By: RJ Kraft and Tyler Deering
CONCORD, N.C. - The NASCAR Cup Series season is nearly halfway over with 16 points-paying races run in 2023. Hendrick Motorsports has certainly impressed this season with the most wins (five), poles (five), top-five finishes (20), top-10s (30), laps led (1,402) and stage wins (10).
There are milestones on the horizon in the second half of the year. Hendrick Motorsports is nearing 300 Cup Series wins (only four away) and the engine shop is closing in on 500 wins (just six victories away). William Byron will make his 200th Cup start in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
As the series embarks on an off week, we look back at the team's notable moments ... so far in 2023 (in chronological order).
A hot start on the beach: On the same day that his three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports was announced, Alex Bowman earned the pole position for the 2023 DAYTONA 500. The top starting spot came with new crew chief Blake Harris calling the shots for the No. 48 Ally Racing team. For Bowman, it marked his record sixth straight front-row start for "The Great American Race." The pole was the eighth in nine years for Hendrick Motorsports in the DAYTONA 500. With teammate Kyle Larson set to start second, the organization earned its third consecutive front-row sweep. Four days later, Bowman became the first pole sitter to finish in the top five of the DAYTONA 500 since Bill Elliott did so in 2001.
RELATED: Scenes from the 1-2 qualifying sweep at Daytona
Byron goes back-to-back: Few, if any, drivers in the Cup Series had a hotter start this season than Byron. Despite a tough opening two races in 2023, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet heated up to close out the West Coast swing. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he led 176 of 271 laps, swept the stages and scored the win over Larson in an overtime finish. The following week at Phoenix Raceway, Byron and crew chief Rudy Fugle again took advantage of a late-race caution to score a second victory in a row. It was the first time that Byron has won consecutive races in the sport’s top series.
RELATED: See all of William Byron's wins at Hendrick Motorsports
Top-three sweep: In that same race that Byron won at Las Vegas, Hendrick Motorsports swept the top-three finishing positions. Larson took second and Bowman finished third. The result marked the third 1-2-3 finish in the organization’s history and the first since the historic top-four sweep at Dover Motor Speedway in May 2021.
Testament to depth: Following penalties assessed to the organization after Phoenix, all four crew chiefs were suspended for four races. Although the points penalties were eventually overturned by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, the crew chief penalties were upheld. Kevin Meendering (No. 5), Tom Gray (No. 9), Brian Campe (No. 24) and Greg Ives (No. 48) each stepped in, with Meendering serving as the crew chief for Larson’s win at Richmond Raceway. Injuries to Chase Elliott (fractured tibia - missed six races) and Alex Bowman (fractured vertebra - missed four events) saw the team turn to Josh Berry and Jordan Taylor as fill-in drivers. Berry earned a runner-up finish at Richmond in the No. 9 car and won the All-Star Open in the No. 48 (more on that below), while Taylor impressed with a fourth-place starting spot in his first-ever stock car start of any kind.
No. 17 rides again: Hendrick Motorsports is fielding the No. 17 Chevy Camaro for a handful of NASCAR Xfinity Series races. Byron was the runner-up finisher at Circuit of The Americas and Larson placed third at Sonoma Raceway. The car is scheduled for two more starts this year, with Bowman driving at Watkins Glen International and Larson behind the wheel at Darlington Raceway. Ives will be the crew chief for those two races.
Virginia is for Larson: Larson’s fortunes turned around very quickly over two races in a three-week span. On what would have been Ricky Hendrick’s 43rd birthday, Larson drove the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to victory lane at Richmond. The car carries the same paint scheme that Hendrick drove in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, creating a full circle moment for the organization. Two weeks later, Larson triumphed again, this time at Martinsville Speedway. That track has been so tough on Larson over the years that after the race he said, "I never would have thought that I would here." In between the wins, the 30-year-old driver was honored with a spot on NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list.
RELATED: Recap all of Kyle Larson's wins at Hendrick Motorsports
Elliott makes his return: After missing six races with a fractured tibia, Elliott returned to action at Martinsville in mid-April. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy earned a top-10 finish at one of the more physically demanding tracks due to how much braking is involved. The next week he was named to NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list. With 10 races left in the regular season, Elliott is in search of a win to make his way into the playoffs.
100 Wins for the No. 24: Not only was Byron’s victory at Darlington a case of redemption after his near win at the South Carolina track last season, but it also marked as the No. 24’s 100th win in the Cup Series. The iconic number became the fifth in Cup Series history to record at least 100 wins, with Byron responsible for the last seven victories and team vice chairman Jeff Gordon earning the first 93 wins. "There’s so much history with the No. 24, starting with Jeff," Byron said. "I’ve learned so much from him over the years, and we continue to share the passion for making the 24 car win races and compete on the track. I’m glad we can keep the legacy of the 24 going with our current team."
RELATED: See all 100 wins for the No. 24 Chevy in the NASCAR Cup Series
All-Star Sunday sweep: North Wilkesboro Speedway made its return to NASCAR competition by hosting the All-Star Race weekend. In the All-Star Open, Berry raced his way into the main event by becoming the 23rd driver to win a Cup Series event (counting points and non-points events) for Hendrick Motorsports. In the All-Star Race, Larson dominated the show, leading 145 laps (and all but one of the last 146 laps) to score the million-dollar win. This was his third victory in the exhibition event, tying him with Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon for the second-most wins in event history.
RELATED: Scenes from victory lane for Larson at North Wilkesboro
Bowman back in the saddle: After a four-week absence due to a fractured vertebra, Bowman made his return to the No. 48 Ally Chevy for the Coca-Cola 600, which is the longest race of the season. With qualifying canceled due to inclement weather, he started 31st and grinded over the 600 miles to earn a 12th-place finish. With 10 races left in the regular season, Bowman currently holds a three-point advantage for the final provisional playoff spot.
Pit road power: The pit crews of Hendrick Motorsports have been strong all season. The No. 24 and No. 5 crews entered the race weekend at Sonoma first and second, respectively, in the fastest four-tire pit stop average on the season. Those two crews have been instrumental in securing their drivers combined five points-paying wins in 2023. The No. 24 crew produced its three fastest stops of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Over that race, the pit crew of Spencer Bishop (jackman), Jeff Cordero (front-tire changer), Orane Ossowski (rear-tire changer), Ryan Patton (tire carrier) and Landon Walker (fueler) gained Byron 24 spots and helped him be the first car off of pit road on eight occasions, per Racing Insights data. The depth of pit road talent extended to Le Mans, where the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew took home honors in the Pit Stop Challenge.
Off to Le Mans: In collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, Goodyear and IMSA, Hendrick Motorsports fielded the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car, a modified version of the Next Gen vehicle, was entered in the Garage 56 category – a special class of one for innovation. The star-studded driver lineup included seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Formula One champion Jenson Button and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller. Four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor served as a coach for the group. Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Chad Knaus and crew chief Greg Ives oversaw the project. The car was a hit overseas and ran lap times that were better than cars in the GT class. The entry completed the race, finishing 39th in the 62-car field and completed 285 laps around 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.
PHOTOS: The sights of the 24 Hours of Le Mans