CONCORD, N.C. – Coming off a season with 11 NASCAR Cup Series wins, Hendrick Motorsports is looking for more in 2023. While calling 2022 "a great season," team president and general manager Jeff Andrews noted there was room for growth.
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"We want to continue to advance our race teams and our performance," Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com in a wide-ranging conversation. "I think as we saw at the start of 2022 there were some teams that came out of the box and were strong. We were one of those teams. As the season went on, there was sometimes when we weren’t the very best out there. We were still good. Again, we had a great year in 2022.
"One of the things we want to try to work on is better consistency through the season. Now that our drivers and crew chiefs have had a season under their belt in this (Next Gen) car, there are certainly a lot of things we are working on here in the offseason to do that.
"As a company, our goal we always have is to win races and to get our cars into the playoffs. Your ultimate goal is to have all four of your cars in the Championship 4 but it is a tough industry. It is a very competitive industry. Certainly, something to put on the board right now is to have all four of our cars in the Round of 8 and at least two of our cars in the Championship 4 at Phoenix."
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The 2022 season marked the first year with the Next Gen car. While the car produced dynamic results on track, the greater intensity of rear crash impacts was one area that came under scrutiny from competitors. One such incident occurred with Alex Bowman’s hit at Texas Motor Speedway in the Round of 12 opener. He suffered a concussion that kept him out for five races. NASCAR is making modifications ahead of the 2023 season to soften the impacts to the back of the car in the event of a crash.
"As an industry, 2023 should have a focus on safety," Andrews said. "We learned that, unfortunately, with this car as it did sideline one of our drivers, Alex Bowman, for quite some time during the season. As an industry, we can’t have that. We need to do everything we can to get these cars as safe as we possibly can. I think that should be at the top of everybody’s list."
Bowman was able to return for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway in what was crew chief Greg Ives’ final race atop the pit box for the No. 48 team. In 2023, Bowman will be paired with Blake Harris, who comes to the organization from Front Row Motorsports. Harris guided driver Michael McDowell to a career-best in top-10 finishes and average finish in 2022. Prior to that, he was an integral part of Martin Truex Jr.’s teams at Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing, winning a championship as the car chief in 2017.
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"When you sit down and listen to him, he talks about his past, his history and his involvement in a lot of different types of racing and the family background in it," Andrews said of Harris. "You look to bring those types of people into your organization who have worked hard and who truly do enjoy the sport of racing. "He and Alex have a lot of similarities, whether it be midget racing or sprint car racing. They seem to have a good rapport and a good relationship with each other already and we haven’t even been to the racetrack yet.
"We know he is going to work hard. He is a proven performer in the garage area. He’s been with race teams that have won many, many races and a race team that has won the championship. He knows how to get the job done. I think they are going to do great together."
The upcoming season will once again see Hendrick Motorsports field an entry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for select races. Last season’s Xfinity starts marked the first for the organization in the series since 2009. The No. 17 entry made four starts and earned two runner-up finishes in races at Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
"Right now, we are committed to running four races in 2023," Andrews said. "We are defining what those are right now. We want to win a Xfinity race in 2023."
Also on the horizon for the organization is the Garage 56 entry for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. While an official invitation has not yet been extended to compete in the 100th running of the event on June 10-11, Hendrick Motorsports announced in March, in collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear, its intention to compete in the prestigious race. Garage 56 was introduced in 2012 as a special-entry class for innovative cars. It allows for creativity without taking away a spot in the traditional starting grid. In recent months, the organization has tested its Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 test car several times. Vice president of competition Chad Knaus is overseeing the project.
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"I think it is an amazing opportunity not only for Hendrick Motorsports but for the sport of NASCAR to showcase the level of technology and the quality of the race cars," Andrews said. "The mechanics and the drivers that are in this business are some of the best in the world. For us to have the opportunity to go over there and be on a global, worldwide stage in France in June is just a tremendous opportunity not just for Hendrick Motorsports but for NASCAR."