AVONDALE, Ariz. – At the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick addressed the entire organization at a luncheon to celebrate the arrival of the sport’s postseason.
He stood in front of more than 600 people and spoke of fighting back from adversity, motivating teammates to continue battling to the finish line.
“The true character of an organization and a team is how you fight back, and I kind of think it is good for you sometimes that you have to step it up a little bit and you find out who is really dedicated,” Hendrick said at the time. “Our guys are really committed and dedicated.”
Since that point, the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers have earned 20 top-10 finishes and 10 top-five finishes in the nine Chase races.
With Jeff Gordon’s win at Martinsville Speedway, Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Texas Motor Speedway and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, the organization swept the Eliminator Round of the Chase.
The three consecutive wins were the organization’s first since Johnson’s trip to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway in July.
“You know, we felt like we were behind in the middle of the summer, and everybody got together and worked pretty hard, real hard, and it's been paying off for us these last four or five races,” Hendrick said.
No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives said that extra motivation came from Hendrick himself.
“When we have a little bit of lull, no matter if it's the summer months of 2013 or the summer months of 2015, we find a way to come back together as a group and as a race team, and that's because we have a great leader in Mr. Hendrick,” Ives said.
Earnhardt echoed that sentiment from Victory Lane at Phoenix.
“Rick sat us all down in the summer and told us to get to work, and I didn't know if we could work any harder, but when Rick tells you to get to work, you find something else to do every minute of the day,” he said. “Everybody is working harder, and the guys in the engine shop found some power. They’ve done a lot of work trying to improve there. All the teams in the fab shop started working harder to build better cars, newer cars, different cars, trying things, and we found some speed. So obviously with the wins we've had over the last couple weeks, it’s starting to show that we've been able to go work and develop some things to give us the competitive edge that we need.”
In the process, Gordon earned a spot as one of four drivers competing for a championship this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hendrick said he was proud of the way the organization responded to adversity, and has his eyes set on finishing the season with the strongest effort possible.
“I think the guys really buckled down,” Hendrick said. “Homestead has been a really good track for Jeff, really good track for us. I'm looking forward to it.”