CONCORD, N.C. -- As the NASCAR Cup Series approaches its second race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Richmond Raceway, Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, is confident that his stable of drivers will vie for the championship in back-to-back seasons.
Currently, Kyle Larson has the most playoff points after his second-place finish at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. Chase Elliott, the reigning Cup Series champion, will try to earn his second title and William Byron and Alex Bowman also are vying for a championship after they each recorded at least one win this season.
“You work all year to make the playoffs and you hope that you get them all in,” Hendrick said. “We have had a great year and I am really looking forward to these races now and (trying) to close the deal.”
Across 27 points-paying races in the 2021 regular season, the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers tallied 11 wins, 40 top-five finishes, 63 top-10s and led 2,330 laps and lead the NASCAR Cup Series in all four of those respective categories this season. The accolades have added to Hendrick’s personal record book, as well. He became the winningest team owner in Cup Series history after Larson took the checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
“To have all the cars win races and multiple races, that’s the most you can ask for,” Hendrick said. “A lot of situations are just out of your control and you got to prepare well and you have to be there. You can’t hope that you are a 10th-place car and you are going to finish fourth or third, or a fifth-place car and you are going to win. You have to be strong in there all day long. It’s a really good feeling to be competitive with all of the teams.”
Since all four drivers are honing in on a spot in the final four, Hendrick wants them to continue to work together as long as they can. He said he laid some ground rules for his teams to follow to ensure the best outcome for the team and for his drivers in the long run.
“I don’t care how hard you race, if it’s an accident and you are going for a win, that’s okay,” Hendrick said. “But you never want to see one of your cars wreck the other guy or make a move that just wasn’t necessary at that point in the race. … We are going to give you the best stuff, you guys just go out there and race. The only thing I ask you not to do is wreck each other or take an unnecessarily super aggressive move that puts you both in trouble and tears up the team because right now they are working so well together and that would destroy it.”
Hendrick knows his teams must work in unison to continue to perform at the highest level on the racetrack. Before the start of the 2021 season, Hendrick brought Chad Knaus down from the pit box as a crew chief and promoted him to vice president of competition. His biggest role is to aid all four crew chiefs and teams to ensure top-notch performance with the fleet of Chevrolets on race days.
“Chad is a perfectionist,” Hendrick said. “He has put the same people working on all four cars and he is over those guys and working with the crew chiefs and having been a crew chief, just pushing folks to get better every week, I think that has been a big, big deal to have Chad in that position.”
Hendrick, Knaus and the rest of the teams now have their focus on the remaining nine races left this year. While Hendrick would love to bring his 14th Cup Series title home, he can’t help but be excited about his stables for years to come.
“To see Kyle Larson run like he has run, that’s been really special. Chase, he is just getting better and better all the time," he said. "William has surprised a lot of people. Alex has won three races. It’s hard to not be excited about the fact that the oldest driver you have is 29 years old. We don’t have to make any changes in the near future and all the guys are producing.”