Column: Hendrick checks his personal bucket list

FILE - NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick laughs on pit road while qualifying for the Daytona 500 stock car race at Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Fla., February 10, 2019. Hendrick was a racer first and a car salesman second, but he married both professions to rise to the top of both industries.  (AP Photo/Terry Renna, File)

FILE – NASCAR group proprietor Rick Hendrick laughs on pit street whereas qualifying for the Daytona 500 inventory automobile race at Daytona Worldwide Speedway, in Daytona Seaside, Fla., February 10, 2019. Hendrick was a racer first and a automobile salesman second, however he married each professions to rise to the highest of each industries. (AP Photograph/Terry Renna, File)

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Hendrick Motorsports began as an All-Star Racing in an previous retailer with wood-paneled partitions and simply sufficient house 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 development started to stretch throughout its southern border.

All-Star Racing nearly broke two months into its inaugural season earlier than Jeff Bodine – driver three! – Save the season and maintain the wheels turning for what’s 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 Common Motors that introduced Hendrick to the highest of two completely different industries. The Hendrick Automotive Group is the most important privately owned auto dealership group in the US, and Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR’s model of the New York Yankees.

Hendrick Stadium has all the time 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 vainness initiatives.

Nicely, Hendrik is now 73 years previous and his drivers – younger sufficient to be his grandchildren – need to race something with wheels. With enormously 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 lets his drivers trip bikes through the NASCAR season, has agreed to let Kyle Larson race the Indy 500. Larson will attempt to “double up” and race each the Coca-Cola 600—a house race held virtually throughout the screaming distance of the Hendrick Motorsports campus The sprawling — and Indy 500 on the identical day in late Might.

Much more fascinating is that Hendrik shall be a co-owner of the automobile. And that may come as he is additionally sending one in every of 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 Sequence titles, crosses racing off his bucket checklist. His change in strategy to his drivers has given his boss the chance to work outdoors of normal vehicles and in true Hendrik kind, he would not fiddle.

Hendrik has used his deep sources and put his greatest individuals into giving him the prospect to race on the largest phases on this planet. Jimmie Johnson has helped Hendrick get into endurance races within the IMSA sports activities automobile program for the final two seasons. The hassle was run by Chad Knauss and certain, IMSA is owned by NASCAR, nevertheless it was one thing completely 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 venture particular for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race this June. NASCAR needed to indicate its new next-generation automobile in a particular class, and Hendrick stated he would handle the hassle with Common Motors.

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

It got here out final week that Hendrick let Larson go to Indy in 2024 with McLaren Racing, with Hendrick listed as co-owner and HendrickCars.com as sponsor. It’s a partnership with Common 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 an enormous dreamer open to any concept, and the chance to convey Rick Hendrick to “racing’s biggest 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 weak.

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

The actual draw is that in any case these years Hendrick is now getting an opportunity to expertise motorsports away from the NASCAR ovals. He has already experimented with sports activities automobile racing in North America and can begin racing internationally in June; It was dust racing and short-track racing and he raced for enjoyable, and now he will attempt to win the Indy 500.

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

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

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

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