CONCORD, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick was ecstatic Saturday night after all four of his teams were locked into the Round of 12 of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The owner of Hendrick Motorsports was watching the Round of 16 cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway from his North Carolina home when he saw Kyle Larson secure his sixth points-paying win of the season and William Byron and Alex Bowman cross the finish line in third and fifth, respectively.
Chase Elliott punched his ticket into the next round through stage points earlier in the Bristol race, but it was a down-to-the-wire performance by Bowman and Byron that allowed them to transfer on.
Even though Hendrick Motorsports has pushed four cars into the Round of 12 before, Hendrick lauded the teams for working as a whole unit rather than four separate crews, leading to the organization’s 2021 success.
“When you have four cars that make the playoffs, your dream is to get all four to the final round,” Hendrick said. “We know that’s a tall task but that’s the goal. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t have any chance of achieving it. We’re going to fight until the end. We’re going to fight through the Round of 12, the Round of 8 and then go to the Round of 4. Hopefully, they’ll be our four.”
Hendrick admitted he was nervous watching the race unfold at Bristol, even though the organization has had success at the half-mile track over the years. Bowman was ranked 13th at tied in points with the 12th-ranked driver heading into the race while Byron was 15th and 18 points below the playoff bubble.
“After the Darlington race, it really destroyed all four cars and (it was) looking like William and Alex had to win to get in,” Hendrick said. “To see William and Alex make it in and Kyle win the race – Chase looked like he was going to win the race – but we still made it and advanced. I’m so proud of the organization for not giving up – just working hard and going to Bristol with the attitude ‘we got to win and we’re going to win.’ Now all four are in the final 12.”
There are two more rounds left before the championship race takes place at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7. For Hendrick, the cohesiveness of the entire organization has culminated in the year's success, including owning the all-time wins record and all four drivers having a win under their belts this season.
“The morale here all year has been unbelievable,” Hendrick said. “We said we got one team with four cars, and everybody works really well together; we debrief together. The company has been on a racing high all year, and I just don’t see it slowing down. We’re committed to winning – we want to win the championship. Everybody is working hard but the key is they’re working together and they’re stronger together. I think this is the best year we’ve ever had with a balance of four cars winning races in the Chase. Hopefully, one of us can pull it out.”