CONCORD, N.C. – The road to 300 NASCAR Cup Series wins for Hendrick Motorsports started with a victory that almost didn’t happen.
Prior to Geoff Bodine's victory at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984, team owner Rick Hendrick had told his driver and crew chief Harry Hyde that he was going to have to shut things down just a handful of months into the venture. Bodine had success at the Virginia short track in the modified and late model ranks and was confident he could put together a solid run.
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Both he and Hyde were able to do more than that. Bodine led 55 laps on the day, including the final 49 circuits for the win. He passed Bobby Allison, who had led over half the race, with 49 to go in the 500-lap event.
"Knowing it might be the last race, that added some pressure to it," Bodine said of going into the Martinsville race. "Once you get in the race car and you get dialed into the race, all that goes away and you are just thinking about what you got to do. At Martinsville, you got to keep the fenders on the car. You got to save the brakes, which was a key back then. At the end of the race, as soon as you come off the corner, you start pumping the brakes to make sure you have brakes at the end of the straightaway. We did all that right.
"We beat them all. We didn’t inherit the race by anyone falling out, so that made you feel really good. The good thing was we won. Let’s call Rick up and pray that this keeps the doors open and it did."
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Rick Hendrick and his wife, Linda, were not at the track that day. The team owner was at a church event in Greensboro, North Carolina, and with the race not available on the radio, he learned of the team’s win in a phone call with his mother. That led to the Hendricks driving to Bodine’s house, which was just south of Greensboro for a unique celebration. They toilet-papered his house.
"That was a pivotal race," Hendrick recalled. "We had decided to shut the doors because we didn’t have a sponsor and couldn’t go any further. 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.
"… The burden had been lifted off the shoulders. That was THE one."
The victory was not only the first for Hendrick Motorsports, which at the time was called All-Star Racing, but it was also the first for Bodine in the sport’s top series. Bodine became the first of 20 drivers to date that have won for the all-time winningest organization in Cup Series history.
"I think about it all the time that had we not won that race, it wouldn't be a Hendrick Motorsports and it wouldn't be 300 wins," Hendrick said when reflecting on the mark following William Byron's win at Texas Motor Speedway, which was the organization's 300th in the Cup Series. "I'm very, very thankful for that."
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Bodine went on to drive for the organization for six years, from 1984 to 1989. In total, he earned seven of his 18 Cup Series wins with the team, but his initial victory is what started it all for the all-time winningest team in the sport’s top series.
"When I look back, I am in awe," Bodine said. "When I signed that deal, I shook hands with Rick Hendrick. I had no idea that I was shaking hands with a guy who was going to be in charge of winning 300 Cup races. I didn’t even know if it was going to be one for me. You just don’t know what the future is going to bring. His legacy is going to be hard for anyone to match."
Today, Bodine follows the action from his home in Florida and keeps an eye on how the four teams for Hendrick Motorsports are doing.
"I always pull for the Hendrick cars because I feel a little responsible for Hendrick Motorsports," Bodine explained. "I’m glad I was the first. Pretty incredible to think I helped get those 300 wins just by winning one race."
Earlier this year, FOX Sports aired a dramatic reenactment of these events that can viewed below.