40 Years To The Day? Hendrick Seeks ‘500’ Glory Again

Hendrick Larson Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports is seeking a record-tying ninth Daytona 500 victory. (Rusty Jarrett/Nigel Kinrade Photography)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the 66th running of the Great American Race postponed to Monday, Hendrick Motorsports will celebrate a historic milestone on Daytona 500 race day.

The team owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rick Hendrick made its first NASCAR Cup Series start on Feb. 19, 1984, fittingly in the 500-mile race at Daytona Int’l Speedway known as the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.

A young Geoff Bodine, crew chiefed by the legendary Harry Hyde, finished eighth in the Daytona 500 that day in a No. 5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo fielded by what was then known as All-Star Racing.

Four decades later, Hendrick Motorsports will celebrate its 40th anniversary with its 41st straight Daytona 500 appearance, fielding four cars all capable of winning the Great American Race.

Though Hendrick Motorsports boasts eight Daytona 500 victories – second most all-time behind Petty Enterprises’ nine – it’s been a full decade since the organization last went to victory lane in the sport’s biggest race in 2014 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

That’s a statistic that all four Hendrick drivers – Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Alex Bowman – hope to change on Monday, though they all tipped earlier in the week that the team anniversary doesn’t necessarily add extra pressure to win on NASCAR’s grandest stage.

“Look, it’s a big year, the 40th year for HMS is a big deal and I’m super proud to be a very small piece of that puzzle. I think it’s a great honor,” said Elliott Thursday during a Hendrick Motorsports media event at Daytona. “(Rick) always wants to win. That never changes. I don’t think it would matter [to him] if it were the second anniversary or whatever the number is; he just wants to win, and we do too. Just because it’s the 40th year of HMS, that doesn’t make me want to win [the Daytona 500] any more than usual. I’ve wanted to win it pretty bad before now, and I don’t think anything changes it from that standpoint.”

“When he talks, everybody listens,” added Elliott’s teammate, Alex Bowman, about Hendrick’s presence at the track and in the race shop. “He is the most respected person I have ever been around. Everybody who works directly with him cares about his opinions and cares about that relationship. Everybody here is motivated by him, especially during this race week.”

Making up the newest generation of stars, Larson, Elliott, Byron, and Bowman will all drive Hendrick-prepared Chevrolets at the World Center of Racing, each seeking their first Harley J. Earl Trophy.

The current roster of Hendrick Motorsports drivers, which has been together since 2021, represents the first period since 1996 that the organization has not had an active Daytona 500 winner on its roster.

However, that doesn’t mean that the quartet hasn’t had plenty of speed during the biggest race week on the Cup Series calendar. They’ve combined for seven Daytona 500 pole positions in the last nine years, but bad luck in the draft has left the team with only two top-five finishes in the Daytona 500 since 2020.

Elliott’s runner-up finish to Michael McDowell in 2021 remains the team’s best result in the Great American Race since Earnhardt’s 2014 victory, something he noted remains vividly in his mind.

“We ran second here that year, so that was kind of cool, I guess. I would have liked to have won, but that was a decent finish,” Elliott recalled. “The rest of them we’ve pretty much crashed, so there haven’t been really a lot of good [moments] outside of that day, unfortunately. Hoping we can change that this time.”

Since Hendrick Motorsports’ most recent of its eight Daytona 500 wins, Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Front Row Motorsports, and JTG-Daugherty Racing have all visited victory lane on the most prestigious stage in NASCAR racing.

None of those teams, however, have the resume in the sport that the Hendrick operation has.

Hendrick

Geoff Bodine during Hendrick Motorsports' debut race, the 1984 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) Int'l Speedway. (Photo Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

A combined 301 victories, 316 poles, and 14 championships are all Cup Series records by a single race team. A ninth Daytona 500 victory would tie for the most all-time in that category.

But the team’s legacy of performance all started during the 1984 Daytona 500, a race that still evokes emotional memories for Hendrick to this day.

“I think about the day when we first came down here (to Daytona Int’l Speedway),” Hendrick said. “Geoff [Bodine] and I were talking about it. I think we had six full-time people and a bunch of volunteers, but we finished eighth in that race [after 72 drivers attempted to qualify].

“When I walked down pit road on race day and I saw the Wood Brothers and Richard Petty and Junior Johnson, I thought to myself, ‘We shouldn’t even be here,’” Hendrick added. “This week always brings back a lot of memories and it just shows that Daytona is a special place.”

All four Hendrick drivers agreed that it “goes without saying” just how important winning another Great American Race would be for their boss and team leader.

Bowman may have said it strongest, however, during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday in advance of qualifying for this year’s running of the historic event.

“I want to be the guy that changes [the narrative],” said Bowman of ending Hendrick’s 10-year Daytona 500 drought. “I want to put Hendrick Motorsports in the best position with all four of our cars to get back there [to victory lane].

“You hear it all the time, but the Daytona 500 is a huge deal, and we want to go get a trophy.”

Elliott rolls off fifth for Monday’s rain-postponed running of the Daytona 500, best among the four Hendrick drivers vying for a win at the 2.5-mile Daytona oval.

Bowman will line up right behind Elliott in the seventh starting position, while Larson and Byron share row nine of the grid – starting 17th and 18th, respectively.

Coverage of the 66th Daytona 500 begins Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.