- Geoffrey Bodine, a star in Modified racing, had hooked on with Hendrick’s upstart Cup team, and he and crew chief Harry Hyde showed the promise of the partnership by winning April 29, 1984, at Martinsville.
- It was Hendrick Motorsports’ (the team name then was All-Star Racing) first Cup victory, and it kept the team afloat.
- Almost 300 more victories would follow.
Rick Hendrick, the team owner who would revolutionize NASCAR and dominate its top series, almost left the sport only laps into his stock car racing story.
Hendrick jumped into NASCAR in 1984 with five employees, a crafty crew chief in veteran Harry Hyde and a small pocketful of sponsor money. He remembers arriving in Daytona Beach for that season’s Daytona 500, looking around the garage area at the established teams and wondering what the heck he was doing among them.
The team struggled along until April as Hendrick counted pennies and figured his departure was weeks away if something big didn’t happen.
Geoffrey Bodine, a star in Modified racing, had hooked on with Hendrick’s upstart Cup team, and he and Hyde showed the promise of the partnership by winning April 29 at Martinsville, a track both knew well. It was Hendrick Motorsports’ (the team name then was All-Star Racing) first Cup victory, and it kept the team afloat. Almost 300 more victories would follow.
Ironically, Hendrick missed the Martinsville win. He was attending a church retreat with his wife, Linda. On the way home that night, they stopped by Bodine’s home in Greensboro, N.C. and wrapped it in celebratory toilet paper.
That was the quite ordinary beginning of an extraordinary NASCAR story.
Bodine won twice more than season as the team stabilized, and sponsor money became easier to obtain. In 1986, Bodine scored two more wins, and upstart driver Tim Richmond joined the team to notch seven more victories for Hendrick.
Hendrick, who was building an empire of automobile dealerships along with a first-class racing organization, chose the multi-car approach, putting drivers and cars in the same shop and having them share information and planning. That concept had been shunned by many over the years; Hendrick made it work to near-perfection.
In 1995, Jeff Gordon, signed by Hendrick after the owner had seen the driver expertly handle a Busch Series car at Atlanta Motor Speedway, gave Hendrick his first Cup championship.
As Hendrick stacked wins and championships, the Hendrick motorsports “campus” near Charlotte Motor Speedway expanded by leaps and bounds, and the organization became one of the most respected and innovative in all of motorsports. In 2021, Hendrick became the winningest car owner in Cup history.
The Hendrick Motorsports employee list expanded from five to 500 along the way. Some of the best drivers in NASCAR history—Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Bodine and Richmond, among others—would drive Hendrick cars over the years.