Column: Hendrick Motorsports Drivers Vying To Achieve Milestone NASCAR Victory

Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Hendrick Motorsports’ next NASCAR Cup Series victory will be the organization’s 269th and will break a tie with Petty Enterprises for most all-time—a tie that has existed for one week, since reigning series champion Chase Elliott picked up the 268th win for HMS last Sunday at Circuit of The Americas.

Hendrick’s first opportunity for the record triumph comes Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Elliott is the most recent winner at the 1.5-mile intermediate track, having taken the checkered flag on May 28, 2020, four days after the running of the 2020 Coke 600.

With 93 and 83 victories, respectively, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have accounted for the lion’s share of Hendrick wins. With 12 triumphs, Elliott is tied for third on that list with two-time series champion Terry Labonte.

Kyle Larson, who joined the Hendrick roster this year, added one victory to the total in the fourth race of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet would like nothing better than to make his second win for the organization the record-breaker for car owner Rick Hendrick.

“I know it’s going to be special to Mr. Hendrick, because every time I talk to him, he brings it up,” Larson said. “Now that we’re really close to it, we can all taste it. One more win and he breaks it, and I hope I’m the guy that can do it.

“I’m happy that I’m one of the drivers that contributed to his record. He’s had a long career of success and a lot of great drivers, and it’s just an amazing accomplishment.”

Teammate William Byron, a Charlotte native, is equally ardent in his desire to achieve the milestone win in NASCAR’s longest race. Byron picked up his second career victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March. That victory started a streak of 11 straight to-10 finishes that ended last Sunday with an 11th-place run at COTA.

“It would mean a lot to be the driver who breaks the all-time Cup Series win record for Hendrick Motorsports, especially if it happened at Charlotte,” Byron said. “Not only is this race huge for me, being my hometown, but it’s really where I became a fan of Hendrick Motorsports.

“I used to watch Jeff and Jimmie be so successful at Charlotte. To then be able to get win No. 269 would be historic for everyone involved, but just a whole extra meaning at my hometown track. Charlotte is what gave me my love of racing and Hendrick Motorsports.”

Alex Bowman, one of two multiple winners in the series this year, is the fourth Hendrick driver trying to achieve the record, but all four will have to contend with defending race winner Brad Keselowski and three-time Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Truex claimed all three of his Charlotte victories after Harvick got his most recent in his 2014 championship season. In 2016, Truex set a new standard for domination, leading 588 of 600 miles—a NASCAR record for a Cup race—in winning the Coke 600 for the first time.

Note: Busch pole qualifying for the Coke 600 is scheduled for Saturday at 11:05 a.m. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, qualifying has been eliminated at most tracks this season, with starting order set by metrics.

Brandon Jones hopes to escape the bubble with strong NASCAR Xfinity Series run

In a feast-or-famine year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Brandon Jones finds himself squarely on the bubble where the series Playoffs are concerned.

Jones currently is 12th in the standings, the final Playoff-eligible position, 26 points ahead of another Brandon—Brandon Brown.

Driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Jones has posted five top-five results this season, including a runner-up finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a pair of thirds at Las Vegas and Darlington.

On the flip side, the 24-year-old from Atlanta has suffered five finishes of 33rd or worse—all DNFs for crashes, and most not of his own making.

Accordingly, Jones has put in concentrated work in preparation for Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The extra effort is justified. In seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Jones has two top 10s and an average finish of 14.9.

“I have spent a lot of time studying, practicing in the simulator, and looking at our notebook,” Jones said. “We will be able to have some track time with practice starting on Friday and qualifying Saturday morning before the race.

“I feel confident we will be well-prepared. Charlotte is a fun but challenging mile-and-a-half. We will be searching for grip and moving all over to establish our preferred line throughout the day. For fans, this makes a great race to watch.”

In the past, full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers have dominated this race, but Tyler Reddick is the only Cup regular entered in Saturday’s event. In 2019, Reddick won the race on the way to a second straight Xfinity Series title.