May 23, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Rick Hendrick. Congratulations on another Hendrick Motorsports win today with Chase Elliott. Today's 268th win, tying the Petty record. Why don't you give us a couple thoughts before we go into questions.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I really don't know what to say other than Richard Petty and that organization have been the backbone of the sport. Richard has done so much. It's quite an honor to even be in the same series with him.
Never thought we'd get here. But real proud of the guys. They worked really hard. That's been something we've had in our sights. Really happy for Chevrolet with 800 wins.
It's just been a great day. It's been a great ride. The season has been so good to us. Everybody's won a race now. We got all four locked in to the Playoffs. Man, I don't know. It would sure be nice to win another one in Charlotte. That would be the place to really break the record.
THE MODERATOR: Also worth noting that Hendrick Motorsports has a unique kind of memory or memorabilia coming from today's race with the door of the history-making race car with Chase's car will be signed by Chase and the winning team, Rick, and Richard Petty, then will be auctioned off for Victory Junction. A really neat way to commemorate this victory. Tell us a little bit about what that means to be able to do that, in honor of Richard Petty, as well.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Victory Junction was a dream. Kyle and Richard wanted to honor Adam. We've been involved with that program from the beginning. They helped so many kids. Hats off to them for what they've done for so many children. So much of the NASCAR community has supported Victory Junction. I'm just honored that we can take the door off of that car and auction it off for Victory Junction.
I couldn't be any happier. That's going to be a real treat for me. Hope we raise a lot of money.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to questions.
Q. As a car owner, watching your guys race in this rain today, what was your takeaway from racing in the rain, considering the carnage that took place during the second stage?
RICK HENDRICK: When you win a race, you're pretty excited no matter how you got there. For the track and the fans, I wish it could have been dry because I think you saw the guys put on a heck of a show in the rain and in the dry. That's a really neat track. So many fans there.
I thought the guys did a heck of a job. I don't know how they ran those cars those speeds in the rain and the wet. Hydroplaning. It takes a lot of guts to drive down a corner or down the straightaway at 140 miles an hour and hope that you don't hydroplane when you hit the brakes.
It was a tremendous effort by the drivers. I think you see the skill set that all of the NASCAR drivers have. Man, those guys were going at it every lap. Just hats off to the drivers, all of 'em. To do what they did in those kind of conditions, I mean, the rain and hydroplane is one thing, but when you can't see, I don't know. I don't understand how we didn't have more problems than we did. There were a couple of situations there with the 19, it was a pretty serious hit. I'm just glad everybody's okay.
Q. Calling in from a yacht or something?
RICK HENDRICK: Calling from home. I got all kinds of grandkids, my two granddaughters and a grandson graduating. One is going, Kate is going to Davidson. I've been wearing a Davidson hat all day. I think I'll put that on.
Q. What does this mean to you? Could you talk about what are some of the highlights of all these wins?
RICK HENDRICK: When I look back at the pictures of the wins, it brings back so many memories. I think all the time about hadn't won Martinsville wouldn't be here. So many things happened along the way. So many really good drivers that everybody from Geoff Bodine winning the first race, Tim Richmond, Terry winning a championship, Jeff Gordon, what he's meant to us. Of course, Jimmie Johnson, with all his wins. Everybody along the way. Now with these four young guys, and adding Kyle Larson, it's been a big boost to our company.
The future looks bright. I never thought I'd be here. Never thought we'd win this many races. I'm just proud of the people. I think Chase said it: there's 600-plus folks over there that work hard every day. They're working together, they're sharing information. Kyle Petty said this the other day: we're like a big family, just like the Petty Enterprises were and are. It's good to see these young guys. Cliff Daniels and all of the guys there that are crew chiefs that grew up in the company. Chad Knaus, Jeff Andrews, everybody. Alan Gustafson, to win his first championship. Big deal.
I think they're all fired up. We've got a lot of momentum now. We know it's going to be hard to keep this streak going. I've been through some good times, some bad times, at the top of the mountain, then couldn't hit our butt. Worked hard, kept going.
