- Did you mean:
Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team, as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick , we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team. Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team. "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
Hendrick signs Byron to multi-year pact, earns XFINITY ride in '17
William Byron's NASCAR career accelerated again this week with the legendary Hendrick Motorsports team announcing Thursday it has secured a multi-year contract with the 18-year old driver, who will compete full-time in the XFINITY Series beginning with the 2017 season. The arrangement is in partnership with JR Motorsports, which will field Byron as an XFINITY Series regular. It is similar to the situation for young driver Chase Elliott , who won the 2014 XFINITY Series championship driving for the JRM team before moving up to the Sprint Cup Series ranks with Hendrick this season. "Being with Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports has always been a goal of mine," Byron said Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "I grew up a Jimmie Johnson fan, so it's really a dream come true to be part of the organization. It's really neat also that I grew up in Charlotte (North Carolina) and they're down the road in Concord. I've been to the shop a few times as a fan." Byron said he signed the deal on Tuesday, prior to Wednesday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway . Hendrick called Byron "a few weeks ago," according to the driver, to start the conversation. This is a huge nod to Byron's already head-turning NASCAR career. He has a series-best five wins in the Camping World Truck Series this season driving for reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch 's team and he leads the championship standings by a healthy 37 points over Daniel Hemric after Wednesday night's race at Bristol. All this while Byron is currently enrolled as a freshman at Liberty University. "William is a special person and a special talent," Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. "It's been impressive to watch him come up through the ranks and have success at every level. What he's already accomplished this season has been remarkable. "On top of all his ability, he's a terrific young man from a great family, and we think he has a very bright future with our organization." Byron won the 2015 NASCAR K&N East championship earning four victories and three pole positions leading more than 40 percent of all laps run in the series' 13 races. And Byron does have experience competing for the Hendrick and Earnhardt ownership group. He won two races driving a JR Motorsports late model in the 2014 and 2015 seasons -- his first times in a full-size stock car. "I owe so much to Dale Jr. and everyone at JRM for taking a chance on me in 2014," Byron said. "Looking back, I know none of this would've happened without that opportunity. I was there during Chase Elliott 's championship season and got to learn a lot. I know what they're capable of, and I'm going to work really hard for them." JR Motorsports currently fields cars for Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier in the XFINITY Series as well as a third car that is shared by multiple drivers and referred to as its "All-Star" car. There is no word yet whether the team will make the third car just for one driver or if Byron will take one of the other seats. "We are a three-car team, and we want to be three cars," JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "We've been holding hands with Elliott and looking at sponsorship opportunities for him and keeping that door open. He set the bar for our team this year, so we have a year to work it out and hopefully try to win the championship with him." Earnhardt Miller added that she hoped to have an announcement "toward the end of next week" on the team's full plans for next year. Both Hendrick and Byron will speak in a press conference Saturday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway to address this week's announcement. &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hendrick : Move to ink Byron about future, not Dale Jr.
RELATED: Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time BRISTOL, Tenn. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick said this week's signing of Camping World Truck Series phenom William Byron has nothing to do with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s recent battle with concussion-like symptoms, and he expects his driver to return to competition as soon as doctors will allow. "Dale looks great," Hendrick said Saturday night prior to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I had lunch with him and his road crew Wednesday. … We are taking extra effort with the doctors making sure he's going to be 100 percent. He's got a doctor's appointment next week. He's coming along great and he wants to get back in the car. "William has nothing to do with Dale at all. William has all to do with our future down the road, what's going to happen in 3-5 years from now? Nobody knows." Earnhardt has been sidelined since early July after being diagnosed with concussion like symptoms following the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway . In his absence, drivers Alex Bowman and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon have piloted the team's No. 88 Chevrolet. RELATED: Bowman to drive at Michigan -- not Gordon -- if Dale Jr. can't go Byron has won five times this season in the Truck Series while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He will compete full-time for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick , Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller, in the XFINITY Series beginning in 2017. Hendrick fields Sprint Cup entries for Earnhardt, six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott , son of former series champion Bill Elliott . Johnson and primary sponsor Lowe’s signed two-year contract extensions with Hendrick in September of 2015, meaning next season is his last under the current contract. "Jimmie plans to retire there; we plan for him to retire there," Hendrick said of Johnson, who has 77 career victories. "Beyond that, we're excited about (William) just like we were Chase. "If you don't get someone in the pipeline, when it's time for someone to retire then you don't have them. I'd rather bring someone like William along so that we know that we've got someone for the future in our company."
