CONCORD, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick could not be prouder of his drivers. The team owner of Hendrick Motorsports, who just celebrated his record-extending 13th NASCAR Cup Series title from Chase Elliott, described Sunday’s finale at Phoenix Raceway as “phenomenal.”
Hendrick was in Phoenix to see Elliott cross the finish line first and celebrate Hendrick Motorsports’ first title since 2016. He and Elliott’s parents, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and Cindy Elliott, shared a special moment after Chase Elliott took the checkered flag.
“I went over to Bill and he just was (like), ‘Can you believe this?!’ He was jumping,” Hendrick said. “I’ve never seen Bill Elliott that excited. I told him, ‘You know, you can win things but when you see your son do something, it’s the pride that you just can’t explain.’ I was so happy to see them excited and Chase excited.”
Even though Hendrick is thrilled Elliott brought home the 2020 championship, the end of the race was a bittersweet moment. The jubilation of winning a championship was tinged with sadness since it marked Jimmie Johnson’s last event as a full-time Cup Series driver.
“I’m happy for (Johnson) but I’m sad at this race,” Hendrick said. “But then to win the championship and Jimmie’s emotions, it was like the top of the mountain and the bottom of the valley. When everybody got together, we all cried. Everybody was happy. Everybody was sad. It was a bunch of emotions, but it really told me the character of our company and how the people feel about each other and it’s ok to let your emotions flow.
“It was a great day. One I’ll remember for a long, long time.”
While Hendrick heaped praise on Elliott, he added No. 9 crew chief Alan Gustafson deserved this title, especially after he finished second in the standings with driver Mark Martin in 2009. Teammate Johnson won the Cup Series title that season.
“I couldn’t be any happier than I am for Alan,” Hendrick said. “Alan has been such an inspiration to our company. He’s super smart. He’s just come so close before. He’s watched us win championships when he worked so hard. So, to see him win, I think everybody is super excited.”
Hendrick said the team rallied through adversity to end 2020 with a championship. He wasn’t sure that the season would resume after the coronavirus pandemic halted all operations but is proud of how the organization came together to finish the year strong.
“Our guys here worked super hard,” Hendrick said. “Getting back to work, and then preparing cars, and then the momentum we had in the last 10 or 12 races is going to be great for us going into next year.”