Hendrick Motorsports

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#Hendrick30th spotlight: Darrell McDonald recalls Hendrick Motorsports' first win at Michigan

It was just an ordinary day in 1990. I had stopped by a local Busch race team in Lake Wiley, South Carolina, and was browsing around the shop. This wasn’t anything unusual for a guy like me. With a background in machinery and a strong passion for racing, my purpose in the shop that day was simple—to learn as much as I could about the sport I loved. 

Little did I know, my casual visit to the small shop would change my life forever.

Upon speaking with a man at the shop, I learned that Hendrick Motorsports’ Gary DeHart – who was serving as the No. 5 crew chief – was preparing to open an in-house chassis shop on campus and was in need of a machinist. While I knew of Gary from my years spent drag racing in the North Carolina sun, I never dreamed I would work for him.

Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back.

It’s been 23 years since that fateful day and I don’t regret my decision one bit. I’m currently working as a mechanic in the 5/24 shop and love coming to work each morning. In my 23 years at the shop, I’ve made some incredible memories. I’ve watched Jeff Gordon’s transformation from a talented young kid from California to the established NASCAR driver that he is today. I witnessed Steve Letarte go from sweeping the shop floors to calling the shots as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. And I’ve seen the Hendrick Motorsports facility expand from a little shop on the hill to the sprawling campus it is today. 

But of all the memories I’ve collected over the years, my favorite would still be Ricky Rudd’s win at Michigan International Speedway in 1993. I didn’t ordinarily travel with the team, so I was pretty excited to simply be at the track in a Hendrick Motorsports uniform.  However, my excitement quickly faded into nerves once the race began, especially when we began to run into some on-track issues. In the middle of the race, Ricky’s helmet hose came off. Needless to say, he was getting really hot in his No. 5 Chevrolet.

But in true Hendrick Motorsports fashion, Ricky battled through tough conditions to take the checkered flag that day. It was a great win for him and for Hendrick Motorsports, as it was the organization’s first win at the track. It is definitely a memory I’ll always treasure and a victory that I’ll never forget.

Plain and simple, there’s nothing quite like celebrating in Victory Lane with your teammates after a win like that.

 

Darrell McDonald

5/24 mechanic

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