CONCORD, N.C. – The victory had been a long time coming for Hendrick Motorsports. 

Kyle Larson's win in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) was the organization's first since its return to Xfinity competition in 2022. More importantly, it was the team's first in the Xfinity level in the No. 17 – a number that carries significance and importance to the Hendrick family. 

PHOTOS: See all the scenes from a winning weekend for the No. 17 team

"It means a lot. Just to race the car with that number," Larson said after winning with a last-lap pass where he came from third on the final lap. "I got to talk to Rick and Linda (Hendrick) there before pulling into victory lane and you could hear how proud they were to see that car in victory lane."

The No. 17 was driven by Ricky Hendrick, the son of Rick and Linda, during his time in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series from 2000 to 2001. Ricky drove that number to victory lane at Kansas Speedway on July 7, 2001, and the paint scheme on the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro mirrors the one he drove in the Truck Series. Ricky was one of 10 lives lost in the plane accident that occurred on Oct. 24, 2004. 

"Yesterday was huge," said team vice chairman Jeff Gordon of the team's Xfinity Series win while addressing the media following William Byron's Cup win at COTA on Sunday. "I remember sitting on the pit box with Rick (Hendrick) at Watkins Glen (International) during an Xfinity race.

"I remember Rick hearing over the loudspeaker how Hendrick Motorsports had never won an Xfinity race on a road course. I remember the look in his eye and how fired up he was. I'm quite certain that day is when we started adding more races to our Xfinity program. With the 17, how special that number is. That was truly special."

In an interview on Tuesday with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, vice president of competition Chad Knaus echoed that sentiment. He also noted that the program is a good ground for crew members to try on different roles and experiences. 

"It's just been a bit of a passion project for all of us at Hendrick Motorsports," Knaus said. "It's a really great opportunity for us to cultivate young talent and get our drivers exposure and experience at these tracks. We’ve wanted to get that No. 17 in victory lane since it started.

"We all know the history with Ricky Hendrick and the red, white and blue paint scheme and all of that that goes along with it. It was a very emotional and touching time. It really made Mr. Hendrick proud. We were glad to be able to bring that home for him."

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Hendrick Motorsports' previous win in the Xfinity Series
 came in 2009 when Tony Stewart took the team to victory lane in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. That was also the organization's last start in the series until 2022. With practice time reduced in recent years and the four NASCAR Cup Series drivers looking for additional on-track time at several tracks, the team decided to bring back its Xfinity program with a limited schedule. 

In their 11 starts before COTA (since returning to the series), Hendrick Motorsports has registered three runner-up finishes, six top-fives and seven top-10s. Several instances came oh-so-close to victory and Larson was at the center of those – passed on the last lap at both Road America and Darlington Raceway in 2022 and a dominating performance at Sonoma Raceway that saw him lead two-thirds of the laps (53 of 79) before finishing third

On Saturday, the 31-year-old driver flipped the script. He rallied from restarting 21st in the first NASCAR Overtime restart and used the advantage of fresh tires to get up to 10th for the second OT restart. From there, Larson got to third, coming to the white flag and drove up to the leaders, Austin Hill and Shane van Gisbergen. The 2021 Cup Series champion patiently waited as the two leaders made contact and Larson got by the duo out of turn 17 before driving away to victory. He led one lap on the day – the one that mattered most – the last one. 

RELATED: Recap Larson's victory at COTA

"For whatever reason, the three years that we have run it between the four (full-time NASCAR Cup Series) drivers, we just haven't been able to get into victory lane," Larson said. "It was definitely special to win a race in that fashion and have everything work out for us there. It hadn't worked out for us before that caution (on lap 45). I had the flat spot, pitted and did not think I would get to this point right here. 

"This is the 40th anniversary season for Hendrick Motorsports. Maybe all that heartbreak we have lived through with this car, it was just meant to be this season. Hopefully, when William (Byron), Alex (Bowman), and Chase (Elliott) are in it and when I'm in it later this year, we can keep winning in it. It's a fun team. It is fun to get to work with (crew chief) Greg Ives. He's got a big sense of humor and keeps things light. I always enjoy getting to run this car."

The No. 17's next start will come with Byron at Darlington Raceway on May 11. Larson's next turn will occur at the Chicago Street Course on July 6. Those starts are two of the team's 10 scheduled races. Byron will run four races, Larson and Chase Elliott have two starts each, and Alex Bowman and Boris Said will run one race. No. 24 lead engineer Brandon McSwain will be the crew chief for the races Byron runs, while Ives will handle the rest.