CONCORD, N.C. – Through all the ups and downs of the 2018 regular season, one thing remained constant – Hendrick Motorsports continued to battle.
The organization was rewarded with its 250th NASCAR Cup Series win when Chase Elliott took the checkered flag at Watkins Glen in August. And now, three of the four Hendrick Motorsports teammates are in the championship hunt in the playoffs.
“It’s probably been the toughest year that I’ve experienced in a long, long time,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “But, I have to give our guys credit. They have worked their hearts out. They have not given up and we can see the improvement. As long as you’re getting better and closing the gap, that’s what you need.”
Hendrick said the goal was to get all four drivers into the playoffs, but even with William Byron missing out, he’s proud of the season the rookie has put together. Byron currently leads the rookie of the year standings by 107 points over Bubba Wallace.
Most of all, Hendrick is appreciative of how the entire organization has continued to “keep digging.”
“I like our momentum,” the owner said. “I want to try to win races and let the chips fall where they may, and we’ll just keep getting stronger and stronger finishing out the year.”
One race into the playoffs, Alex Bowman ranks 12th in the standings, the final position that would advance to the next round. Just behind him in the standings is Jimmie Johnson, who in 13th is six points below the cutoff line. Chase Elliott is just three points behind Johnson in 14th.
All three drivers were putting together potential top-10 performances last weekend at Las Vegas before late-race incidents derailed their finishes.
But many other playoff competitors also experienced issues or got caught up in incidents, leaving the three Hendrick Motorsports teammates room to improve their standing in the final two races of the first round.
“I try to tell our guys, just do your best,” Hendrick said. “If something happens out of your control, you can’t help it. We just move on.”
Up next is a trip to Richmond Raceway followed by the first-ever race on the "roval" at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And though Hendrick acknowledged that the organization still has “work to do,” he sees things headed in the right direction, and he never doubts the ability of his drivers to put together a deep playoff run toward a title.
“In 2016, I didn’t think we had a shot and we won it,” Hendrick said. “Anything is possible. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. It’s not like one of those years where I thought it was ours to lose, for sure. Things have to go our way, we’ve got to be lucky in some cases and we’ve got to keep improving.
“I’ve seen this before. Anything can happen. You just have to show up with your game face on and get it done.”