Hendrick Enjoying Milestone

Rick Hendrick

“I'm going to enjoy 200 and just try to win a championship from here on out.” (Photo: Getty Images)

Rick Hendrick is basking in the glow of finally reaching the 200-victory plateau in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Jimmie Johnson’s victory in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway gave Hendrick Motorsports its milestone win mark, which began with Geoff Bodine’s triumph at Martinsville Speedway in 1984.

“Yeah, we are really excited,” said Hendrick. “We are going to have a party and all that. But we have got a lot of things planned for our people, because it is a milestone and we have reached out to all the drivers that have won races with us and they are excited about being a part of something.”

The list of 15 drivers who have given Hendrick a Sprint Cup win during his storied career as an owner is a veritable “Who’s Who” of stock car racing. Equally impressive are the many venues where Hendrick has celebrated in Victory Lane, most recently last Saturday night with Johnson’s win in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Although wins in that annual May event don’t count toward Hendrick’s official victory total, he still considers the event one of his favorites.

“You know, I think the All-Star Race was one of my favorite races. You get to run flat-out,” said Hendrick, who celebrated in a unique style with Johnson Saturday night by riding around while hanging on to the No. 48 Chevrolet’s window. “You don't have to worry about points. And the fans, it's a night race, it's at Charlotte; it's always a wild race.

“We always have some kind of spectacular event during that race, and it's one that we really want to win, but it's also a fun race to watch, because you really don't have the pressure of the points. You don't have as much on the line. And I like that the format is always pretty interesting.”

But as for memorable points-paying races, Hendrick points to Bodine’s Martinsville victory as one he’ll always remember. His then upstart All-Star Racing team was literally hanging on by a shoestring as Hendrick tried to keep the fledgling team afloat.

The Virginia track was nearly the sight of perfect synergy for Hendrick back in March when Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all were in contention for the checkered flag until a late turn of events wound up knocking all three from potential victory.

Hendrick says that one still stings.

“I would say that the race in Martinsville will have to go down as the one that's going to take a long time for me to get over,” he admitted. “When you're running one, two, three and you've got three laps to go, or two laps to go, and you've got a straight way on everybody and you just kind of are cruising and then somebody stops on the track and then you've got to restart and you have a big wreck that takes out everybody.

“I think that one crushed me more than any one ever has, because I wanted to win at Martinsville, and that would have been a great place for the 200th win, where the accident happened. I have a lot of family there and had relatives on the plane. That one crushed me, and I don't think I'll ever get over that one.”

The Petty organizations are the all-time Sprint Cup Series win leaders with 268. While Hendrick has no plans of stepping away from the sport anytime soon, he knows what a huge undertaking it would be for his team to put on a serious assault of that record.

“I hope it's 10 years from now. I hope I make it 10 more years,” Hendrick said of his desire to remain a NASCAR fixture. “You know, that's going to be a hard hill to climb to get to that number. I would love to see our organization be able to do it.

“You know, that would be an unbelievable accomplishment, but I'm very thankful for 200, and man, it was hard enough to go from 199 to 200.”

The reality of the numbers is Hendrick’s team would need to average seven wins a season over the next 10 years to eclipse the mark.

But Hendrick would rather not put too much energy in pondering that scenario but simply enjoy the milestone his organization accomplished last week and concentrate on more immediate matters.

“So for me to think about trying to average seven a year for the next 10 years, that's a tall mountain right now,” said Hendrick. “I'm going to enjoy 200 and just try to win a championship from here on out.”

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