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Rick Hendrick’s 200th Victory Is A Classic

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, May 14 2012

Jimmie Johnson's crew stages Hendrick Motorsports victory celebration No. 200 at Darlington Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It’s tough to get a perspective on numbers in auto racing. The sport just changes so often. In fact it is changing, basically, from day to day as technological advances, rules, schedules and facilities all make for a sport that is in constant flux.

Not so with stick-and-ball. The only significant difference between then and now in those sports is player salaries and that does not affect resume numbers at all. Even the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs has not radically affected the number of hits, rushing yards, rebounds, victories and convictions.

In racing, there are very few small, insignificant changes.

The subject comes to the fore as a result of Rick Hendrick getting his 200th Sprint Cup Series victory.

It comes in the form of a question: How big of a deal is 200 Cup victories?

A lot has certainly been made of it – not just this weekend but, basically, all season long. Tension – on the team and, particularly, in the media – built as opportunity after opportunity to get the team owner his 200th victory were waylaid by circumstances. (Not that there was ever any fiber of doubt that No. 200 would come.)

And when it happened Saturday night in Darlington, it was an extremely cool American auto racing

Jimmie Johnson gave Rick Hendrick his 200th victory as an owner Saturday night at Darlington. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

moment.

But h0w significant/impressive was it?

The view here, after looking at the numbers and the eras and the drivers involved and intangibles: Very significant and extremely impressive.

Richard Petty – when his wins at Petty Enterprises are combine with those at RPM and GEM – leads the pack of owners with 286 victories. Impressive, for sure, even when you consider that it took 59 years to build that number. But the vast bulk of those (all but 11) were won before 1980: that is, at a time when the racing was not as competitive as it has been the last 20 years.

Hendrick is second on the owner list. Those 200 victories came in 29 seasons. Only 27 came before 199o.

Behind Hendrick is Junior Johnson (132 wins). Junior is retired and probably will not win again.

Among active owners who are kind of/sort of within reach of 200 are Jack Roush (127), Richard Childress (100), the Wood Brothers (98) and Joe Gibbs Racing (96).

It is unclear now long Roush and Childress will continue to be listed as team owners. Certainly both have many years left but both are a bit older than the 62-year-old Hendrick: Roush is 70 and Childress is 66.

Both have teams that are performing at about the same level as Hendrick’s right now. So, catching or passing Hendrick before seems unlikely.

Joe Gibbs is 71. He, too, has a team that is performing at Hendrick’s level right now and it is possible that Joe Gibbs Racing could get to 200 if son J.D. Gibbs takes over at some point and keeps the wheels turning at their current levels. But that would be a JGR milestone, not a Joe Gibbs milestone.

Perhaps the owner with the best shot at getting to 200 wins, and even passing Hendrick at some point, is Tony Stewart. But, even though he is just 40 years old, he had better pick up the pace as right now, he is averaging just 3.4 wins per year.

I absolutely agree with two things that Stewart said after Saturday night’s race.

The first pertained to his thoughts about winning 200 races himself as an owner: “I’ll never make it that long.”

Geoff Bodine won the first race for Rick Hendrick in 1984 at Martinsville. (Photo courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports)

The second is what he had to say about Rick Hendrick winning 200: “I think it’s phenomenal, especially with the competition every year getting tougher and tougher. It’s harder and harder to win these races.”

And, as a person who has spent some time around the man, his drivers, his teams, his race shops and his peers, I feel pretty comfortable saying this: If somebody does one day win 200 Cup races, it will not be done with as much grace and as much class and as much humility as has been displayed by Rick Hendrick.

Congrats, Mr. H.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story behind the remarkable run, but they tell a lot. Here are some of those numbers:

A timeline of Hendrick’s notable and milestone victories on its way to 200:

1 – On April 29, 1984 at Martinsville Speedway, Geoff Bodine earned Hendrick Motorsports’ first victory. He led 55 laps in the event.

4 – HMS won its first Daytona 500. Geoff Bodine started on the front row (second), leading 101 laps on Feb. 16, 1986.

10 – HMS won its first Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Tim Richmond helped Hendrick reach double-digits in victories with his “crown jewel” win from the pole on Aug. 31, 1986.

