CONCORD, N.C. – Following 23 years and a plethora of memories with Hendrick Motorsports, Lance McGrew is calling it a career.
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McGrew's path in NASCAR began after he moved to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area in 1993. Coming from a racing background, he took a job with a small team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and did any and every job possible. That initial experience proved invaluable to the Louisiana native as he built his path in NASCAR.
"I could never learn enough. I could never ask enough questions," McGrew said. "They let me help load the truck and sweep the floor. I wasn’t insulted by that. You’ve got to prove yourself at every juncture. If they were going to let me sweep the floor and load the truck, then I’m going to sweep the floor and load the truck the best I can."
That first foray into NASCAR helped McGrew build his resume and brought him to Hendrick Motorsports in 1999. He served as the crew chief for the No. 24 Xfinity Series entry run by Jeff Gordon and Ricky Hendrick over a partial schedule in 2000. He was then paired up with Hendrick in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in 2001. During that season, the pair earned a breakthrough victory at Kansas Speedway, eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10s.
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When asked about his favorite driver to work with, it was Hendrick’s name that came to mind.
"Ricky, because we were boys," McGrew said of the driver he won a Truck Series race with when he was 33 years old. "We hung out all the time and did stuff together outside of racing. He was probably my favorite one to work with."
McGrew worked with Hendrick in the Xfinity Series in 2002 before becoming Brian Vickers crew chief on the No. 5 entry in the series. That pairing was quite successful as they won three races and the 2003 Xfinity Series championship. The following year he worked with Kyle Busch, winning five races and finished second in the Xfinity Series standings.
"Everybody brought something to the table," McGrew said. "I enjoyed working with the younger guys and watching them grow up."
In 2005, McGrew moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series - re-teaming with Vickers as his crew chief for the next two seasons. In 2006, the pair won the fall race at Talladega Superspeedway, which marked McGrew's first and only win atop the box at the sport's highest level.
During a two-year period where he focused on research and development for the company, McGrew did work as a crew chief for a handful of Xfinity races with Hendrick Motorsports - including their last win in the series to date with Tony Stewart in 2009. He also was atop the box for a handful of Brad Keselowski's Cup Series starts in 2008 and 2009. In the middle of the 2009 season, he returned to the pit box full time and worked with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the next season-and-a-half. He closed out his Cup Series crew chief career with Mark Martin in 2011.
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Prior to the start of 2012, McGrew was asked to work with up-and-coming driver and future Cup Series champion Chase Elliott as he began his racing career. The duo competed in what is now the ARCA Menards East Series and ran a part-time schedule of Truck Series competition for 2013. Together, they won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in September of that year for Elliott's first national series win.
Even at a young age, McGrew identified Elliott as a future superstar for Hendrick Motorsports.
"He was straight-up 15 years old, "McGrew said. "It wasn't just his driving ability. I have to pat Bill and Cindy (Elliott) on the back because he’s just so mentally tough; he never got rattled. That mental toughness, especially when you are having a bad day, it's incredible that someone could be that focused and that skilled but still not on the ragged edge."
In 2014, McGrew came off of the road but continued to work in different divisions at Hendrick Motorsports. Most recently, he has worked as a Production Manager for Hendrick Performance in helping to build Hendrick Motorsports Track Attack. This program sees race-ready, track-day stock cars prepared by Hendrick Performance and sold to customers. Once the build is complete, Track Attack participants get a private test day at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina.
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With McGrew now officially retiring from Hendrick Motorsports, his co-workers and friends held an event to honor his service to the company. After 23 years of experience, it was no surprise that lots of memories came flooding back.
"You’ve been in the business for so long you tend to forget a lot of things," McGrew said. "All the little nuances and the people that you’ve worked with. The people that have come and gone. Places you’ve been to and seen outside of the racetrack. It’s just too many good times to remember."