Rick Hendrick has built a NASCAR empire. He’s the all-time winningest car owner in the history of the sport as his drivers have amassed 271 Cup Series victories. Among those wins are 12 Coca-Cola 600 triumphs, 11 Southern 500 wins, 10 Brickyard 400’s victories and 8 Daytona 500’s.
“Mr. H” has led his organization to 13 Cup championships as well.
Safe to say this is the top team in the sport. With that said, a few years ago, most fans were wondering what the future of HMS led. How much longer would Mr. H stick around? How could he get his cars back winning on a consistent basis again?
Jeff Gordon had retired. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were slowing down and entering the end of their careers. Kasey Kahne wasn’t winning as much as some thought he should.
Well, out went all those big named veterans and in came the kids. Is this future going to work?
As we sit here today, not only is it going to work, it is working now. What’s scary is, all four HMS drivers are under the age of 30. The driver future is bright.
Chase Elliott is coming off of a championship last season. He’s only 25 years old. He’s won nine times since 2018. He’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Alex Bowman just signed a two year extension and has won all four races since 2019 including twice already now in 2021. He’s 28 years old.
William Byron seems to have finally figured it out. He’s won twice since last August and has had a top 10 in all but four races this season and three of those four races are road courses and the other in the Daytona 500. He’s just 23 years old. He too is signed for the future.
The other driver is Kyle Larson. He’s won the last three Cup races on the season and has six straight top two finishes. Larson, is THE championship favorite for this season. He, like Bowman, are the elder statesmen of the team. They’re both 28.
Just look at that lineup, their success and their ages. HMS doesn’t have to worry about drivers for at least the next decade. With that said, what about their off track personnel?
At the end of last season, Jeff Andrews was moved to Executive Vice President and General Manager effective immediately. Andrews, joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and had served as Vice President of Competition since 2017.
Replacing him starting for this season was Chad Knaus. The former crew chief will report to Andrews. Those proved to be great moves. Andrews, is reporting to President Marshall Carlson.
The alignment for the future is taking shape. Then came Wednesday’s announcement that Jeff Gordon has been named vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, which will make him the second-ranking team official to chairman and majority owner Rick Hendrick.
As vice chairman and co-owner, Gordon will maintain a daily presence at Hendrick Motorsports with a focus on the organization’s competition and marketing groups. The Vallejo, California, native will report to Hendrick and work alongside Carlson and Andrews. In addition, he will join Hendrick on NASCAR’s team owner council and assume Hendrick Motorsports’ seat on the sanctioning body’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee.
Gordon, 49, will formally assume the strategic executive management role on Jan. 1, 2022.
“I cannot put into words what Hendrick Motorsports means to me,” Gordon said. “In many ways, it’s my home and the people here are my family. I’ve never lost my passion for the organization, for our sport, and for the sheer challenge of racing and winning at the highest level. Being part of the competition is where I’m happiest and feel I can make the biggest contribution to the continued, long-term success of the team. Rick and I have a shared vision, which is based on the values he’s instilled, the culture he’s built and our desire to be the very best in all categories, on and off the track.”
In October 1999, Gordon became an equity owner of Hendrick Motorsports. He remains Hendrick’s only partner in the 13-time NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning organization, for which Gordon won 93 races and four titles as a driver from 1992 until his retirement from full-time racing in 2015.
“Jeff and I have talked about this for many years, and I feel it’s a natural evolution for him and our company,” said Hendrick, 71, who is also chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group. “I’ve always been impressed with his business instincts. On some level, he’s been involved in every major decision we’ve made over the last two decades, and his influence has continued to grow since he stopped driving. He understands our culture, our values, and the importance we place on our people and our partnerships.
“I love racing and competing, and Jeff is the only person I know who hates to lose as much as I do. I feel great physically and have no plans to go anywhere anytime soon, which is exactly why it’s the right time. In the years to come, I couldn’t be more energized about working arm-in-arm with him and cementing the future of Hendrick Motorsports together.”
Gordon joined FOX Sports as an analyst in 2016 and has been a mainstay of its NASCAR Cup Series race telecasts and other programming. He will continue to work as a FOX broadcaster through the end of the 2021 calendar year.
“I cannot thank the entire FOX Sports family enough for the incredible opportunity I’ve had over the past six seasons,” Gordon said. “I’ve come to truly appreciate the responsibility of bringing the sport to our fans and the tremendous work that goes into our broadcasts each and every week. I’m certainly going to miss it, but I will forever be grateful to FOX for the experience and for the trust they’ve placed in me. It’s been a privilege to work with such a talented group of people.”
This has HMS in good hands for several decades down the road now. A pair of 28 year old drivers, a 25 year old and 23 year old behind the wheels of their four cars. A 55 year old leading the competition side and a 49 year old now the second in command.
With the topic a few years ago of the ages of NASCAR owners and who’s going to be left a decade or so down the road, this further shows the sports’ future is bright.
Roger Penske has Tim Cindric likely next in command to run things whenever he wants to take a step back. Tony Stewart is only 50. Jeff Gordon is only 49 and is now the one waiting in the wings for HMS. Chip Ganassi is 63 and has plenty of years left still if he follows the Hendrick and Penske path. Then you have the new owners with Denny Hamlin/Michael Jordan, Justin Marks/Pitbull, BJ McLeod/Matt Tifft, Matt Kaulig, etc all coming as the new younger owners and you can see that the sport has a direction and future still. That doesn’t even count the rumored Brad Keselowski potential deal with Roush/Fenway Racing either.