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HMS Notes: Speedweeks

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2003)—Entering its 20th anniversary season, Hendrick Motorsports has captured five NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now NEXTEL Cup) championships, three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series titles, one NASCAR Busch Series crown, and more than 100 Cup Series victories.

Since 1984, Chevrolet race cars entered by Hendrick Motorsports have won more than 150 NASCAR-sanctioned races, including four Daytona 500s and the inaugural Brickyard 400.

LABONTE STILL DNF-FREE:
Terry Labonte enters the 2004 season carrying a string of 42 consecutive races without a DNF (did not finish), the longest current streak in NEXTEL Cup.  He was one of only two drivers who completed all 36 races last season, the other being Kevin Harvick.

The modern-era record is 56 straight, set by Labonte’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in 2001-02. 

“Everyone worked hard to get this team back in the top 10 last year and the effort paid off,” said Jim Long, crew chief of the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevrolets.  “Now, we want to maintain our consistency, win more races and climb into the top five.

“We’ve got the driver to do it—Terry Labonte is a two-time champion—and we’ve got the team to do it.  I wouldn’t trade our pit crew for any other.”

FIRST ‘500’ FOR VICKERS:
On Sunday, Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Brian Vickers qualified 26th for his first-ever Daytona 500 during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

“I can’t wait,” Vickers said.  “This is what I’ve dreamed about since I began racing—to be able to run in the Daytona 500.

“I’m not sure I can accurately put into words how excited I am about getting to Daytona for Speedweeks.  To finally get to this point in my career means everything.”

Driving the No. 25 Chevrolets, the 20-year-old competed in the final four Cup Series races of 2003 and qualified fourth or better in each of those, including starts on the outside pole at Phoenix International Raceway and North Carolina Speedway.

DOUBLE DAYTONA FOR BUSCH:
Kyle Busch, who will drive full-time on the Busch Series circuit in 2004, won the ARCA Series season-opener at Daytona on Feb. 7, leading 34 laps.

The victory marks the third for the 18-year-old in ARCA competition after winning two races and three pole positions in 2003.

TOP-10 FOR 20:
While Hendrick Motorsports has placed at least one team in the final top 10 in the Cup Series point standings for 20 consecutive years (1984-2003), multiple HMS teams have finished in the top 10 in the same season on 13 different occasions.

KELLOGG’S, HMS EXTEND PARTNERSHIP:
The 11-year relationship between Hendrick Motorsports and Kellogg’s is the fourth-longest current primary sponsor-team association in NASCAR, behind only GM Goodwrench and Richard Childress Racing (17 years); Miller Brewing Company and Penske Racing (14 years); and DuPont’s 12-year relationship with Hendrick.

Last month, Kellogg Company and Hendrick Motorsports announced a multi-year agreement securing the Michigan-based cereal maker as primary sponsor of the No. 5 NEXTEL Cup Chevrolets.

BUSY JANUARY FOR ‘25’ TEAM:
In addition to three days of testing at Daytona in January, Vickers and the No. 25 GMAC Racing team also spent a day at North Carolina Speedway and two days testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

DO THE MATH:
Coming into the 2004 season, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 117 Cup Series victories in 625 events entered.  That’s one win for every 5.34 races.

LABONTE LOOKING FOR FIRST:
Although Labonte returns to Daytona in search of his first points-paying victory, he has posted three wins overall at the 2.5-mile oval—winning his class in the 1984 Rolex 24, the Budweiser Shootout in 1985 and a Daytona 500 qualifying race in 1989, for which his winning average speed of 189.554 mph still stands as a track record.

“It’s the hardest race to win because so much goes into it,” said Labonte, speaking of the Daytona 500.  “You prepare all winter, then you test, we’re (in Daytona) for two weeks and then you have to survive the qualifying races just to make it into the ‘500.’

“There are a lot of guys who burn the same fuse I do—like Rusty Wallace and some others—who have won a lot of races and championships, but still haven’t won the Daytona 500.  Maybe this will be the year.”

Labonte has finished second five times in points races at DIS, most recently in 1997.

THIRD DAYTONA START FOR VICKERS:
Vickers, the 2003 Busch Series champion, has made two career starts at Daytona, both in Busch Series competition.

He posted finishes of 42nd and seventh in last season’s February and July races, respectively.

HMS STREAKS:
As of 2003, Hendrick Motorsports has earned at least one Cup Series pole position in 20 consecutive years (1984-2003) and at least one Cup Series win in 18 straight (1986-2003).

PROVISIONALLY SPEAKING:
Labonte has gone 15 races without the need of a provisional starting position, his longest such streak since he put 24 straight races together in 1998.

THE YOUNGEST GUN:
If Vickers qualifies for every event on the 2004 NEXTEL Cup schedule, he will become the youngest driver to do so in NASCAR’s modern-era history.

By winning the 2003 Busch Series driver’s title at age 20, the Thomasville, N.C., native is already the youngest to win a NASCAR championship.  He was born Oct. 24, 1983.

THREE FOR THREE & FOUR IN A ROW:
Rick Hendrick is one of just three team owners to win championships in each of NASCAR’s top three divisions—Cup Series, Busch Series and Truck Series.

He is the only team owner to win four consecutive Cup Series championships (1995, 1996, 1997 & 1998).

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY:
Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout marked an anniversary of sorts for Labonte.

It was Feb. 7, 1982 when he raced in his first Shootout, then known as the Busch Clash.  He started on the pole and finished second to Bobby Allison.

HENDRICK CHAMPIONS:
Hendrick Motorsports has fielded championship-winning teams with four different drivers—Jeff Gordon (Cup Series), Terry Labonte (Cup Series), Jack Sprague (Truck Series), and Brian Vickers (Busch Series).

ROLL CALL:
Drivers that have driven for Hendrick Motorsports over the past 20 years include:  Geoff Bodine, Kyle Busch, Ricky Craven, Wally Dallenbach, Jeff Gordon, David Green, Rick Hendrick, Ricky Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Jerry Nadeau, Joe Nemechek, Benny Parsons, Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, Jack Sprague, Brian Vickers, and Darrell Waltrip.

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