CONCORD, N.C. – When Hendrick Motorsports shows up to Daytona International Speedway to kick off the 2018 season, it will do so with current seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and three teammates under the age of 25.
Next February, William Byron will be 20, Chase Elliott will be 22 and Alex Bowman will be 24.
But ages aren’t a concern to Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
“In our business, we just want to win,” he said. “Our brand is all about trying to win races and grow for the future. I plan to be in this a long time. I’m real excited about having a guy that’s won as much as William has. I love the dedication that he’s shown, and Chase, and then Alex.
“I think we are positioning ourselves for the future.”
Even with the youth movement behind the wheel for the organization, Byron, Elliott and Bowman will continue to have one of the most decorated drivers in the sport’s history as a teammate.
And the veteran leadership doesn’t end there.
“We’ve got Jimmie Johnson, who is a seven-time champion, has won three races this year, he will be a mentor to all three of them – already is and has kind of taken the lead here,” Hendrick said. “But we also still have Jeff Gordon involved and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to be involved with the team. So, they’ve got a lot of coaches.”
Most of all, Hendrick has faith in all of the drivers, including the two newcomers stepping into rides next season.
Bowman, he noted, saw his share of success when filling in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet for 10 races last season, including a pole position at Phoenix, three top-10 finishes and 200 laps led.
And Hendrick pointed to Byron’s success at every level in which he has gotten inside a race car.
“William, look, he has surprised us every time he gets in the car,” he said. “If William continues to do what he’s done in every series he’s been in, he’ll adapt fine and he’ll learn and you might as well let him learn in what he’s going to be driving for years to come.”
“In our business, we just want to win. ... I think we are positioning ourselves for the future."Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick
As the only 2018 Hendrick Motorsports driver without NASCAR Cup Series experience, Byron said he will lean on his teammates as he makes the transition.
“I just look forward to racing those guys and learning from them,” he said. “I’ve had some conversations with Jimmie and some different guys here at Hendrick Motorsports, just knowing kind of what the landscape is going to be like at that level and just trying to understand it, so I’ll spend as much time as I can around the team and just be ready to go next year.”
He said he’s ready to get to work, recalling that growing up he would visit the Hendrick Motorsports campus and walk up to the window into the Nos. 5 and 24 teams’ race shop to get a glimpse into what it would be like to work for the organization.
“It’s pretty cool to be on the other side of it next year,” he smiled.
Hendrick Motorsports’ attention is firmly on the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season and the push toward the playoffs with the ultimate goal of bringing home the organization’s 13th Cup title.
And when the 2018 campaign rolls around next February, Hendrick has all the confidence in the world in his new crop of drivers.
“I’m excited,” Hendrick said. “I love to watch the veterans, but I love to watch the young guys have an opportunity. That’s fun for me.”
“I’ve been in it a long time and I want to see our organization grow and grow with these talented drivers.”