16 – HMS won its first Coca-Cola 600. With 41-year-old Darrell Waltrip driving, Hendrick nabbed its first win in NASCAR’s longest race on May 29, 1988.

36 – HMS won its first Brickyard 400. In the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon, then 23, won his second career race on Aug. 6, 1994.

50 – Jeff Gordon, whose 85 victories are more than any other Hendrick driver and third-most on the all-time list, won at Darlington Raceway on March 24, 1996.

61 – At the time, Gordon became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history at 25 years, six months, 12 days on Feb. 16, 1997. His record was later broken in 2011 by Trevor Bayne (20 years, one day).

100 – Gordon won another milestone race, this time at Michigan International Speedway on June 10, 2001. Gordon would go on to win his fourth series championship that season.

150 – Jimmie Johnson captured victory on March 11, 2007 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Later that season, Johnson would win his second-consecutive championship.

196 – On April 17, 2011, Jimmie Johnson edged Clint Bowyer to the finish line by a miniscule .002 seconds, matching the closest margin of victory in series history.

198 – In a race delayed two days because of inclement weather, Gordon captured historic win No. 85 on Sept. 6, 2011 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to move into third on the all-time series wins list.

Below lists the number of wins per driver, crew chief and track for Hendrick Motorsports.

HMS Wins By Driver:

Jeff Gordon 85

Jimmie Johnson 56

Terry Labonte 12

Darrell Waltrip 9

Tim Richmond 9

Geoff Bodine 7

Mark Martin 5

Ken Schrader 4

Kyle Busch 4

Ricky Rudd 4

Brian Vickers 1

Casey Mears 1

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1

Jerry Nadeau 1

Joe Nemechek 1

HMS Wins By Crew Chief

Chad Knaus 54

Ray Evernham 47

Robbie Loomis 23

Alan Gustafson 12

Harry Hyde 11

Gary DeHart 10

Steve Letarte 10

Jeff Hammond 9

Waddell Wilson 4

Darian Grubb 3

Richard Broome 3

Andy Graves 2

Brian Whitesell 2

Dennis Connor 2

Gary Nelson 2

Jim Long 1

Lance McGrew 1

Peter Sospenzo 1

Randy Dorton 1

Tony Eury Jr. 1

Tony Furr 1

HMS Wins By Track

Martinsville 18

Charlotte 16

Darlington 14

Dover 13

Pocono 12

Atlanta 11

Talladega 11

Daytona 10

Richmond 10

Auto Club 9

Bristol 9

Phoenix 9

New Hampshire 8

Indianapolis 7

Watkins Glen 6

Infineon 6

Las Vegas 5

Michigan 5

Kansas 4

North Wilkesboro 4

Rockingham 4

Riverside 3

Texas 3

Chicago 2

Nashville Fairgrounds 1

Hendrick Motorsports By The Numbers

6 – Different Hendrick car numbers with wins. The list: No. 24, 85 wins; No. 48, 56 wins; No. 5, 32 wins; No. 25, 17 wins; No. 17, nine wins; No. 88, one win.

8 – Number of seasons Hendrick won double-digit races, with the most coming in 2007 (18).

8 – Number of drivers who scored their first win with Hendrick Motorsports: Geoff Bodine, Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, Jerry Nadeau, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Casey Mears.

15 – Number of different drivers who have won with Hendrick.

18 – Wins at Martinsville Speedway, Hendrick’s most prolific track.

20 – Age in years of the youngest Hendrick Motorsports winner: Kyle Busch, who won on Sept. 4, 2005 at Auto Club Speedway.

21 – Number of different crew chiefs who have won with Hendrick Motorsports.

25 – Number of different tracks at which Hendrick has won.

34 – Number of wins from the pole by Hendrick Motorsports.

37 – Starting position of Jimmie Johnson in the 2003 Coca-Cola 600, the deepest in the field a Hendrick winner has started.

50 – Age in years of the oldest Hendrick Motorsports winner: Mark Martin, who won on Sept. 20, 2009 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

150 – A Hendrick driver has scored perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 twice, both by Jimmie Johnson. The first came at Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 31, 2008; the second at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2009.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, May 14 2012
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