CONCORD, N.C. – The new year is here and the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season is approaching. Teams are working hard to prepare for the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, before the points-paying part of the season kicks off with the DAYTONA 500 on Feb. 18.
Hendrick Motorsports is coming off a 2023 season with a series-best 10 Cup Series wins. Two of its drivers reached the Championship 4 and three of its teams reached the Round of 8 in the owner playoffs. What will the organization do in the new season? Here’s a look at key story lines for each team and some milestones to watch in 2024 for the company’s 40th anniversary.
SEASON RECAPS: Alex Bowman | Chase Elliott | William Byron | Kyle Larson
No. 5 team
Kyle Larson reached the Championship 4 for the second time in three years and finished second in the standings. He led a series-best 1,127 laps and has the most wins in the Cup Series over the past three years (17). The 31-year-old driver is looking to get better, more consistent finishes and avoid the peaks and valleys he sometimes fell into during the past season.
"You want to win races and contend for wins and championships and all that," Larson said. "For me, I want to clean up all the areas where I kind of struggled in ‘23 and throughout my Cup career. I pretty much lead the series in crashing, but I also lead the series in laps led. If we can maintain the good stuff with my style but reign it back a little bit that would be my main goal. When you can finish more races, you are going to have more opportunities to win and you are going to win more. I think that all compounds."
The month of May will be a big one for Larson as he will attempt to complete the #Hendrick1100. In addition to the Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600 in the Cup Series, the 2021 champion will be trying to make his first Indianapolis 500. The HendrickCars.com sponsored entry will be owned by Rick Hendrick and fielded by IndyCar team Arrow McLaren.
RELATED: See the livery for #Hendrick1100 | Larson completes rookie program
No. 9 team
In 2024, Chase Elliott will be looking to bounce back from a 2023 season that saw him suffer a fractured tibia, miss seven races and not make the driver playoffs for the first time in eight full-time seasons. The 28-year-old driver did guide the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team to the Round of 8 in the owner playoffs but did not lead the volume of laps that fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
"I would just like to have better pace," Elliott said of his goals for 2024. "Winning would be great. Winning a championship would be great. We just want to have pace on a week-to-week basis and that is where my head has been for a long time. I just want to show up and have a shot every week. I think we are very capable of doing that but you got to be perfect. If you are not perfect, you got to be close to it and just keep yourself in contention."
Entering the 2024 season, Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson are the longest-tenured driver-crew chief pairing, having been together since 2016. The 2020 Cup Series champion is set to make his 300th start in the series in May in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. All of those starts have come at Hendrick Motorsports.
PAINT SCHEMES FOR '24: NAPA Auto Parts | LLumar | Hooters | KBB | UniFirst
No. 24 team
William Byron is coming off a season that saw the driver of the No. 24 win a series-best six races and reach the Championship 4 for the first time in his Cup Series career. While he finished a career-best third in the final standings, the 26-year-old driver is focused on taking another step in 2024.
"The next step for us is just pushing all those little boundaries – me as a driver and us as a team being a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more on the edge. That’s honestly what I’m focused on," Byron said during Champion’s Week.
One specific track type that Byron has zeroed in on for improvement is short tracks. The final two races of the season (Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway) will be on that track type and with those facilities holding major championship implications, short tracks must be a key point for the No. 24 team. Last season, the group finished 13th at Martinsville to claim the final spot in the title race and finished fourth at Phoenix (and was in the championship lead for the most laps among the title contenders).
"I think those last two races this past year are good motivation for us in what we need to work on to improve," Byron said. "We can’t lose sight of the strengths that we had as a team, but we have to be better on the short tracks. There is going to be a big emphasis put on that throughout the offseason."
ALL ANGLES: See the No. 24 RaptorTough.com and Axalta Chevys
No. 48 team
Alex Bowman enters the 2024 season looking to deliver crew chief Blake Harris’ first win and recreate (and top) the No. 48’s team strong start from the previous season. After seven races in 2023, Bowman had three top-five finishes and six top-10s, while leading the points standings for the first time in his career. He suffered a fractured vertebra in late April and would go on to have one top-five finish and four top-10s after returning in the Coca-Cola 600.
"I think we are plenty capable of going and winning races and contending for a championship," Bowman said of his goals for the 2024 season. "We’ve showed that at the beginning of last year. We’ve won quite a few races in the last couple of years. The 2023 season wasn’t what we wanted but there’s no reason we can’t go back to doing what we’re supposed to do this year."
Bowman will be looking to extend his record of six straight front-row starts in the DAYTONA 500 to seven. Last year, he earned his best finish in “The Great American Race,” placing fifth and starting from the pole position. Bowman is also set to make his 300th Cup Series start in April at Dover Motor Speedway.
RELATED: Bowman, Harris gear up for '24 | See the No. 48 Ally Chevy for '24
Organization items to watch
In 2023, Hendrick Motorsports crossed the major milestones of 300 Cup Series wins (with Byron’s win at Texas Motor Speedway in September) and 500 NASCAR national series wins by the engine department (with Larson’s win at Darlington Raceway in September). Hendrick Motorsports will enter the 2024 season just 243 laps led away from 80,000 circuits out front in the Cup Series. The team is also four poles away from 250. Hendrick Motorsports leads all teams in the sport’s top series in both categories.
The 2024 season will see Hendrick Motorsports celebrate its 40th anniversary. Rick Hendrick started the racing team in 1984 under the banner of All-Star Racing. The team’s first win came on April 29, 1984, by Geoff Bodine at Martinsville.
Four-time Cup Series champion, NASCAR Hall of Famer and team vice chairman Jeff Gordon shared his admiration for the longtime team owner.
SHOP: 40th anniversary gear from the Hendrick Motorsports store
"I love that he has been able to accomplish so much, be so successful, yet never get far away from his roots of these simple beginnings," Gordon told HendrickMotorsports.com. "With Hendrick Motorsports, he truly recognizes that it could have ended as quickly as it started with that first season in 1984. If they hadn’t gotten that win at Martinsville (Speedway), that moment when they did get that win, they got to be a part of the growth of NASCAR, the growth of Hendrick Automotive Group and the growth of Hendrick Motorsports. He never forgets that. There’s not a word I can use to put that in perspective but to me, it tells you a lot about who Rick (Hendrick) is."
In January, Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Together, the duo won a record-tying seven Cup Series championships, including five consecutive from 2006 to 2010. Knaus and Johnson become the ninth and 10th personnel from Hendrick Motorsports to enter NASCAR Hall.
RELATED: Knaus, Johnson elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame
"It’s cool," Knaus, now the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, said about going in with the driver that he achieved so much with. "One of the neatest things was being able to be at the Hall of Fame when the announcement came out. (NASCAR President) Steve Phelps was talking and to hear Jimmie’s name being inducted from the first ballot was awesome. To see the look on his face and to be sitting next to him. Then, for me to get it, see his eyes look at me and you are both like, 'This is real.' To be able to go through this phase with him is a true honor. I'm looking forward to it."