Hendrick Motorsports Preview: 30th Anniversary and Changes in NASCAR

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

The 2014 season will marks Rick Hendrick’s 30th season involved in NASCAR. In looking back on the past 30 years, Hendrick says that they’ve gone by in a hurry.

“It’s been a good ride,” he commented. “I hope I got a few more years; my tires are treaded.”

Throughout the 30 years, Hendrick is won over 200 Sprint Cup Series races and 11 Sprint Cup Series Championships with Jimmie Johnson (6), Jeff Gordon (4) and Terry Labonte (1). There have been many memorable moments throughout the years, including the championships, the Daytona 500 victories and the first win at Martinsville that stopped Hendrick from closing the doors.

“If it wasn’t Geoff Bodine’s win at Martinsville, we wouldn’t be here,” Hendrick said. “We decided before then we’d close the doors if we didn’t win.”

The most memorable moment for Hendrick is seeing his son Ricky win his first ever Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas.

Now Hendrick enters the 2014 season looking to make memorable moments with his line-up of drivers: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. One of those will be the 200th pole for the organization as they currently have 198 poles on record.

Though as “fantastic four” head out to try and get Hendrick his 12th championship, there are lots of questions regarding the Chase format. The Chase format will officially be unveiled by NASCAR on Thursday.

NASCAR Most Popular’s driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that he used to be afraid of change, but he isn’t now.

“I wasn’t really excited about change until a lot of change started,” he commented. “Now let’s change it all! I’m all for it!”

Coming off of his sixth championship, Johnson says that the change has to happen to attract more fans, but is shocked by what has been proposed.

“If that’s the bullet we need, I’m all for it,” he added. “We need fans in the stands. If that Chase is it, then yeah let’s go for it.”

 

Johnson went on to say that he knew changes were coming, but not persay changes of this extent; he was surprised to hear that they were overhauling the Chase system. He thought NASCAR would’ve gone down the heat – feature format that is used on the short tracks. Regardless, Johnson feels confident that he can win the championship no matter the system used based on the amount of wins he normally accumulates during his championship seasons.

Kasey Kahne also likes the idea of the proposed Chase – 16 drivers in based on wins and then an elimination format – due to being inconsistent himself.

“This helps me make the Chase and go for it,” Kahne commented. “I look forward to it.”

Johnson was asked if whether NASCAR is making these changes to stop him from winning championship as he has won six of the last eight years. “It crossed my mind – not going to lie,” Johnson commented.

Hendrick was also asked what he would do if it came down to his four drivers in the winner-take-all at Homestead-Miami and Hendrick said, “I’d be sitting on pit road with James Finch drinking champagne.”

There have also been changes talked about with regards to the rules and bringing forth a zero ride height rule that was tested last December at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“If rules head to a zero ride height rule, it opens up what you can work on,” Johnson commented. “Cars being too after races is ridiculous as you race at zero ride height. There will be a lot of areas to work on and whoever hits it first will be golden.”

Earnhardt Jr. commented that should be an advantage for Hendrick Motorsports as they always seem to figure things out before other teams. He also sees this season being better than last year for himself due to his track record of getting each year that he has worked with Steve LeTarte.

With regards to changes, the drivers have already learned the details about how qualifying will work – which can be seen by clicking here. Gordon says it’s a fantastic idea based on watching Formula 1, which uses the same type of format.

“We have to go through it and see how it works in NASCAR, but it should be good for all,” he commented.

As the team heads into their historic season, many have questioned how much longer Hendrick will be involved in the sport – 10 more years? 15 more years? 20 more years? Hendrick closed today’s media session out with a quote from Bill France Sr – “My mind will take me places my body won’t go.”

“I’m looking forward to the future and this year,” Hendrick added. “I think this’ll be the biggest year in NASCAR yet.”

About Ashley McCubbin 3102 Articles
Joining OnPitRoad.com mid-2013 season, Ashley McCubbin is now the Managing Editor and contributes to each racing division as needed. Since studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber, Ashley has published articles on a couple of different websites, while serving as a public relations representative for different short track teams. Born in North York, Ontario, Ashley currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area. She has spent her entire life at the short track level, falling in love with the sport at the age of five. Beyond her love of short track racing, she also has grown an interest for both NASCAR and the IndyCar Racing Series. She also enjoys taking photos and working on websites, while playing a couple rounds of Candy Crush afterwards.

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