CONCORD, N.C. – Darlington Raceway has been home to 16 NASCAR Cup Series wins for Hendrick Motorsports. 

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Jeff Gordon won five times in four years at the track "Too Tough to Tame." Terry Labonte won for the 22nd and final time at this track in 2003. William Byron recorded the 100th triumph for the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet. Kyle Larson earned the 500th national series win for the engine department last September. However, perhaps the most noteworthy victory for the organization at the 1.366-mile track came on May 12, 2012, with Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel at the Southern 500. 

Johnson, who hadn't won at Darlington since a season sweep in 2004, lined up second for the Mother's Day weekend race. He took the lead for the first time on lap 50 before pitting and did not return to the point position until lap 101. Johnson led 84 of the next 94 laps. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet pitted under yellow for four fresh tires, which placed him 10th in the running order. He maintained his top-10 position and following a green-flag pit stop was third with 64 laps to go. 

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Pit strategy played a role in the run to the finish, with crew chief Chad Knaus electing to have Johnson stay out under multiple cautions. He retook the lead on lap 308 but lost the spot to Kyle Busch on lap 313. Johnson restarted on the front row on lap 320 next to Busch and retook the lead for the final time five laps later. The then-five-time Cup Series champion outlasted two more cautions and restarts, including a green-white-checkered finish to finish 0.781 seconds ahead of Denny Hamlin. 

"We've been close to getting the 200th win for the last month or two and I'm very happy that we closed the deal today," Johnson said afterward. "My mind goes back to the early days of Hendrick Motorsports, the people that won those early races, worked on those early cars, helped Rick (Hendrick) build Hendrick Motorsports to what it is today."

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With the race over, team owner Rick Hendrick celebrated with hugs and Johnson ran the car up the inside wall at the South Carolina track as team members smacked the hood of the No. 48 Chevrolet in celebration. Johnson and Hendrick shared a moment in victory lane, and the driver presented Hendrick with a special helmet signed by every driver who had run for the team (or a surviving family member of those drivers who had passed) since its first race in 1984. Johnson's win marked the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports and was the team's first visit to victory lane in a points-paying event in seven months. 

"I want to thank all of the drivers, crew chiefs and everybody else," Hendrick said in a post-race interview. "I can't believe we won 200 of these things. I can't believe it took this long after 199.

"I want to thank the fans for supporting us all these years. This is a big deal for all of our people."

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The team had been knocking on the door of win No. 200 with five runner-up finishes in the 16 races between wins. The Darlington win touched off a run of four victories in five races for the squad.

"When something like this happens, it reminds me of when I won the first championship," Hendrick said in a post-race media availability. "I never thought I'd ever get to win a championship. I never thought I'd get to race in NASCAR. I never thought I would win one.

"To look back, when something like this happens to you, you've got to think you've been blessed, number one, but then you've been blessed to be around some great, great people."

In 2021, Hendrick Motorsports surpassed Petty Enterprises as the all-time winningest team in the Cup Series with 269 wins following Larson's victory in the Coca-Cola 600. Two years later, at Texas Motor Speedway, the organization became the first to win 300 races in the premier series with Byron's victory at the 1.5-mile track.