Indy in 2024 with McLaren Racing, with Hendrik listed as co-owner and as a sponsor. It’s a partnership with Normal Motors and McLaren Racing, which is run by American Zack Brown.

Brawn and Jeff Gordon, each racers initially from California, put Larson’s deal collectively whereas Gordon now handles a lot of Hendrick Motorsports’ day-to-day offers. Brown is a giant dreamer open to any thought, and the chance to carry Rick Hendrick to “racing’s best spectacle” was one value pursuing.

Larson was the golden ticket as a result of it is Larson’s dream race, and Larson has pressed Hendrick and Gordon for an opportunity to race the Indy 500 since becoming a member of the group in 2021. Brown hit when Hendrick was most susceptible.

“Kyle made it clear to me that he would like to do it. I by no means thought it might occur,” Hendrik mentioned.

The true draw is that in spite of everything these years Hendrick is now getting an opportunity to expertise motorsports away from the NASCAR ovals. He has already experimented with sports activities automotive racing in North America and can begin racing internationally in June; It was grime racing and short-track racing and he raced for enjoyable, and now he’ll attempt to win the Indy 500.

“For me to do that with Chevrolet, I’ve at all times needed to be with a wonderful group if we ever did,” mentioned Hendrik. “To have the ability to accomplice with McLaren and have Hendrick Vehicles on it’s one thing particular for me and our complete group. A bucket checklist for any racer.”

Prior to now, the well-known Hendrick Bucket Listing was the automotive seller’s apparent motto: “Win on Sunday, promote on Monday.”

Now he desires to win at Daytona. And Indianapolis, too.

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