CONCORD, N.C. – For an organization that has amassed 245 wins and 12 NASCAR Cup Series championships, it might be hard to single out just a few defining moments.
But that’s exactly what Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick was asked to do last week.
“There’s been so many,” he said, pausing for a moment. “But I’d say Martinsville, where we got a win to survive.”
The win came in the organization’s inaugural season – 1984. Driver Geoff Bodine and Hendrick were both looking for their first career Cup win.
“It was so scary thinking that I had started it and wasn’t going to be able to finish,” Hendrick said.
On Sunday, April 29, the elusive victory finally arrived. Bodine led the Martinsville race’s final 49 laps to take the checkered flag and help keep the organization’s doors open. The rest is history.
“We won our first race together -- it was Rick's first and my first -- so that kind of gives you a bond with somebody when you do that,” Bodine recalled.
Beyond the first win – and the first championship, which he said helped lay the foundation for the 11 more to come – Hendrick picked a handful of other milestones along the way. And they all had to do with the people inside the organization.
“It sure didn’t hurt the day I saw Jeff Gordon run at Atlanta and hired him and got him in the company, he and Ray (Evernham),” he said. “There have been a whole lot of contributions along the way, but I think Richard (Childress) would say having Dale Earnhardt in his camp was a big deal – having Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in my camp is a big deal, and of course Terry Labonte and all the other drivers. I’m glad that Geoff Bodine was brave enough to step up when we didn’t have a sponsor.
“So, I’d say outside of Martinsville, to be able to discover a guy like Gordon was a big deal.”