CONCORD, N.C. – With Kyle Larson's win in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, the Hendrick Motorsports engine department has now recorded its milestone 500th win.
Larson started the race 18th in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and wasted no time moving up through the field. He was in the top 10 by lap 27 and got to the top five by lap 70. The 31-year-old driver finished the opening 115-lap stage in third and came in second in stage two. Early in the final stage, he fell back to fifth after he hit the wall and got hung in neutral. He regained his momentum following a pit stop that cycled him out in fourth. As the caution came out on lap 311, Larson was starting to head towards pit road but alertly stayed out on track.
RELATED: Larson wins at Darlington, locks into Round of 12
On the ensuing pit stop under yellow, the No. 5 pit crew got Larson the lead off of pit road with a 10.11-second stop. That stop was by the five-man crew of Blaine Anderson (front-tire changer), R.J. Barnette (tie carrier), Brandon Harder (fueler), Brandon Johnson (jackman) and Calvin Teague (rear-tire changer). From there, he led the final 55 laps and held off challenges from Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher on multiple restarts to earn the victory.
"Just proud of the team, proud of (team owner) Rick Hendrick, (vice chairman) Jeff Gordon, (team president) Jeff Andrews, (vice president of competition) Chad Knaus and everybody at the Hendrick (Motorsports) engine shop," Larson said after his win in the Southern 500 at Darlington. "500 wins, that's incredible. Congratulations to each and every one of you at the shop for all your hard work."
The bulk of the NASCAR national series wins for the engine shop have come in the NASCAR Cup Series. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports' teams (in all three series) are responsible for 309 of the engine wins.
Hendrick Motorsports engine wins by the numbers:
NASCAR Cup Series: 356 wins
NASCAR Xfinity Series: 122 wins
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series: 22 wins
Win No. 1: Geoff Bodine (in the No. 5 car) at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984
Win No. 100: Jimmie Johnson (in the No. 48) at Dover Motor Speedway on June 2, 2002
Win No. 200: Mark Martin (in the No. 5) at Phoenix Raceway on April 18, 2009
Win No. 300: Chase Elliott (in the No. 9 for JR Motorsports-Xfinity Series) at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014
Win No. 400: Kyle Larson (in the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing-Xfinity Series) at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2018
Win No. 500: Kyle Larson (in the No. 5) at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 2023
"When you look back, there’s so many monumental wins that are in that number," Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com. "So many different drivers and so many different race series. I think it’s a testament of perseverance. A testament of hard work and dedication to achieve something like that. The good news is that (engine) group is nowhere near slowing down. There’s a lot of wins in their future."
Larry Zentmeyer has worked in the engine shop at Hendrick Motorsports for 35 years. He has been part of the company for all but 15 of its 299 Cup Series points-paying wins and he summed up the milestone very succinctly.
"You never think about that stuff (while working)," Zentmeyer said. "A lot of things have to go right. To think that something has gone right 500 times, that’s pretty unbelievable."
Currently, the engine shop supplies Chevrolet engines to Hendrick Motorsports, JTG Daugherty Racing and Spire Motorsports in the Cup Series as well as JR Motorsports, DGM Racing and its own partial schedule efforts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In the past, the engine department also provided engines for a number of programs including: Darrell Waltrip’s Cup Series operation, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing – when the latter two raced Chevrolets.
The engine shop is the backbone of Hendrick Motorsports’ campus. That was very evident to Gordon, a NASCAR Hall of Famer and the team vice chairman, before he even drove his first race car for the organization en route to become a four-time Cup Series champion.
"It’s really special because when I came to Hendrick Motorsports, the thing that was evident to me right away, but especially after I drove my first Hendrick Motorsports car, was the engine shop," Gordon told HendrickMotorsports.com. "A lot of things in this company centered around the engine shop. The horsepower, the reliability and the pride that goes into that area of Hendrick Motorsports. I was right away at an advantage against my competitors when I was able to step on the throttle pedal and feel that kind of power.
"… I always loved hearing when the engine shop would come to me and say, 'Oh, we got you a couple more horsepower this time. I think you’re going to like this.' It made my life and my job a lot easier. They always put a big smile on my face for that."
RELATED: Gordon discusses big impact engine shop had on his career
Race wins in crown jewel events for Hendrick Motorsports engines:
Eight DAYTONA 500 victories (1993*, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2023*)
11 Coca-Cola 600 victories (1994, 1995*, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2021)
11 Brickyard 400 victories at Indianapolis (1994, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013*, 2014, 2017)
13 Southern 500 victories at Darlington Raceway (1992*, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014*, 2023)
*-Win was by a team other than Hendrick Motorsports
When it comes to horsepower, there is no clearer example than Daytona International Speedway and the season-opening DAYTONA 500. Dating back to 2015, Hendrick Motorsports engines have won the last nine pole positions for NASCAR’s biggest race – eight have come for the four-car organization with JTG Daugherty taking one as well.
