Hendrick Embraces Change
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 25, 2016 | 11:48 A.M. EST
It will be a season of transition for Hendrick Motorsports and the organization is looking forward to it. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
It will be a season of transition for Hendrick Motorsports and the organization is looking forward to it.
Jeff Gordon steps into his new role as a television analyst, opening the door for rookie Chase Elliott to take the wheel of the famed No. 24 Chevrolet. He joins Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne in what team owner Rick Hendrick still believes is one of the top driver lineups in the sport.
"It doesn't matter what kind of business you're in, it's the kind of people you have that's important," said Hendrick. "We're looking out of the windshield, not in the rear-view mirror. We focus on the championships ahead, not the ones behind us."
Elliott isn’t shying away from a situation that will certainly bring pressure. But the former XFINITY Series champion isn’t letting the idea of taking the seat of a future Hall of Famer in Gordon get in the way of the matter at hand and setting realistic goals.
"No matter where we start – good, bad, ugly, great, fantastic, wherever it is, if we can start at that point and improve, that’s how we’re going to achieve our goals," Elliott explained. "I’m confident. This is a winning team. We have no excuse if I do my part to compete for good runs and, hopefully, some wins."
Elliott has a trio of veteran teammates to learn from in his first full season at NASCAR’s highest level. But he’ll also have to compete against them on the racetrack for wins and all are prepared to find success in the coming season.
"We’re winning races, I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had driving racecars and I’ve got to give the company all the credit," said Earnhardt, who won three races last season with first-year crew chief Greg Ives. "The cars are the best in the garage, the people are the best and every time you get in it, you’ve got all the confidence in the world that it’s going to do what you want it to do. We’ve had more fun the last two years than I can ever remember having and I hope to keep it going."
Kahne went winless a year ago but is ready to put that disappointment behind.
"We communicated and did the things we needed to do together," Kahne said of his relationship with crew chief Keith Rodden. "We need to figure out how to have more speed in the cars, but I enjoy working with him."
So for the first time in more than two decades, a guy named Gordon will not be campaigning a Hendrick car. It'll be different for the organization that's been the gold standard in the Cup Series for years, but Hendrick does not envision a slowdown.
"If you’ve been to the top of the mountain, it’s hard to sit out there in Las Vegas and not be on that stage," he said. "We’ve got a commitment within our organization. All the crew chiefs, engineers and drivers ... we’ve never worked together any better or as much as we have toward the end of last year and in the off-season. Our guys are fired up."