CONCORD, N.C. -- On Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group announced that Kyle Larson was signed to a contract extension and HendrickCars.com would serve as a 35-race sponsor for the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE through 2023.
For Larson, the extension is a dream come true. The 28-year-old driver was inked to a two-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports on Oct. 28, 2020. This extension adds another year to his current contract and ensures Larson will have a permanent sponsor for every race through 2023.
“It’s just an awesome time for me,” Larson said. “(I’m) very thankful for everybody at HendrickCars.com and Hendrick Automotive Group, Mr. H (and) everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I look forward to the next couple of years, and hopefully a lot more years here down the road. I look forward to it and I look forward to a lot more wins, hopefully.”
Larson is having his best NASCAR Cup Series season to date. The Elk Grove, California, native already has four wins, five runner-up finishes, 11 total top-five results and 14 top-10s through just 21 races. He has set personal records in laps led (1,441), stage wins (12), won his second All-Star race in June and currently is ranked first in playoff points.
“It’s a great moment, I think, for all of the Hendrick family,” said Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 team. “Just to know that the value and the impact of our car on track really provided good depth and meaning to them for their business model is incredible.
“It’s certainly motivating for us to represent their brand and that part of the family, and I think, likewise, it’s motivating for them to have a car here at Hendrick Motorsports that has their name on it that they get to cheer for on the weekends. Just the excitement in that relationship, even more than our partnership, and keeping it within the Hendrick family is just a special thing to have.”
According to Brian Johnson, vice president of marketing at Hendrick Automotive Group, he saw the numbers increase significantly as Larson's 2021 success started to take off. Five of HendrickCars.com’s six highest-traffic days of the year have been attributed to its sponsorship of the No. 5 team, including four Cup Series race days when Larson led the most laps or won. Overall, HendrickCars.com has seen a jump in overall traffic (up 27%), vehicle sales leads (up 18%), digital retail leads (up 37%) and trade evaluations (up 61%) since it started its sponsorship with the team in February.
“A lot of our gains have been in non-paid channels. The fact that HendrickCars.com is so important to us – it started as a pre-owned inventory destination – just works into everything our company offers," Johnson said. "Everything we do from Hendrick Automotive’s perspective is represented on HendrickCars.com, and this is a tremendous platform for us to generate exposure.”
Not only did the deal make sense from a business perspective, but those who work at Hendrick Automotive Group were enthused in having the No. 5 team represent their organization. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hendrick Automotive Group employees cheered and applauded as Larson walked in Wednesday before the announcement was made public.
"We haven't even gotten to the (playoffs) yet," said Darryl Jackson, vice president of financial services for Hendrick Automotive Group. "The NASCAR schedule fits perfectly with where our dealerships’ footprints are, if you think about it. All the way from California to Texas to Florida, all in the 'smile states.' From that perspective, it’s over the moon for us with this sponsorship.”
Team owner and Hendrick Automotive Group CEO Rick Hendrick revealed he was entertaining a couple of offers for sponsorships for the No. 5 Chevrolet when he was approached by Hendrick Automotive Group's executives to become the primary sponsor of Larson and the No. 5 team. He couldn't deny that the partnership of the two organizations was too perfect to pass up.
“The proof is in the results. I have to give Brian and Darryl credit … they’ve been involved in the marketing side of motor sports, and its just blossomed into more things than I ever anticipated," Hendrick said. "I let them make the decision. They brought it to me and we had to disappoint some folks who thought they were in the running to get the car, which is a good thing, but I’ve never seen this company this fired up about bringing the two companies together.”
Hendrick Automotive Group also announced that it would be the primary sponsor for Larson’s non-Cup Series races over the next two seasons. Larson won a whopping 46 dirt races in 2020 and was victorious in another 10 races outside of NASCAR in 2021. While Hendrick originally didn't like the idea of his drivers competing in non-NASCAR Cup Series events, he saw that it fueled Larson on the track at Cup races and ultimately changed his mind.
"Did I think that I would be in this position at Hendrick Motorsports? Probably not," Larson laughed. "It's been awesome (for) them to see my passion for it and how it does make me better on the racetrack, as well as driving more people to HendrickCars.com. I think that's the most important part."