"We always take pride in having speed and winning a pole in Daytona," Hendrick Motorsports director of powertrain Scott Maxim said. "To do that takes the hands of everyone. There’s a contribution from everybody. What’s enjoyable is having that collaborative effort together. Knowing that you cannot do it alone. Accomplishing that together is certainly very satisfying."
Sustained excellence is a hallmark of not just the engine shop, but the Rick Hendrick-owned company as well. The engine program’s 16 Cup Series championships – all 14 Hendrick Motorsports’ titles and two for SHR – are a top example of that. The engine shop is also responsible for four Xfinity Series championships and one Camping World Truck Series title.
PHOTOS: See the Cup Series championships for Hendrick Motorsports
"The only way you win championships is by having reliability," Gordon said. "To mix those two together, the power and the reliability, is a tremendous combination. Now as an executive, I go over there and I see every day the way people handle themselves and the pride that they take in doing that job and supplying great horsepower to our teams and drivers."
Championships won with Hendrick Motorsports engines:
NASCAR Cup Series: 16 titles
Jeff Gordon: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001
Terry Labonte: 1996
Jimmie Johnson: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016
Tony Stewart: 2011 (SHR)
Kevin Harvick: 2014 (SHR)
Chase Elliott: 2020
Kyle Larson: 2021
NASCAR Xfinity Series: Four titles
Brian Vickers: 2003
Elliott: 2014 (JRM)
William Byron: 2017 (JRM)
Tyler Reddick: 2018 (JRM)
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series: One title
James Buescher: 2012 (Turner Scott Motorsports)
Zentmeyer started his 35-year-and-counting career as a machinist and is currently the manager of production for the CNC manufacturing group. During his time at the organization, he has seen plenty of growth and attributes the engine shop as being a driving force behind that.
"The engine shop has always done a lot of stuff in house whether its cylinder prep, intake manifolds and much more, so there is a lot of pride in that. That we did that or have been able to accomplish that," Zentmeyer explained to HendrickMotorsports.com. "We had all the manual lathes and manual mills and then we transitioned into computer-controlled machines. One of the first projects we ever took on was porting cylinder heads with a CNC machine. We weren’t the first ones to do it, but we were able to do all that and bring all that in house.
"That migrated over to the department I’m leading now, which is CNC manufacturing. To go from bridgeports and manual lathes to where now you’ve got over 40-something CNC machines on the complex, I think the engine shop had a good push making all that happen. We are a manufacturing facility and the engine shop as it grew throughout the years, pushed that. We needed to have the capabilities of doing this and then this and then it turns into, 'Look what we can do now.' The engine shop was at the forefront of pushing that and that was because of Randy (Dorton)."
Dorton’s launch of the engine program and his leadership had a tremendous impact on Hendrick Motorsports – both in the organization’s rise to prominence as the team to beat in the Cup Series ranks and in its innovation. Upon acquiring Dorton’s company, Competition Engines, in 1984, team owner Rick Hendrick invited Dorton to join the organization. Two years later, he was named NASCAR’s Engine Builder of the Year and he helped power the organization for nine championships across NASCAR’s national series. He was also involved in research and development for both the race team and General Motors. The North Carolina native served as the director of engine operations up until his passing in an Oct. 24, 2004 plane accident.
RELATED: Dorton's legacy stands tall as engine shop earns 500th win
The engine shop served as the starting point for Andrews’ career at the company and he credits Dorton with building a family-like atmosphere within the walls of the engine shop. From 1992 to 2016, Andrews worked in a variety of positions in the department, including the director of engine operations.
"I started there and learned a tremendous amount from Randy, who mentored me up through that program through the years," Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com. "Certainly having him as a mentor not only on mechanical things of engine processes and assembling processes and practices, but on how to treat people and how important the people are to an organization. As Mr. Hendrick will always say, 'the people are our most important asset.'
"Having worked under Randy and come up through his ranks in his engine program and being involved in that group, it’s just a tremendous opportunity that was given to me that I’ll never forget through my career. I still have a lot of great friends up there in the engine shop. I see a lot of people that have been there as long as I was in that program. It’s great for me to see all of the young people getting an opportunity to start underneath that roof and work in that organization that Randy started many years ago.
"It’s a testament to the practices, the people and the principals that Mr. Hendrick puts in place that when people move on or people go elsewhere, the engine shop continues to go on and be successful. I’m super proud of that group and everybody up there."