The short track of Martinsville Speedway has been around since 1947, and no one has matched the success at the track by Mr. H. Rick Hendrick has so much history at the track that I’m mixing it up for this throwback Thursday, focusing not on one race, but one team.
Since 1984 Hendrick Motorsports has 19 wins at the paperclip, more than any other track. Their first win came at the track, and saved the organization.
Geoff Bodine, racing for then “All-Star Racing” won Rick’s first race in 1984, a race that Rick was thinking of making his last, having been unsuccessful. That win motivated him to continue and Bodine went on to win 3 times that season and finish 9th in points. Two years later Hendrick changed the sport by expanding to a two car team and was rewarded again at Martinsville with a milestone 25th team win, this time by Darrell Waltrip in 1989.
Hendrick Motorsports almost earned another milestone win at Martinsville in 2012, searching for win #200 teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had dominated the race and were running 1-2 when a caution and infamous restart featuring Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman ruined the celebration.
Much of Hendrick’s success at the track have come from the same place as most of his success in every other area of the sport, from behind the wheel of the 24 and 48. Both Gordon and Johnson have 7 wins, and multiple 1-2 finishes and battles over the past decade and at one point winning 10 of 13 races from 2003-2009.
Hoping to make the next big impact on the sport, Martinsville this weekend will be host to the NASCAR Truck Series debut of young Chase Elliot, son of one of the sport’s most popular drivers ever Bill Elliot. Chase has been signed by Hendrick Motorsports as a development driver in the K&N series. At age 17 Chase will be driving the #94 Aaron’s/Hendrick Cars Chevy Silverado.
Unfortunately, not all of Hendrick’s Martinsville memories are of happiness. During the 2004 season a plane carrying 10 family and crew members crashed on the way to the fall event. No one on the plane survived. The race was won by Johnson, but there was no celebration. Ever since the accident all Hendrick win victory lane “hat dances” have featured one picture with the sponsor hat backwards, a tribute to Rick’s son Ricky who was on the plane.
Looking ahead to this week’s race you have to expect all of Hendrick’s drivers to perform well, with Gordon and Johnson likely leading the pack. Recent years has had Denny Hamlin taken away Hendrick’s dominance, but with his back injury will not be racing.
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