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May 30, 2021

Hendrick Motorsports passes Petty Enterprises in all-time wins for team owners

Hendrick Motorsports passed Petty Enterprises on NASCAR’s all-time wins list for team owners Sunday night, with Kyle Larson breaking the tie by providing the organization’s 269th Cup Series victory, a Coca-Cola 600 triumph at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Rick Hendrick, 71, celebrated at the 1.5-mile track located nearly the same distance away from his team’s sprawling campus, a hometown venue where his team has now won 21 times. The Charlotte-based automotive mogul and businessman took the top spot from the Pettys, one of the first families of NASCAR who formed one of stock-car racing’s earliest powerhouses.

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“I am proud to congratulate Rick Hendrick and all of Hendrick Motorsports on breaking the all-time wins record for a NASCAR Cup Series race team, long held by the legendary Petty Enterprises team,” said Jim France, NASCAR’s chairman and CEO. “With nearly 40 years of excellence, Hendrick Motorsports has set the gold standard for race team success. Rick Hendrick has already cemented his legacy as a NASCAR Hall of Famer, and now adds another incredible accomplishment to an exemplary NASCAR career.”

Ties between the two organizations still bind them together. Hendrick Motorsports launched as All-Star Racing in 1984, the same year Richard Petty scored the last of his record 200 wins. Hendrick was enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017, preceded by four inductees who made up the core of Petty Enterprises — father-son drivers Lee (2011) and Richard Petty (2010), crew chief Dale Inman (2012) and engine builder Maurice Petty (2014).

“I have tremendous respect for the Petty family and what they’ve accomplished,” Hendrick said. “Someone will probably break my record, so it’s just — records are made to be broken.

Both teams also share common ground in the way their win totals accumulated, with two drivers each amassing the primary share of their victories. Patriarch Lee Petty netted all 54 of his Cup Series wins for the family-owned team, and Richard Petty contributed all but four of his 200 wins overall. Twenty drivers — including all four on Hendrick’s current roster — have added to Hendrick Motorsports’ record tally, but two standouts lead the way. Jeff Gordon’s 93 wins rank third on NASCAR’s all-time list, and Jimmie Johnson’s 83 wins are tied with the legendary Cale Yarborough for sixth.

When Hendrick announced the creation of his new racing team in January 1984, he expressed confidence that All-Star Racing would win “three or four races and finish high in the Winston Cup point race.” Doubters seized on the brazen prediction, even with Modified hotshot Geoff Bodine and veteran crew chief Harry Hyde forming the nucleus of the team. In a full-circle twist, Petty was the top candidate to be Hendrick’s first driver. “I thought we had a deal,” Hendrick said. “It didn’t come together.”

The group nearly ceased operations shortly after it started, but Bodine’s stirring and surprising breakthrough win at Martinsville Speedway that April kept the fledgling No. 5 team afloat. Two more wins followed that first year, fulfilling Hendrick’s vision and providing a foundation for the 266 wins that would come next.

“It feels good. I can’t believe we got 269,” Hendrick said. “It was kind of neat to — I want any one of them to win, but the first one was 5 and this one was the number 5. I just remember how close it was not to finish out the first year.”

Hendrick Motorsports had previously supplanted Petty Enterprises atop the list of most team owner championships in NASCAR’s top division. Hendrick holds a 13-10 lead in that category, with four series champions on its all-time roster — seven-time champ Johnson, four-time title winner Gordon and one-time title winners Terry Labonte and Chase Elliott.

Elliott, the defending Cup Series champ, is part of a talented young driver lineup that has rejuvenated Hendrick’s performance this season. Through 15 Cup Series races in 2021, all four drivers have won races, virtually clinching berths in the 16-driver postseason field.