INDIANAPOLIS — Prior to Kyle Larson’s arrival at Hendrick Motorsports, you didn’t see many Hendrick Motorsports drivers racing outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. That was by design. Hendrick valued his drivers and didn’t want to risk injury outside of one of his cars.
However, that’s since all change once Larson signed on the dotted line in 2020.
See, Larson is a racer. He’d run every night of the week if you let him. Chip Ganassi, his former boss, wasn’t keen on seeing Larson race so much away from NASCAR, but he allowed it because he knew that’s what Larson liked to do and it honestly made him better at his craft. He still recognized just how much of a passion Larson had for it and would allow around 25 or so races per year.
Before his derogatory remarks on Easter Night of 2020, Larson made it known that on his next contract, he wanted the ability to still race on dirt. Whomever could offer him the most leeway, that’s the direction he was going to go. Then came that dark night in April of 2020.
Without anywhere to go and his NASCAR days seemed to be long gone, Hendrick entered the chat. They talked as friends and as a mentor for Rick to help Kyle through some difficult times. With all the power on his side, Hendrick worked out a way to sign Larson for the 2021 season and to do so without a sponsor lined up.
Hendrick used his own sponsor, HendrickCars.com. He used his own team. He took a chance on someone with a dark cloud hanging over his name and image.
2 1/2 years later, they announced that the sponsor and team will take Larson to the Indy 500 and do so with a partnership with McLaren Racing.
Hendrick not only allowed Larson to stay true to his hobby on dirt, he’s taking a prized possession to Indianapolis in an INDYCAR.
To get Larson, Hendrick had to changed his approach on extracurricular actives for his drivers outside of a stock car. He now allows his drivers to race outside of NASCAR. Chase Elliott has tried dirt multiple times. Alex Bowman who came through the USAC ranks was allowed to go back to race in those events again.
“I don’t want to see him get hurt, but this is his love and I think it makes him sharper,” Hendrick said. “As long as it doesn’t interfere.”
Larson, won the Chili Bowl in 2021. He won the Kings Royal. He won the BC 39. He won the Knoxville Nationals. That’s just away from the Cup circuit.
On the Cup side with HMS, he won the 2021 Coca-Cola 600, the Bristol Night Race, the 2021 championship and even marched the 5 team to the Championship 4 in the owners race last year.
Larson is delivering and Hendrick is relishing in his change of approach to his drivers. We’ll further get to see that in 2024…