CONCORD, N.C. -- In 183 starts, Hendrick Motorsports has won 14 races at Darlington Raceway – the most of any organization. NASCAR’s return will commence at the historic South Carolina track this Sunday, where Chase Elliott, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman will jump back into the field after a two-month hiatus.
To celebrate, we are counting down some of the biggest victories at “The Lady in Black” in honor of the two races coming up at the track.
April 7, 1991: While this wasn’t Hendrick Motorsports’ first win at Darlington -- that honor belongs to Tim Richmond in 1986 -- Ricky Rudd’s 1991 victory was one for the ages. Rolling off the grid in 13th, he was with the front of the field throughout the race and took the lead several times. With 37 laps to go, he moved into the top spot again and maintained it for the rest of the race. It was Rudd’s only win that season.
Sept. 1, 1996: Jeff Gordon’s fall win at Darlington in 1996 was his third consecutive win at the track that was a nail-biter until the end. Competitor Hut Stricklin led for the most laps at the race and it looked like he was going to upset Gordon. Engine issues knocked Stricklin out of contention and allowed Gordon to take the checkered flag. It was Gordon’s seventh win of the year.
Aug. 31, 2003: Terry Labonte had won previously at "The Track Too Tough to Tame", but it was all the way back in 1980. Despite the 23-year gap, Labonte took the lead after a round of pit stops on lap 312 and held on to win at the 367-lap event. It was Labonte’s first trip to victory lane in five years.
"It's really special to me," Labonte said after the race. "I was running with Bill Elliott and was hoping one of us would win it. I think we appreciate this track a little more than the young guys do."
Labonte, who was 44 at the time of the win, added, "This was one for the old guys."
March 21, 2004: Jimmie Johnson earned his first victory at Darlington during his third season in the Cup Series. Johnson started in 13th place and was toward the front of the pack for the majority of the race, but it wasn’t until more than halfway through the event that he took the lead for the first time. Johnson bobbed back and forth for the top spot in the second half, but it was in the final 15 laps that he maintained his lead. It was Johnson’s first win of 2004.
May 12, 2012: A little more than eight years later after he took home his first Darlington win, Johnson secured his second victory at the track in 2012, giving Hendrick Motorsports its 200th NASCAR Cup Series win. Johnson took the lead for the first time on lap 101 and led a total of 134 laps. He kept the top spot for the final 44 laps and cruised across the finish line first.
"Very proud of the effort that the whole 48 team put together," Johnson said after the race. "We've been awfully close to winning the 200th for (team owner Rick Hendrick) the last month or two. Very happy that we closed the deal today."
To catch Hendrick Motorsports' return to competition at Darlington Raceway, tune in Sunday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.