Sports Dethroning the King: Hendrick set to become NASCAR's best

00:51  18 may  2021
00:51  18 may  2021 Source:   thecanadianpress.com

Former NASCAR Driver Eric McClure Dead at 42

  Former NASCAR Driver Eric McClure Dead at 42 "The family of Eric Wayne McClure, former NASCAR driver, announces with great sorrow his passing on Sunday," his family said in a statement , according to the Associated Press. "They would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this very difficult time." © Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images Eric McClure In a separate statement, NASCAR said, "We are saddened to learn of the passing of former driver and (team) owner Eric McClure. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to Eric's family and friends.

Hendrick finishes 1-2-3-4. OK, you all knew this was coming, so let' s just get it over with. The last time a team finished 1-2-3-4? The 2005 season at Homestead-Miami. I'll give you a few minutes to guess the team. Petty Enterprises record in trouble. Back to Hendrick Motorsports. HMS now has 267 all-time wins, moving to within one of all-time leader Petty Enterprises. And now we head to COTA for the first time, which will use the 3.41-mile "long course" layout for its NASCAR debut. According to the people who know these things, this course also features a 133-foot hill at Turn One. What could go wrong?!

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will start from the rear of the field for Sunday’ s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) due to pre-race inspection issues, according to Hendrick Motorsports.

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Hendrick Motorsports has a mission to dethrone The King.

a group of people wearing costumes © Provided by The Canadian Press

Just ask Kyle Larson.

Larson has spent mere months on the job driving for Rick Hendrick, and promptly learned how seriously the team owner took his passion for catching Petty Enterprises -- anchored, of course, for years by Richard Petty -- on NASCAR’s career list for most wins by one organization in the Cup Series.

“He mentions it almost every time I feel like I talk to him,” Larson said.

Hendrick should feel real chatty these days after Alex Bowman won Sunday at Dover and Hendrick swept the top-four spots for the first time in team history. It moved HMS’ Cup wins total to 267, one shy of Petty’s mark of 268.

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Hendrick ' s 1-2-3-4 finish marked just the fourth time in NASCAR history that a team has placed four cars in the first four finishing positions and the first time in over 15 years. With 13 races now in the record books, the NASCAR Cup Series has hit the halfway mark of its regular season with 10 drivers having earned a Playoff berth by virtue of winning a race. Next week will present a wild card for the entire field as the Cup Series makes its inaugural visit to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

For Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR Next-Gen is well underway. The retirement of Jimmie Johnson during the off-season left the New York Yankees of the Cup Series without its figurative Derek Jeter, but the new guys have already started to write their own respective legacies. For all the accolades and accomplishments of NASCAR ’ s most decorated team, Rick Hendrick has never had all four cars running at a championship level. It was the one thing Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Racing has held over Hendrick over the past several decades.

Bowman has four career wins on that scorecard and Larson added his first earlier this season. But the list is topped by Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who won 93 races and four championships driving for Hendrick. Jimmie Johnson had 83 wins and a record-tying seven championships before bolting for IndyCar. NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte added 12.

There are 20 names on the list. Five drivers have one win for Hendrick and Chase Elliott with 11 is the only other driver to crack double figures. Petty Enterprises, founded by Lee Petty and last owned by Richard, last competed in 2008.

“I really tried not to think about it until this year,” the 71-year-old Hendrick said. “This year when everybody started talking about it, then I thought, man, this is in reach.”

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Certainly, the Hendrick Motorsports organization showed early-on Sunday it was ready to settle the trophy among its drivers. In all, Bowman, Larson and Byron combined to lead 381 of the 400 laps. As the laps wound down, TV cameras captured team owner Rick Hendrick nervously pacing on pit road, well aware of the significance of his four cars atop the scoring pylon. “I can guarantee you this is the most nervous I‘ve ever been in a race,” Hendrick said. “Great day for the organization. And Alex, congratulations to him. This is a sign of the guys working together and bringing good stuff to the track.

Formally known as Fallen Empire, Dethrone The King brings a new wave of Metal that has been bred Facebook is showing information to help you better understand the purpose of a Page. See actions taken by the people who manage and post content.

With Elliott, Larson, Bowman and William Byron in the stable, the record is not only within reach but Hendrick can put Petty (196 of his record 200 wins were for Petty Enterprises) well behind in the rearview mirror.

“I just want to be the guy that ties them and beats them,” Bowman said. “All four of us want to be that guy. It’s cool to put us one closer. I want to be the guy that gets those wins for Mr. H.”

NASCAR’s inner ownership circle boasts a king, a captain (Roger Penske) and a coach (Joe Gibbs). At Hendrick, the man who has called the shots since 1984 is simply Mr. H.

Larson drives the No. 5 for Hendrick, the number he used when Hendrick Motorsports launched in 1984. Geoff Bodine drove the No. 5 to three victories in the 1984 season (seven overall).

“I think a few years back, I thought it would be impossible,” Hendrick said. “If you had told me in 1984 that you’re going to be here for this long or that you had an opportunity to win all these races and championships, (I’d) kind of pinch myself because it’s just really hard to do."

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The Hendrick Motorsports driver took the lead off pit road after his final pit stop with 97 of 400 race laps remaining, held off the field on two more race restarts and earned his second victory of the year in Sunday‘ s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway. It was actually Larson who paced the field most of the day — leading a race best 263 of the opening 303 laps and sweeping both Stage 1 and Stage 2 victories – his series- best fifth and sixth stage wins of the season.

Hendrick’s drivers may have made success look easy on the track but the hardships have been as much a part of his story as the championships.

Already a car dealer, Hendrick had a championship drag boat team under his belt when he launched with fewer than 20 full-time employees and a small shop. He became a technical adviser for the Tom Cruise movie “Days of Thunder” and was one of the four original owners of the Charlotte Hornets. He battled a rare form of leukemia, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was later pardoned by President Clinton. He was struck by more tragedy in 2004 when a plane owned by Hendrick Motorsports crashed. All 10 people aboard were killed, including Hendrick’s son, brother and twin nieces.

Yet, he guided and grew his Hendrick Motorsports team into the dominant program in NASCAR.

The lean years hit, and Johnson failed to win a race over his final three full seasons. Hendrick failed to advance a driver into the championship round from 2017-19, a stretch that included a woeful 2018 season in which Elliott accounted for the only three wins for the entire organization.

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Elliott, though, delivered a championship to Hendrick last season and the momenteum rolled into this year: Bowman has two wins, and Byron and Larson each have one. Bowman, who is expected to sign a multi-year contract extension, Larson and Byron are under 30 years old.

“I think we are set for a really good run here for the next years, multiple years,” Hendrick said. “I like where we are.”

At Dover, Hendrick joined Peter DePaolo Racing (1956 at Titusville and 1957 at North Wilkesboro) and Roush Fenway Racing (2005 Homestead-Miami Speedway) as the only race teams to claim the top four spots in a Cup race.

Now it’s almost time to catch The King -- but not without a tip of the feathered cap to the one who set the standard.

“I’ll say this about Richard: nobody in this sport has ever given as much as he has,” Hendrick said. “To see him on pit road, see him signing every autograph. I’ve got one of his autographs when I couldn’t get in the garage area through the fence at Martinsville. I know what that feels like.”

Dan Gelston, The Associated Press

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