There’s no doubt about it but Hendrick Motorsports is back. In fact, is the best still yet to come? Is this just the start of another dominating era for HMS? They had 93 wins and four Cup championships with Jeff Gordon. Between Gordon and Terry Labonte, they combined to win five championships in a seven year span from the mid 90s to early 2000s. Then came Jimmie Johnson and his 83 Cup wins and seven championships. They won 12 championships in a 21 year span including at one point, 10 of those in a span of 16 years.
But, when Gordon retired, HMS’ stats quickly declined. Johnson’s stats fell off rather quickly while everyone else struggled to live up to the past glory years. That’s when Hendrick started rebuilding and ensuring that not only would they find the peak of the pinnacle again, they’d do so for many years ahead.
In came Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman. HMS gave them time to groom and get up to speed. That patience paid off. This year, he signed Kyle Larson. It was the move to fully tip them all over the iceberg.
Elliott, won five times in a championship winning effort last year. Larson, brings them speed and consistency on a week in and week out basis. Bowman and Byron was vastly improved and now Hendrick is one win away from breaking a tie with Petty for most trips to victory lane in NASCAR’s storied history.
Elliott, won the rain shortened inaugural race at COTA last Sunday. That was win 268. How fitting would it be if win 269 came in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN)? HMS’ headquarters is located in the shadows of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, so a record setting win on the 1.5-mile track would be celebrated wildly.
Plus, to do so in a crown jewel would mean even more. The historical perspective is huge. The thing is, Sunday’s race could be HMS’ to lose.
They’ve won the ‘600 11 times. They enter winners of the last two Cup races including a 1-2-3-4 effort at Dover two weeks ago and a 1-2 finish last Sunday in COTA. It’s not just the fact that they’re winning, it’s that they’re dominating to depths that we’ve not seen out of them before.
All four drivers are under 30. Two of them are under 25. Larson, has three straight runner-up results on the season. Bowman has two wins already. Byron, has a top 11 finish in every race since we left Daytona and has accumulated the second most points in the entire series already. Elliott, gave HMS a clean sweep with all four drivers winning and placing themselves into the playoffs after just 14 races run.
In the playoff standings, they sit 2-3-4-6. There’s a legitimate question being asked on if they can sweep the entire Championship 4 come November at Phoenix. But, before we get all the way there, you can’t ignore the fact that they have to be the favorites this weekend.
Byron finished ninth in this race a few years ago. Elliott, should have won this race last year but did win the second race in a rare two race trip to Charlotte last May. He has four top four finishes in his last five Charlotte oval starts including three of which being in the top two to go along with the winner in each of the last two ROVAL races there as well.
Bowman has two top 10’s in his last four Charlotte starts too.
The glory years are now for HMS as this is just the beginning again.