CONCORD, N.C. – As Hendrick Motorsports looks for a bounce-back effort this Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the last time the organization won at the track comes into focus.
Prior to this season, the last time Hendrick Motorsports left the Daytona 500 without a top-10 finish was 2016.
But that year, it rallied in a major way the following week at Atlanta.
The effort included three top-10 results, led by a one-two finish by Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It was critical for us to rebound,” Earnhardt said at the time.
It was momentous not only because it put the organization back in Victory Lane, but because of what the win meant to Johnson.
It was his 76th career NASCAR Cup Series win – tying the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. for seventh on the all-time wins list.
“I didn't have a chance to race against (Earnhardt Sr.), unfortunately -- there's been a big void in my mind about not having that chance to race against him,” Johnson said after the win. “So, to tie him today, for myself personally, it gives me a little something. It's a little bit of attachment to the great Dale Earnhardt and something I'm very proud of.”
During his victory lap, Johnson held his hand out the window, lifting three fingers as a sign of respect. And Earnhardt Jr. was one of the first people to head to Victory Lane to congratulate him, calling the accomplishment “awesome.”
“If he's going to win and tie that record, I'm certainly glad that I got to run second today,” he said.
The win came thanks to a pit strategy gamble by No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus, and the “gusty” call paying off combined with the impact of reaching win No. 76 and tying Earnhardt led Johnson to call it “a very, very special and meaningful day.”
Of note, the race also provided Chase Elliott’s very first Cup Series top-10 finish, and it came at his home track. In his career, he has never finished outside of the top 10 at Atlanta in any NASCAR national series.
The victory gave Johnson back-to-back wins at Atlanta, making it the sixth track where he has won at least five times.
“I guess more than anything I'm starting to build the confidence back about this racetrack,” Johnson said of Atlanta. “I've had some massive moments here.”
Hendrick Motorsports will look for more massive moments this weekend at Atlanta, where its 14 wins are the most among all Cup Series teams.
The race is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.