Hendrick plans to win all-time Cup Series record in Charlotte
CONCORD, North Carolina (AP) – Those who have worked with Hendrick Motorsports in recent years know all about the record.
It is impossible not to do this.
The owner of the car, Rick Hendrick, made it clear from his employees how much he wanted to outdo Petty Enterprises for the most Cup Series wins in NASCAR history. That long-term goal can become a reality on Sunday when Hendrick launches into the No.269 Coca-Cola 600 victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’ve had 268 circled for so long, I don’t even know what 269 will look like yet,” said Chad Knaus, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re really excited to be here, close to being able to get it. The 600 would be a great time for us to have it here in the backyard of Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick’s quest for history got off to a strong start on Saturday when Kyle Larson won pole, while teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron qualified third and fourth respectively. Hendrick’s other driver, Alex Bowman, will start seventh.
All four Hendrick drivers have already won this year, including Elliott’s rain-cut victory last week at the Circuit of the Americas.
“This is an important thing for Mr. Hendrick and he has made it very evident over the past two years,” said Elliott. “When your boss cares so much about something, we all care just as much and we want to get it done for him.”
Hendrick said last week, “The respect and admiration I have for Richard and Kyle (Petty), this whole family, it’s a big deal for me to just be mentioned with him.”
Knaus said he looks forward to celebrating with his boss – whenever the next victory comes.
“I’m a huge fan of Rick Hendrick,” Knaus said. “He’s been a measure for me since I was 21 and has really helped me throughout my career. I’m just happy to be a part of it. I can’t wait to give him a big hug after receiving him and we can go and hopefully get more.
To reach the winner’s circle, Hendrick will have to beat Martin Truex Jr., who has won the Coca-Cola 600 three times.
“This place here, we’ve found things that work for us and we’ve been able to ride this horse for five, six years now,” Truex said. “It’s getting harder and harder, the track is getting harder and harder and the teams are all getting closer when it comes to the set-up and what everyone knows about these cars these days. Things really came together in a smaller box. It’ll be hard.
With 11 different winners in 14 races this season, there are only five spots available for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Four of them will come via points or a win, with a place reserved for the points leader, currently Denny Hamlin. Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are winless this season, but are said to be the top two drivers in points at the moment.
Harvick has been very successful at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with three wins, nine top five and 19 top 10 in 38 career starts. He finished fifth in the Coca-Cola 600 last season.
Elliott’s cousin, Trey Poole, will serve as his lookout on Sunday.
Elliott’s regular watcher Edward James D’Hondt was suspended earlier this week by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports after he was arrested in Catawba County and charged with battery of an unborn child and assaulting a woman.
“He’s been a part of our team for a long time,” Elliott said of Poole. “… He’s been watching this stuff forever, so he knows how it works.” He knows what is important and what is not.
THE LONGEST RACE
The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the year, which requires additional preparation, according to Byron.
“Eating and hydrating is a bit different because throughout the race you need more fluids, and you also need to eat at some point during the race; whether it’s like chewing energy or stuff like that, ”said Byron, who grew up in Charlotte.
600 MILES OF REMEMBRANCE
All cars in the field on Sunday will have the name of a deceased soldier on the windshield as part of the “600 Miles of Remembrance.” It’s a tradition that began in 2015 and has been featured in every Coca-Cola 600 since as part of the Memorial Day celebration.
“To understand the story a little more throughout the weekend with the family is really special from our perspective,” Hamlin said. “Really awesome with all that NASCAR Salutes has done to pay tribute on the windshields and I hope we can take ours to the winning streak.”
Larson is the favorite to win Charlotte at 4-1. Elliott is rated 11-2 while Truex is 6-1 and Kyle Busch 7-1. … Brad Keselowski is the defending race champion and is looking to become the seventh driver to return back to back to Charlotte. … The Coca-Cola 600 is the only Cup Series race of the season to be divided into four stages of 100 laps each. … 2019 Carolina Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey will be the honorary racing driver. … Ticket restrictions have been lifted for the race and COVID-19 vaccinations are not required.
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