Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th Cup Win More than Just a Number

Jackson Wheeler
8 Min Read


It took rookie NASCAR team-owner Rick Hendrick just eight starts to get his new company’s first Cup Series victory. It came in the spring of 1984, when Geoffrey Bodine won a 500-lapper at the flat half-mile bullring that is Martinsville Speedway in southern Virginia.

As the familiar story goes, Martinsville was supposed to be the last start for the underfinanced Hendrick Motorsports organization. The young team owner—despite his deep pockets and relationship with Chevrolet—had almost exhausted his racing budget in seven starts. But crew chief Harry Hyde lobbied for a reprieve, saying Bodine was good at Martinsville and their No. 5 car was prepared and already loaded, so why not give it one more shot?

On Sunday, 39 years, five months, and 4,673 team-starts since that make-or-break weekend, William Byron gave Hendrick his 300th Cup victory at Texas Motor Speedway. That’s an untouchable 32 victories more than the 268 of shut-down Petty Enterprises and the 93 more than the still-formidable Joe Gibbs Racing. Byron’s victory was his series-leading sixth this year and ninth overall for HMS.

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Rick Hendrick and driver William Byron celebrate No. 300 for the team on Sunday in Texas.

Chris Graythen//Getty Images

As usual, “Mr. H” said all the right things. “Three-hundred is such a milestone,” he said after Byron led only the final six laps in the first race of Round 2 of the Playoffs. “When you put that distance on Petty’s record (of 268) by a pretty good margin and at the rate we’re going, we’re just adding to it. (We have) young drivers and young crew chiefs, and Jeff Gordon (team vice-chairman) is here helping. I don’t know where we’re going to go and I’m not going to set a goal because the goal for me is winning.”

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Jeff Gordon notches win No. 100 for the Hendrick operation at Michigan in 2001.

Robert Laberge//Getty Images

William Byron is among the 20 drivers who have contributed to Hendrick’s record-extending 300. (The organization has entered 50 drivers in at least one race, including one of Hendrick himself). Its list of winners includes just about everybody who’s been anybody in NASCAR since the mid-80’s: from Hall of Fame drivers Jeff Gordon (93 victories), Jimmie Johnson (83), Terry Labonte (12), Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (each with 9) to one-time HMS winners Joe Nemechek, Jerry Nadeau, Brian Vickers, and Casey Mears.

Chevrolet-based company has gotten 51 victories from its current lineup of Chase Elliott (18), Kyle Larson (16), Byron (10), and Alex Bowman (7). The late Tim Richmond added 9 victories, Bodine 7 (including that all-important first one in 1984), Kasey Kahne 6, Mark Martin 5, and Ricky Rudd, Kyle Busch, and Ken Schrader, 4 each.

Once the organization became stable and began developing its own chassis and engine programs, the milestone victories came with some regularity: Gordon got its 50th at Darlington May of 1996 and its 100th at Michigan in June of 2001. Johnson got its 150th at Las Vegas in March of 2007 and its 200th at Darlington in May of 2012. Elliott got its 250th victory (and his first) at Watkins Glen in August of 2018, leaving it to Larson to get the company’s record-breaking 269th victory at Charlotte in May of 2021.

“That (Petty’s record) 268 was in my brain for a long time and I didn’t think we could ever get there,” Hendrick recalled. “I owe it all to the people here and the drivers along the way. It’s unbelievable to be at 300. I think about that Martinsville race all the time. Had we not won that race there wouldn’t be a Hendrick Motorsports and we wouldn’t be at 300 wins. I’m very, very thankful for that.”

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Boss Rick Hendrick, left, and Jimmie Johnson reflect on the team’s 200th win at Darlington in 2012.

Jeff Zelevansky//Getty Images

Five Hendrick drivers have combined for an astonishing 14 NASCAR Cup Series titles: 7 from Johnson, 4 from Gordon, and 1 each from Elliott, Larson, and Labonte. And Gordon, Johnson, and Larson have combined for five seasons with double-digit victories: Gordon won 10 races each in 1996 and 1997, then 13 in 1998; Johnson won 10 times in 2007; and Larson won 10 times in his 2021 championship season.

Nobody else has approached those numbers and probably never will. Joe Gibbs Racing is capable of winning every weekend, but its headline drivers (42-year-old Denny Hamlin and 43-year-old Martin Truex Jr.) are aging out sooner rather than later. And as good as that organization is, its only Cup Series champions since 1992 have been Kyle Busch and retired Hall of Fame drivers Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

“Winning 300 races was never a goal,” Hendrick said. “The goal was to tie and then beat Petty’s record … but I never thought we’d get there. We started counting down until we broke that record. Once we got there, everybody started looking at 300. But we didn’t start talking much about 300 until we got to 299 (by Larson at Darlington early in September).

“Now? I’m not thinking about 350, I’ll tell you that. I’m going to enjoy 300 and see what happens.”

Lettermark

Contributing Editor

Unemployed after three years as an Army officer and Vietnam vet, Al Pearce shamelessly lied his way onto a small newspaper’s sports staff in Virginia in 1969. He inherited motorsports, a strange and unfamiliar beat which quickly became an obsession. 

In 53 years – 48 ongoing with Autoweek – there have been thousands of NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, and APBA assignments on weekend tracks and major venues like Daytona Beach, Indianapolis, LeMans, and Watkins Glen. The job – and accompanying benefits – has taken him to all 50 states and more than a dozen countries.  

He’s been fortunate enough to attract interest from several publishers, thus his 13 motorsports-related books. He can change a tire on his Hyundai, but that’s about it.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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