With Kyle Larson’s win in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, the Hendrick Motorsports engine department has now recorded its milestone 500th win.
Larson started the race 18th in the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and wasted no time moving up through the field. He was in the top 10 by lap 27 and got to the top five by lap 70. The 31-year-old driver finished the opening 115-lap stage in third and came in second in stage two. Early in the final stage, he fell back to fifth after he hit the wall and got hung in neutral. He regained his momentum following a pit stop that cycled him out in fourth. As the caution came out on lap 311, Larson was starting to head towards pit road but alertly stayed out on track.
On the ensuing pit stop under yellow, the No. 5 pit crew got Larson the lead off of pit road with a 10.11-second stop. That stop was by the five-man crew of Blaine Anderson (front-tire changer), R.J. Barnette (tie carrier), Brandon Harder (fueler), Brandon Johnson (jackman) and Calvin Teague (rear-tire changer). From there, he led the final 55 laps and held off challenges from Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher on multiple restarts to earn the victory.
“Just proud of the team, proud of (team owner) Rick Hendrick, (vice chairman) Jeff Gordon, (team president) Jeff Andrews, (vice president of competition) Chad Knaus and everybody at the Hendrick (Motorsports) engine shop,” Larson said after his win in the Southern 500 at Darlington. “500 wins, that’s incredible. Congratulations to each and every one of you at the shop for all your hard work.”
The bulk of the NASCAR national series wins for the engine shop have come in the NASCAR Cup Series. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports’ teams (in all three series) are responsible for 309 of the engine wins.
Hendrick Motorsports engine wins by the numbers:
NASCAR Cup Series: 356 wins
NASCAR Xfinity Series: 122 wins
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series: 22 wins
Win No. 1: Geoff Bodine (in the No. 5 car) at Martinsville Speedway on April 29, 1984
Win No. 100: Jimmie Johnson (in the No. 48) at Dover Motor Speedway on June 2, 2002
Win No. 200: Mark Martin (in the No. 5) at Phoenix Raceway on April 18, 2009
Win No. 300: Chase Elliott (in the No. 9 for JR Motorsports-Xfinity Series) at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014
Win No. 400: Kyle Larson (in the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing-Xfinity Series) at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2018
Win No. 500: Kyle Larson (in the No. 5) at Darlington on Sept. 3, 2023
“When you look back, there’s so many monumental wins that are in that number,” Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com. “So many different drivers and so many different race series. I think it’s a testament of perseverance. A testament of hard work and dedication to achieve something like that. The good news is that (engine) group is nowhere near slowing down. There’s a lot of wins in their future.”
Larry Zentmeyer has worked in the engine shop at Hendrick Motorsports for 35 years. He has been part of the company for all but 15 of its 299 Cup Series points-paying wins and he summed up the milestone very succinctly.
“You never think about that stuff (while working),” Zentmeyer said. “A lot of things have to go right. To think that something has gone right 500 times, that’s pretty unbelievable.”
Currently, the engine shop supplies Chevrolet engines to Hendrick Motorsports, JTG Daugherty Racing and Spire Motorsports in the Cup Series as well as JR Motorsports, DGM Racing and its own partial schedule efforts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In the past, the engine department also provided engines for a number of programs including: Darrell Waltrip’s Cup Series operation, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing – when the latter two raced Chevrolets.
The engine shop is the backbone of Hendrick Motorsports’ campus. That was very evident to Gordon, a NASCAR Hall of Famer and the team vice chairman, before he even drove his first race car for the organization en route to become a four-time Cup Series champion.
“It’s really special because when I came to Hendrick Motorsports, the thing that was evident to me right away, but especially after I drove my first Hendrick Motorsports car, was the engine shop,” Gordon told HendrickMotorsports.com. “A lot of things in this company centered around the engine shop. The horsepower, the reliability and the pride that goes into that area of Hendrick Motorsports. I was right away at an advantage against my competitors when I was able to step on the throttle pedal and feel that kind of power.
“… I always loved hearing when the engine shop would come to me and say, ‘Oh, we got you a couple more horsepower this time. I think you’re going to like this.’ It made my life and my job a lot easier. They always put a big smile on my face for that.”
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