I think the test of a real company is when you get in those lows, you don't point fingers and you don't jump ship; you just work. You can't stop people that are working together with good communication, just willing to share. I think it's the best it's ever been for us, to have a balance of four cars that are running that well. We usually had one or two. Jeff's dominating, Jimmie's dominating. Now the sport is so competitive. But to have four that can show up and win any weekend, that's a testament to the effort that all those people back in the shop are putting into this program.
Q. It's Chevrolet's 800th victory today. What does it mean to you that you hit your milestone today and also hit a milestone for Chevy?
RICK HENDRICK: I was talking to Mark Reuss the other day. I said, We're going to get you your 800th win and we're going to tie Richard Petty. Man, I'm so proud for Chevrolet. I've never raced anything else but Chevrolet. It's just been a great ride. 800 wins. I mean, that's hard to believe by any manufacturer.
The support from Chevrolet has been awesome all these years. They've always been there. I appreciate that a bunch. You stick with a manufacturer, you go through times where you think your car is not as good, then you hit a streak and you get it all figured out. NASCAR has done a great job to make the cars equal. Next year, man, I don't know, it's going to be a real show when everybody is pretty much the same.
The drivers, you see the drivers out here today that are just doing some phenomenal things. There are a lot of good road races out there. I'm really impressed with how many of the NASCAR drivers now throughout the field are good road racers.
I guess I'm rambling on you guys. But it hasn't sunk in yet really. You didn't know what was going to happen there at the end of the race. I could not be more proud to have tied Richard and to have Chevrolet to win that 800th race. Means a lot to me.
Again, Richard Petty was going to be my first driver. I thought we had a deal. It didn't come together. To be able to, again, the respect and admiration I have for him and Kyle, that whole family, it's a big deal for me to be just mentioned with him.
Super excited about that auction for the door. I hope it brings a lot of money. But really, the whole deal's kind of caught me off guard today because of the rain, not knowing what was going to happen, cars slipping and sliding. But our cars ran good. I hate it that William didn't get to the top 10. But I'm surprised he finished the race with the damage he had.
It's a great day.
THE MODERATOR: Hendrick Motorsports has won Chevy's 400th, 500th, 600th, 700th, and 800th races. Another milestone there to have all those victories.
We'll continue with questions.
Q. You mentioned about all four teams having wins now, the way they're running. How good does it feel that you have four teams that do look like legitimate contenders?
RICK HENDRICK: It feels so great because you have people sponsoring cars, one guy is running really good, I'll get a text, Why are you giving this guy the best motor? Why are you giving this guy the best car? That's a situation that people have a hard time believing that the equipment is the same.
So now to be able to have all of our sponsors happy that everyone's winning, everyone's capable of winning the races. It feels good. It feels great because it just levels out the whole organization from the standpoint of there's not one guy falling behind. They're all capable of winning every week. That's what you want. If you can just be there, be in the mix, be capable of running up front, winning races, that's as good as it gets for an organization.
Q. You mentioned the low points. I think it was Jeff Andrews who said that he felt like last summer was really the low point and turning point for the company. Do you remember that time? He specifically mentioned having to look you and Chevrolet in the eye.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, well, we had a meeting. We had all the COVID deal going on where you're going to work in the shop, who is going to do what. We were just fractured.
When we had a big get-together, we said, Hey, we got to get after this, all hands on deck. The season turned. Chase was able to win the last two, win the championship. The momentum has carried over into this year.
So we're excited. It's always hard to win a championship because you don't know what can happen in that last race. But if you can be there and you can be in part of it, I think we got the best shot we've ever had to have four cars legitimate winners that could go into that Final Four.
Q. Can you think of a win or two that you feel epitomizes why your organization was able to tie the record?
RICK HENDRICK: Man, I tell you, there's so many wins. When you see the organization come together, I guess the 1-2-3 in '97 at Daytona. It takes every one of those wins, whether it was Joe Nemechek in Richmond or whoever to get to the number we got to now. I guess Jimmie winning the championship, tying Earnhardt and Petty for seven. We had to win the last race there at Homestead. That was an unbelievable moment for us to win the championship in the last race. The same way it was to win it in Phoenix with Chase.
