- Jan 11, 2005
- Team Hendrick
Hendrick Motorsports has always been known as one of the most successful and innovative organizations in the NASCAR garage. Since 1983, when owner Rick Hendrick’s teams began competing in the Busch Series, the organization has been the first to accomplish many feats on the track as well as the first to apply new technology in the growing sport of stock car racing.
In 1997, Hendrick Motorsports became the first organization to have its machines run 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon won the event with teammates Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven in tow. The 1-2-3 sweep provided one of the most exciting finishes in NASCAR history. The victory also lifted the spirits of owner Hendrick, who was at home battling leukemia in Charlotte, N.C.
A year later, Hendrick would once again be in the spotlight as he became the first Cup Series owner to win four consecutive championships. Gordon delivered the first title to Hendrick in 1995, teammate Labonte would bring the crown home again in 1996, and then Gordon snagged two more championships for the organization in 1997 and 1998.
Bedsides success at the NEXTEL Cup level, the Hendrick Motorsports Craftsman Truck Series team and driver Jack Sprague have greatly contributed to the organization’s record books. The Hendrick truck team became the first operation to win the series title three times, in 1997, 1999 and again in 2001.
A large part of the success on the track can be attributed to the organization’s innovations in the garage and at home in the shop. In 1988, Hendrick Motorsports became the first team to construct one-piece noses and rears, known as fascia, for its fleet of Chevrolets. Recognizing the importance of the chassis building process, Hendrick then brought his entire chassis-building operation in-house in 1990. Hendrick Motorsports became the first organization to build its cars on site from start to finish.
Besides being the first to run its own chassis operation, the organization was also a pioneer when it came to providing its drivers with the highest level of safety equipment, such as carbon monoxide filters. Hendrick Motorsports was the first team to have its own in-house safety program as well as a composite shop to produce the equipment. Today Gary DeHart oversees the construction of items such as protective carbon fiber seats. DeHart produces the equipment for HMS as well as other NASCAR drivers.
The Hendrick teams also took the initiative to start building their own shocks, a practice now common in the industry. In addition, the Charlotte-based team is known as a leader in research and development. When Hendrick began his R&D operation, he was the only NASCAR owner to do so at the time, and now the organization has an entire shop devoted to the program.
At the track, the Hendrick teams were the first to begin using cool-down units for their engines and were also trendsetters in the garage when they equipped their team transporters to house shock dynos.
When things went awry at the track, Hendrick Motorsports figured out a way to get things fixed fast. The organization became the first to transport a team of crash experts to the track on race day to work specifically on any HMS car that was involved in a wreck. However, NASCAR pulled the plug on this practice and soon after banned teams from bringing in repair specialists.
Whether it was on the track, in the garage or back at the shop, Hendrick Motorsports has been able to use its innovative practices to achieve the success that has helped to build the organization into what it is today.
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- Jan 05, 2006