Hendrick Motorsports has become the leading organization in the NASCAR industry and moving into 2014, it is looking to be another year of Hendrick domination. The question that teams and fans alike have been trying to figure out is, what makes them so good? In truth, we will never know just what makes Hendrick Motorsports so strong but one thing is for certain, the four men that they have behind the wheel contribute immensely to their greatness.
Since its creation in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports have risen to the top ranks on the NASCAR series. With eleven Sprint Cup Championships, One Nationwide Championship, three Truck Series Championships and a total of 218 victories in the Sprint Cup Series alone. Hendrick Motorsports was on top once again in 2013 when their driver Jimmie Johnson grabbed his sixth Sprint Cup Series title.
Looking back at all of the drivers that have piloted a Hendrick Motorsports machine, there are a few names that stand out and had a significant impact in making HMS all it is today.
Geoff Bodine (1984-1989): Winning the 1986 Daytona 500, Geoff Bodine was one of the frontrunners in the early days of Hendrick Motorsports. Bodine was the first to pilot the No.5 car for HMS and garnished seven total wins. Although he never won a Championship, Hendrick Motorsports wouldn’t be where it is today without Bodine.
Tim Richmond (1986-1987): Bringing the Hendrick Motorsports fleet to a total of two cars, Tim Richmond was a major asset to the organization during his first season in the No.25. Reaching Victory Lane a total of seven times in 1986, Richmond only ran one full season with HMS. He missed the beginning of the 1987 season due to AIDS, while publicly saying he was suffering from pneumonia but won two times that year after he returned to the series.
Darrell Waltrip (1987-1990): Known today know for his likeness in the booth on race weekends, Waltrip helped Hendrick Motorsports grow to a three-car organization when he and Rick Hendrick brought in the No.17 Tide machine. Waltrip would make history with his first 1989 Daytona 500 win after coming so close in years past. His Victory Lane reaction can still be seen on TV today.
Ken Schrader (1988-1996): Most noted for his time at HMS as the man who on three straight Daytona 500 poles, Schrader visited Victory Lane only four times during his long career with the organization driving the No.25.
Ricky Rudd (1990-1993): Taking over the No.5 car for Bodine, Rudd didn’t make the biggest impact but he sure left his mark. His most notable incident on the track came in 1991 when, on the final lap of that year’s race at Sears Point Raceway second-place Rudd spun out leader Davey Allison on the last turn and went on to win. NASCAR penalized the team for rough driving and awarded Allison the win.
Terry Labonte (1994-2004): Labonte really made a name for himself at Hendrick Motorsports when he took over the wheel of the No.5 in 1994. Winning the 1996 Winston Cup Championship over teammate Jeff Gordon, Labonte had 12 total wins before leaving in 2004. Labonte was famous for his sponsorship with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and later Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
Kyle Busch (2005-2007): Recognized now as the driver of the No.18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, the youngest Busch brother made quite the impact at Hendrick Motorsports during his three year stint in the No.5 car with the organization. Although he only won four times, Busch won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and also became the youngest driver to win in NASCAR’s top series when he went to Victory Lane in the Sony HD 500 at California Speedway at the age of 20 years, 4 months and 2 days.
Mark Martin (2009-2011): The man who has driven for almost every team in the garage drove the No.5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for three seasons at HMS. In his first season with the team, Martin went to Victory Lane five times and became the third oldest winner and fourth driver over the age of 50 to win a Sprint Cup Series race.
Jeff Gordon (1993-present): Although he made his debut in1992, Jeff Gordon’s ful time career with Hendrick Motorsports started in 1993. Piloting the No.24 since it’s inception at HMS, Gordon has been one of the biggest influences in making Hendrick Motorsports all that it is today. Most recognized for his wild and colorful paint-schemes in the 1990s and early 2000s, Gordon has recorded 88 total wins and four Championships during his career. In 1999, Gordon signed a lifetime contract with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports that gave him partial ownership in the organization.
Jimmie Johnson (2002-present): Being compared to Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson is one of Hendrick Motorsports most decorated drivers. Making history by winning five straight Championships from 2006-2010, Johnson once again claimed his place at the head table by winning his sixth title in 2013. Brought in to HMS by Jeff Gordon, Johnson made headlines early by becoming the first Rookie to ever lead the points standings and had three wins in his first season. Johnson has a total of 66 wins, four All-Star Race wins, two Daytona 500 wins and six Championships during his time at HMS.
Dale Earnhardt Jr (2008-present): Moving to HMS in 2008, Earnhardt changed the number of the fourth car from the No.25 to the No.88 and brought with him the fandom that is Junior Nation. With only two wins in his six year career with the organization, Earnhardt Jr. has been a solid rock of consistency at HMS. Earnhardt Jr. missed a handful of races in 2012 after a concussion sidelined him late in the Chase. In 2013, he bounced back to become one of the leading drivers in the series with 22 top-10 finishes in 36 races.
Kasey Kahne (2012-present): Although Kahne hasn’t been with the organization long, his young talent is proving to be an asset to HMS. Kahne qualified for the Chase in his first season piloting the No.5 Chevrolet and picked up his first win with the team at the 2012 Coca-Cola 600.
Other Notable Drivers: There were many other big name drivers who drove for Rick Hendrick at one time in their careers, whether it was a full season, part-time or for just one race.
1987: No.35 Benny Parsons
1988: No.18 Rick Hendrick
1989: No.42 Kyle Petty
1997: No.25 Ricky Craven
2003-2006: No.25 Brian Vickers
2008: No.5 Casey Mears
2008 & 2009: No.25 Brad Keselowski
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