Man, there's just so many. All of them are special. I can't pick any one that's probably any more special than 10 other ones.
Q. As far as today, was there any time where you felt like NASCAR should have stopped the race earlier or were you okay with their decisions?
RICK HENDRICK: I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. Is it going to rain harder? Is it going to slack up? Do you stop? Do you throw a caution? Hindsight, you can say when the cars start hydroplaning, you can't see, you need to stop.
I think they did the best they can to keep it safe for the drivers. Once you have some of these accidents like we had, when you can't see and you're running those speeds, things are going to happen.
It's hard to say what we should have done. I think they made the best decisions they could. I think there at the end, though, not just because we won the race, because I think Kyle Larson would have won if Chase had to pit.
It's a hard call. I think they do a great job.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Kyle Larson. Kyle is also available for questions.
Q. Mr. H, you mentioned getting a win at the Coke 600 next weekend would really kind of put a cherry on top of this. Why would that race be so monumental to get a top finish next weekend?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, that's our home track. That track means a lot to us. Our shops are about a mile away. Everybody would be able to celebrate together. So that would be awesome because that is our home.
I know Kyle, I see him there, Kyle needs to do it (smiling).
Q. Kyle, how did you feel like the visibility was during that race even at the beginning? Did you feel like it was unsafe?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, there's honestly nothing safe about being a race car driver. Yeah, I mean, it was at moments worse than other restarts. NASCAR did a good job with the Air Titans. That definitely helped it. You could definitely see a little bit after that for the restarts.
Honestly just the restarts were bad for me. Once you get back around the next time, get better, get better each lap. There at the end, yeah, it was starting to rain pretty hard. You were having to deal with hydroplaning, trying to go 170-something miles an hour. It was getting pretty crazy.
There's also sports car drivers, road racers that do this for a living. Yeah, I mean, I don't follow it enough to know if our conditions were different than theirs or what. I mean, that's kind of what you have to expect I think from racing in the rain also.
Q. You talked about all the changes, what have you. What kind of a difference has Chad Knaus made being in the role that he's in now as opposed to just concentrating on one team?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think you see the evidence with all four cars running like they are. Chad has made some adjustments. All the crew chiefs have worked together. They've come up with a plan of who works on all the cars, one group takes care of the setups. All the things that go on between the crew chiefs and back in the shop.
Chad is a very capable crew chief, if you look at all the championships he's won. He's a perfectionist. With a perfectionist, the cars are going to be right. We've got, again, when you look at the chemistry, just the communication. Chemistry, communication. It's the best I think it's ever been.
Yeah, he's added a lot.
Q. Kyle, what kind of interaction have you had with Chad since coming to Hendrick Motorsports?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, just really the competition meetings, then usually if we have a good run, he'll let me know that I'm doing a great job. I've let him know, too, that I respect his opinion. Even if I'm not doing a good job, or he sees things that I can maybe do to be better, I've let him know I want to be criticized.
I think we all have a lot of respect for him. He's obviously accomplished a bunch. I'm thankful to be able to work with him and have him make all of our teams better now.
Mr. H has put together an amazing group of people that have been there for a very long time. Us drivers are just getting to be lucky to work with them and drive their race cars.
Q. Kyle, certainly there are a lot more road course races coming up this season. We may not see these type of conditions for a long time or could see them soon. What needs to be learned from today's experience moving forward to try to prevent some of the issues today?
KYLE LARSON: I don't really know. I don't really have an answer yet. I haven't gotten to watch replays, see things like that.
It was fun, really from my seat. They've raced in the rain, too. Like Montreal and stuff before. I can't really answer that.
Q. Rick, it's not like it's been a bad season for Chase, but not having a win yet, his other teammates are winning, did you have to talk to him, to kind of just see where his mind was to help him, or has he kind of grown beyond some of that fatherly advice?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, no, I don't think any driver ever does. Even Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon. You get in a little bit of a funk when you don't win and guys around you are winning.
I've told him, we talked last week, just keep your chin up, you got a great shot next week. He's matured a ton. But everybody, Alan, all the crew chiefs, when they've had a bad day or a bad start or a couple of bad races, that's when they need the coaching. Not so much coaching, but just saying, Hey, man, you're the same guys that won the championship. Just show up, do your deal, and it will be good.