William Byron's new reality at Hendrick Motorsports starts sinking in
CONCORD, N.C. -- For William Byron, this trip to Hendrick Motorsports was different. As a fan of the organization with 11 Sprint Cup championships, Byron had visited the Concord, North Carolina, shop before. He peered through the windows at an organization he dreamed of driving for one day. Thursday, his multi-year contract in partnership with JR Motorsports was made official. Friday, he was back at the shop -- only this time wearing a black Hendrick polo shirt and a bright smile. "I've got a bunch of apparel and things I'm trying out, so I'm really excited about that," Byron said. "It's like a kid in a candy store. That's the cool part about it, but I also can't wait to get to know some of the guys and meet the crew chiefs." Team owner Rick Hendrick will give Byron a personal tour of the shop after this weekend's events at Bristol Motor Speedway . Hendrick came calling a few weeks ago, which Byron had no inkling would happen. Not when his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner, Kyle Busch Motorsports, also has Sprint Cup Series ties. "For Mr. Hendrick to put the deal together and to have the interest in bringing me along as a driver and not have any strings attached is just a really special opportunity," Byron said. "Not only was it a great fit meeting with them, but then when I heard what he had to say, what he was proposing, it's something that I just couldn't turn down." What was it like for an 18-year-old to meet the legendary car owner? "I was pretty nervous," Byron said with a laugh. "I was probably trembling a little bit. He just has such a good perspective on the sport and such good insight, so every minute that I got to listen and learn was really neat for me." There have been no talks or a timetable put in place for his future beyond 2017, when he will run in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in a JRM entry, Byron said. The immediate focus is the Camping World Truck Series championship. Byron leads the drivers points standings by 37 points after Bristol, on the strength of five wins. He also is locked into the series' inaugural Chase. "It's just one thing at a time," Byron said. "They want me to succeed at JR Motorsports and get to know the guys, get to know the culture, and that's the most important thing. But it's encouraging to know I have a future here, and that's really cool to me." The excitement of what's ahead will be hard for Byron to suppress. Chase Elliott set the bar with JR Motorsports in 2014 with an XFINITY Series championship, and Byron wants to try to match it. Teammates like Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne are at his disposal. Jeff Gordon is still around, and his was one of the coolest phone calls Byron said he received. And Jimmie Johnson is someone Byron grew up idolizing and at whose house he once trick-or-treated. "Once we got up there, all the dads that were carting around the candy were really amazed," Byron said. "They didn't think he was going to open the door. It was really neat and something I'll always remember." As will this week, which Byron could only describe as a whirlwind. "It's such a surreal feeling," Byron said. "I'm really proud to be a part of it. It's fun to have something to want to race for like that, and it's going to really help the future because I'm so passionate about being here. That's always a good fit for everyone, and that's what I'm looking forward to the most."
