An unexpected victory in 1984 changed the course of NASCAR history while helping set the future for an organization that didn’t think it had one.
The day was April 29, 1984. The track was Martinsville Speedway for the Sovran Bank 500. And the winner was Geoffrey Bodine, who not only scored his first career win but also earned the first NASCAR Cup Series victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
That day helped propel Hendrick forward as team owner Rick Hendrick has said he’s not sure HMS would be standing today had the win not happened. Obviously, it did and now 34 years later the company is on the verge of its 250th victory.
“That’s a huge commitment to this sport and this industry, and I know we have a big wall with all the Hendrick logos that represent a win, and just to stare at 249 victories and the names that are up there on that wall at our team center, it is spectacular,” Jimmie Johnson said.
All of Johnson’s 83 career wins have come at Hendrick. Now looking for a victory that would tie him for fourth on the all-time wins list with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison at 84, Johnson also wants to add to his part in the HMS history book.
In 2012, Johnson earned the company’s 200th win at Darlington Raceway. Johnson was also responsible for the company’s 150th victory at Las Vegas in 2007.
“I would love to get 250,” Johnson said. “It means so much to all the men and women that work at and have worked for Mr. Hendrick to be a part of that. Before I had my full Cup ride, I was there and watched them celebrate the 100th win, just from afar at the back of the room.
“To see the pride in that building and what it meant to everybody it just sucked me in and I’m like, I just want to get a win for the company. I want to be a part of this legacy and a part of this history. Little did I know I’d be sitting here with 83, but it just means a lot to all of us at Hendrick Motorsports.”
Hendrick’s most recent win, the 249th, came with Kasey Kahne last year at Indianapolis. Jeff Gordon won the 100th race at Michigan in June 2001 and the 50th race at Darlington in 1996.
The only other organization who has more wins in the Cup Series is Petty Enterprises at 268.
“It’s awesome. We need to get to that 250th sooner rather than later, but it just speaks volumes for Hendrick Motorsports and the powerhouse that it is and has been for so long,” Alex Bowman said. “I think when we figure these new Camaro ZL1’s out we will get that 250th and surpass it and keep going. It’s just an honor to be part of such a great race team.”
Bowman is in his first full season with Hendrick driving the No. 88. He has never won a Cup Series race. The same can be said for rookie William Byron and Chase Elliott. Elliott is in his third full season and is 0-86 going into Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s incredible. That’s a huge achievement,” said Elliott. “I can’t say I’ve helped them a whole lot to get there, but it’s been awesome to be a part of the company and to have watched it over the years; to have watched them from the couch win races, and I would love to get number one for me, obviously, but the score of 250 will be pretty spectacular.
“For them to have 249 wins, if you could ever just get one to be amongst the people who have won there I think would be pretty cool. We have to just keep trucking forward like we have been. We’ve been struggling at some of these places and just trying to scratch and go on and get what we can and get back to the ways that I think that our teams deserves to be in.”
A breakdown of the success of Hendrick Motorsports:
– 3,879 Cup Series races
– 249 wins from 16 different drivers
– 1,033 top-five finishes
– 1,750 top-10 finishes
– 214 poles
– 67,277 laps led
– 12 championships
Of its 249 wins, Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 times at Talladega.