I think surely when everybody else had won there but him, he was concerned. But we all know his talent, Alan, the cars. Just a matter of time. It's super competitive. You look at the wins by so many different teams, so many different drivers this year, it's hard to win.
He's matured a ton. Pressure doesn't bother Chase. He is cool like his dad. We went to Phoenix last year for the final race in the championship. I was nervous as could be. Chase was just calm as a cucumber. He's really, really got a very mature package the way he handles himself, the way he goes about racing.
He's really in a good spot. I'm super excited for him to get this win. I think there's more to come.
Q. Last week you had the 1-2-3-4 finish, this week you have a 1-2 finish. Do you think this is one of the best times for the team in its history?
RICK HENDRICK: I do. We've won 17 races in a year, total dominance by a couple of cars I think with Jeff Gordon. But to have all four cars running, that 1-2-3-4 was an amazing feat for our company. Then to come back and run first and second today.
Yeah, I think on par all cars capable of winning, it's hard to do. It's really hard to do because I've been at this for a long, long time. I've done multiple cars for a lot of years.
I was told when I went to two cars I'd never win a championship running two cars. When you have four and you try to tell every sponsor you got the same stuff as the other guy, when they're all clicking, it makes life a lot easier and we gain a lot of momentum. In the engine, with the engine shop, the chassis shop, everybody gets that big momentum, that Big Mo attitude. The drivers do, crew chiefs do.
We'll enjoy it while we can. This is a tough sport to stay there, so... But, yeah, it's the best we've seen, best I remember by far.
Q. Kyle, do you like the consistency of second-place finishes or a win would be more desirable?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously we'd like to be winning. I feel like we did everything we could last week to win. Came up one spot short. Same thing this week. We put ourselves, had the right strategy to win. Had the race gone green at the end of the race, Chase was going to have to pit for fuel. We did everything we could again and just came up one spot short.
We've been there every weekend. We've been challenging. You got to be happy with that. Like I said, we want the wins, but if you can't win, second's better than third.
Q. Kyle, were you okay with NASCAR's decision to call the race?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it was getting pretty bad. Like three laps in a row I was starting to hydroplane down the back stretch. Selfishly I'd like to have kept going just knowing that he was going to have to pit and I would have been handed the lead and the win.
But they made the right call. It was getting bad. They already had some pretty big wrecks and stuff throughout the race. I'm not at all upset with the call that was made to make the race official and end it.
Q. What does it mean as a team to have all four cars locked into the chase so early in the season knowing you can focus on preparation towards the championship?
RICK HENDRICK: It feels great to have the wins because you can try some things before the Playoffs. Right now we want to win every race we can. The momentum of winning, that carries into the chase. We don't want to just try too many different things. I'm sure we'll try more when we get to the Playoffs.
We're sitting in a good spot. Again, we got to keep doing what we're doing. You got to have the momentum when you get in the Playoffs because you got to make all the rounds. As it gets closer, I think we'll probably try some stuff. The deal is to win and be competitive every week if you want to win the championship.
Q. Kyle, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your team, where do you feel those are right now?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. We have a lot of strengths. I don't really know. There's areas I'm sure that we need to be better, but nothing really stands out to me right now. I think track to track really. Like today, I mean, my restarts were horrible. That's an area where if we were to be racing in the rain again, I would need to be way more aggressive.
But, yeah, we've been doing a great job. I feel like Cliff has been making great calls. Our pit crew has been really strong all year long. I feel like I've been doing a good job behind the wheel. Knock on wood, I haven't had any big mistakes here in the last couple months that I can think of where I did kind of early in the year, where I feel like I cost myself some good finishes.
No, it's been good. We just look to carry forward this momentum and try and put together a good race each week.
THE MODERATOR: For Mr. H and Kyle, thank you both for joining us. Congratulations again on all of the accomplishments for Hendrick Motorsports. We wish you guys the best of luck next weekend in Charlotte.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you. Congrats, Rick.
RICK HENDRICK: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports