Editor's Note: This story was first published ahead of the 2024 DAYTONA 500, which was won by Hendrick Motorsports. It is being resurfaced in honor of the team's 40th anniversary weekend at Martinsville Speedway, which will celebrate the organization's first win, history and heritage. 

CONCORD, N.C. – When you reflect on the storied history and success of Hendrick Motorsports, team owner Rick Hendrick is at the heart of all of it. 

RELATED: Key numbers to know for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series

His knack for identifying top talent and pairing the right people together is legendary. The proof is in the results and the numbers speak for themselves. A NASCAR Cup Series-best 304 wins, 14 championships, 248 poles and over 80,000 laps led – 80,215 to be exact. Twenty drivers have won a Cup race for his organization.

Team vice chairman, NASCAR Hall of Famer and four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon knew he’d met somebody remarkable from the minute he met Hendrick. 

RELATED: How Jeff Gordon came to drive at Hendrick Motorsports

"I knew the first time I met Rick. He is unique, special and passionate," Gordon told of their first meeting in 1992. "To be able to know, here’s somebody who has a great organization, is interested in having me as a driver and starting a whole new team to do that. Of course, now he’s like family to me. For him to take that leap of faith was one step of just how appreciative I am to him."

Gordon was the first driver to win a championship for the Hall of Fame team owner in 1995 – 11 seasons after the organization made its debut under the banner of All-Star Racing in 1984.

For as much success as the company has gone on to have, it nearly didn’t make it that far. Before the race at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984, Hendrick was considering closing up shop. 

"That was a pivotal race," Hendrick said. "We had decided to shut the doors because we didn’t have a sponsor and couldn’t go any further. (Crew chief) Harry (Hyde) said, 'Hey, Geoff (Bodine) is good at Martinsville (Speedway). Let’s go to that race. We won that and got a sponsor, Northwestern Security Life and then later Levi Garrett came on. It was that close to this place not being here. You just think back on those moments in time. It was so close to there not being a Hendrick Motorsports."

RELATED: Bodine, Hendrick look back at win that started it all

This year, the organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary. 

Hendrick often talks about how he is in the people business and that people make all the difference. That mentality comes from his humble beginnings in the car business and shines through with the race team, starting with his executive group at Hendrick Motorsports. 

RELATED: See the special Martinsville paint schemes

"He makes you want to succeed at everything that you do, professionally and personally," team president and general manager Jeff Andrews said. “He has taught us all the importance of our people. We work for them and we all work together to achieve the same goal. Mr. Hendrick has never demanded respect. His respect is earned and you want to make him proud. You want to do good for him. You want the company to do well for him. He has put so much into this over the last 40 years. 

"There certainly are defining moments where I saw his true stature and what he is as a person, in his heart and how much this company means to him. Most all our leadership team have grown up here. We have worked our way up through the company. His leadership style, his belief in his people and the importance that he puts on the value of our people are values that I have tried to model myself after. To this day I continue to learn from him and have so much left to learn."

RELATED: Championship for 40th anniversary would be 'ultimate gift'

More than just the statistics, though, it’s the personal touch. His ability to connect on a human level by putting people first endears him to his drivers, employees, fans and even competitors.

Chase Elliott has driven full-time in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports since 2016, but his history with the team owner dates back to 2011 when he was signed on as a development driver. He values the relationship that he has built with the NASCAR Hall of Famer. 

"He has become a close friend and someone that I can call any time of the day and just get a real, raw, honest conversation or opinion from," Elliott said. "That has a lot of value to me. I can talk to him like I am talking to anyone. I’ve always appreciated that about him. Certainly grateful for the opportunities but as time has gone on, grateful for the friendship, advice and willingness to listen and hear you out. I always think those things are way more meaningful than something someone can hand you or give you."

Alex Bowman mentioned Hendrick’s command of the room as something that has stood out since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2016. 

"When he talks, everybody listens," Bowman said. "He is the most respected person I have ever been around. Everybody who works directly with him cares about his opinions and cares about that relationship. Everybody here is motivated by him."

Charlotte native William Byron grew up a Hendrick Motorsports fan and dreamed of one day driving for Hendrick. After meeting with him in 2016 to discuss his racing future, Byron had complete trust that Hendrick would help get him to the Cup Series level.

RELATED: DAYTONA 500 win still surreal to Byron

"He has fulfilled every promise he’s ever made to me and more really," Byron said. "He is very loyal. He is there for me no matter whether I have a good or bad race. He always has some sort of advice or to just listen. I believe he has been a huge part of my career, my growth and has given me the confidence and the comfort that I would be able to go out there and do what I need to do."

Kyle Larson joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2021 and his No. 5 Chevy carried primary sponsorship from the Hendrick-owned, which serves as the website for the Hendrick Automotive Group’s dealerships across 13 states. Their first season together produced 10 points-paying wins, an All-Star Race win and a championship. Through subsequent contract extensions, has gotten involved in Larson’s grassroots racing activity.

"When I think of Rick (Hendrick), I just think of the most humble human being on planet Earth," Larson said. "A guy who has worked so hard his whole life to build this empire and still treats people the way that people should be treated. Going above and beyond to help people. He and Linda (Hendrick) both are amazing people with big hearts. I think that is why everybody loves to work for Rick (Hendrick)."

The unseen acts of kindness behind the scenes are numerous and show how Hendrick cares. That compassion goes beyond the NASCAR garage. During Larson’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program in October, INDYCAR champion Will Power shared how Hendrick reached out to him when Liz Power, Will’s wife, had a health scare. The Powers attributed Hendrick’s assistance to Liz’s recovery.

RELATED: Hendrick grateful to have helped Power family

"Rick (Hendrick) was one of the first people to call me and help me out once he found out," Power said. "He put me in touch with the best doctors and the best people to take care of it. She was very close to dying. It was a very tough situation. He never stopped calling through the whole process, which, like myself, my wife will never forget."

At the end of the day, is it truly all about people for Hendrick, whether it's his drivers or employees across the racing and automotive worlds. That first win in 1984 served as the key to the ignition of a lengthy and decorated record in NASCAR.

For Gordon, who has worked for and alongside Hendrick since his initial start at the end of the 1992 season, it's hard to encapsulate his mentor in just a handful of words.

"I’ve known him for so long and I’ve even seen his growth as a business leader, team owner, husband, family person and friend," Gordon said. “He has always been willing to take the shirt off his back for others. I love that he has been able to accomplish so much, and be so successful, yet never get far away from his roots of his simple beginnings.

"He never forgets that. There’s not a word I can use to put that in perspective, but it tells you a lot about who Rick is.