CONCORD, N.C. – If you haven’t heard back from Rick Hendrick yet, he’s working on it.
“I had more than 300 texts and emails,” the Hendrick Motorsports owner said. “It was just amazing. I don’t know that when we’ve won a championship I’ve gotten that many. I’ve been trying to answer them all.”
Hendrick’s phone has been busy ever since last Sunday at Watkins Glen International, when Chase Elliott captured the organization’s milestone 250th NASCAR Cup Series win.
Hendrick Motorsports is now just the second organization in Cup Series history to reach that mark.
“I was just looking at some of the stats,” Hendrick said. “Seventeen different drivers (have won for the organization) at 26 different tracks, 24 crew chiefs – I didn’t realize that we’d had that many. Winning with guys from 20 years old to 50. Winning a race every year for 33 years in a row. That’s something.”
After the milestone was reached, the owner couldn’t help but think back to the organization’s “humble beginning,” when Harry Hyde not only rented Hendrick space to start the team, but served as crew chief for driver Geoff Bodine.
The very first win at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984, kept the doors open. And 34 years, three months and seven days later, Elliott took the checkered flag to give the organization its 250th victory.
“That’s perfect,” Hendrick said of the milestone coming courtesy of Elliott’s first-ever Cup win. “That’s like a storybook.”
With about 20 laps to go last Sunday at Watkins Glen and Elliott in the lead, Hendrick was wearing out a pair of shoes pacing around his living room.
And when Elliott finally took the checkered flag for the first time in his career, it couldn’t have played out any better – even including a last-lap maneuver that kept him in the lead despite experiencing wheel hop in Turn 1.
“It’s such a good feeling for him to add the first one the way he won it,” Hendrick said. “I’ve really loved the fact that it wasn’t one of those fuel-mileage races or everybody pitted and he stayed out. It was him beating two of the best in the business in Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
“He drove the wheels off that car.”
Immediately after the win, Hendrick was on the phone with Elliott, congratulating the young driver – even though it was a little hard to hear due to the raucous crowd reaction.
So, the two talked again on the phone in Victory Lane and again the next day.
“You could tell it just took such a load off of him,” the owner said. “I could tell it this week. Now, he’s got that win behind him, he’s in the playoffs, he can have some fun.”
Starting this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, he hopes the entire organization can keep up the momentum that’s been building of late.
Over the past three races, Hendrick Motorsports has improved its average finish to 10.5 versus 17.42 from the prior six races. In the three-race span, it has amassed one win, three top-five finishes, seven top-10s and 100 laps led.
The fact that the success is coming after what he termed a “dry spell” to start the season has Hendrick even more encouraged.
“Everybody knows we’ve struggled this year, but everybody kept their head down and worked hard, just looking under every rock to see how to make the cars better,” he said. “I feel really good about our company and where we are if we just keep digging.”
There are just four races remaining in the regular season, and currently three of the organization’s drivers are in position to make the 10-race playoffs, with Elliott locked in thanks to his win.
“I am excited because I see us getting better every week,” Hendrick said. “We know we’ve got improvements to make, but we’re on it.”