The NASCAR Cup Series has gotten off to one of its best starts in recent years thanks to a makeover of the old traditional schedule and the relaxing of sanctions imposed because of COVID-19.
It took this weekend at Charlotte for the sport to fully return to its old race day feel as the sight of crowded grandstands and parking lots added back much of the excitement that had been lacking.
Rick Hendrick also helped in returning the old feel back to race day as his Hendrick Motorsports dominated the race from the drop of the green flag to the checkered flag.
Kyle Larson in his first year of driving for HMS sat on the pole and never looked back as he captured the first three stages and the checkered flag by leading 327 of the 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600.
Larson’s win on Sunday night was the eighth of his career and the second of the season further solidifying his spot in the Playoffs. He was followed across the finish line by his HMS teammates Chase Elliott in second, William Byron in fourth and Alex Bowman in fifth, only Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch was able to break Hendrick’s strangle hold on the top-4 by finishing third.
The finishing order of the race has become somewhat of a habit of late as it was the third consecutive race that HMS drivers have finished 1-2. While Larson was celebrating his win in what is considered one of the crown jewels on the schedule, the night belonged to his owner.
The win was the 269th for Hendrick which broke the tie he was in with Petty Enterprises for the most wins by an organization in the history of the sport. Making the win even more sentimental to Hendrick is that the number 5 on the side of Larson’s car that sat in victory lane was the number on side of Geoff Bodine’s car at Martinsville in April of 1984 that took his first checkered flag in the series.
HMS has had twenty drivers add to the 269 win total with all four of its present drivers being included on that list.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson stand out among the list of winning drivers for the organization as Gordon contributed 93 wins and Johnson added 83. Gordon’s total puts him third on the all-time win list and Johnson is tied with Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth.
Hendrick and Petty as you would expect dominate the list of most team owner championships in the Series as both went through periods where they dominated not only in wins but also championships. Hendrick sits on top of the list with 13 compared to Petty’s 10.
Hendrick’s total is led by Johnson’s seven followed by Gordon’s four with Terry Labonte and last season’s champion Chase Elliott with one each. There is no reason not to think that the remainder of the 2021 season that Hendrick will not add to his win total and possibly add to his number of championships. Larson and Bowman lead the four-driver stable with two wins and are in second and third place in the points standings with Elliott in fourth.
Bowman sits in twelfth in the standings but is one of three drivers that are in double digits on the all-important Playoff Points list that transfers with a driver to the Championship portion of the schedule.
Larson’s sweep of all four stages on Sunday at Charlotte puts him on top of the Playoff Points with 19 followed by Martin Truex Jr. with 18 and Bowman with 10.
It’s a good time to be Rick Hendrick as he has not only assembled one of the most talented stable of drivers in the sport but maybe more importantly one of the if not the youngest driver lineup in the sport.