Hendrick : 'William has nothing to do with Dale'
Hendrick Motorsports owner, Rick Hendrick , talks about how signing William Byron for 2017 has nothing to do with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s current condition and how it's all about the future of Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick on Dale Jr.: 'We want him for a long time'
RELATED: Support for Dale Jr. LOUDON, N.H. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick said driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will undergo additional tests early next week as the popular driver works through concussion-like symptoms that sidelined him for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I'm not a doctor but he's running through a bunch of tests, going to have some more tests the first of the week and he's doing good," Hendrick told members of the media Sunday morning at NHMS. "He wants to be in the car. The doctor's going to tell him when it's OK for him to be back. I know he's anxious, and we want him back as soon as the doctor gives him clearance." Team officials announced July 14 that Earnhardt, winner of 26 Sprint Cup races, had not been cleared to race this weekend after visiting doctors for what he thought was a possible sinus infection. JR Motorsports driver Alex Bowman was tabbed to drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in Sunday’s race. "Dale is special to me, taking the driving part away," says Hendrick , who has fielded a car for Earnhardt since 2008. "I just want him to feel good when he gets back in the car. I don't want him to push himself. He's kind of an ironman, he doesn't want to let the team down, he doesn't want to let his fans down. But we need him for the long pull, and he wants to be in the car. "The best thing the doctors can do is go through all the protocol and do all the tests, and there's a bunch … to do. When they say 'You’re good to go,' he'll be back." Should Earnhardt not be cleared to return in time for next week's Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon will handle the driving duties. Gordon stepped away from full-time competition at the end of 2015 to join the NASCAR on FOX broadcast team as an analyst. He was on vacation with his family when Earnhardt’s condition was announced. "He thought I was kidding at first," Hendrick said of his conversation with his former driver. "He was on vacation and I asked him what he was doing next week. He said 'I'll be in Indy, that's one of my appearances I have to make.' And I said, 'Well, bring your driver's uniform. Just in case.' "He said, 'Are you kidding?' and I said 'No, I'm serious.' " "If Dale can't go, then Jeff is ready to step in." Hendrick said Gordon could fill in beyond next week's race if necessary, but added that "we're just taking it a week at a time." "Hopefully Dale is going to be back next week and it's not even something that we think is going to happen," he said. "But if it does … Jeff is a team player, he wants to support the organization and I'm sure he'll do whatever he has to do." READ MORE: Bowman keeps missing Junior's calls The latest incident marks the second time Earnhardt Jr. has missed races for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. In 2012 he missed two races late in the season after suffering two concussions in a six-week stretch. Hendrick said he didn't believe the latest incident raised a red flag and would possibly be something that could curtail his driver's racing career. "He and I talked about years beyond next year, around I guess Daytona," Hendrick said. "If there was something major, major wrong I think (the doctors) would have seen it already. "I'm very hopeful and he's very hopeful and I think the doctors want to err on the side of being sure. We want him for a long time. He loves the fans, he loves the sport, he loves to race and we love him in the organization. I'm proud of him." Earnhardt was 13th in points prior to missing Sunday's race. He is winless this season, meaning he would need a victory to possibly secure a spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The field of 16 will consist of this year's race winners and, if there aren't at least 16, additional positions to fill the field would be determined based on championship driver point standings. Hendrick said his organization has not requested a medical waiver from NASCAR. "I haven't even thought about a waiver or any of that right now," he said. Chase eligibility includes the requirement that drivers attempt to qualify for all points races prior to the start of the Chase. Such waivers have been provided by NASCAR in the past. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Rick Hendrick gives an update on Junior
Rick Hendrick talks about the status of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and says that Earnhardt visited his team this week.
Hendrick on Dale Jr. 'We want him for the long haul'
Rick Hendrick talks before the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway about Dale Earnhardt Jr. being out and the possibility of Jeff Gordon filling in for Earnhardt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Similarities undeniable in friends, competitors Childress, Hendrick
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have more in common than being long-time car owners in NASCAR. Both men have seen their teams win multiple championships. Both have fielded entries for some of NASCAR’s most talented drivers. And both are going into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2017. Their friendship has been built on respect for each other’s accomplishments as well as years of fierce competition. Sometimes, what has taken place on the track has tested the limits of that friendship. But it remains unchanged. "We’ve had some situations where we’ve had to go up to each other and say, 'You know, we’re not driving the cars,' " Hendrick said Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of the Coca-Cola 600 . Specifically, in 1988 when Dale Earnhardt, driving for Childress, and Geoff Bodine, driving for Hendrick , were embroiled in a feud that became so intense it resulted in all four being summoned to NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida, to meet with CEO Bill France. It was a rivalry that had been building for quite some time. It all came to a head here at CMS. "That was back when Dale and Geoff were wrecking each other, right here (at Charlotte), and it was costing us a lot of money," Hendrick said. It was the Coca-Cola 600 race weekend, and during the Saturday race, the Winn-Dixie 300, contact from Earnhardt sent Bodine spinning and into the wall. Afterward, Bodine made a trip to Earnhardt’s garage stall, drawing an imaginary "X" over the car. "That was his engine builder next to the car. I was just wishing him good luck for today," Bodine said during a pre-race television interview. In Sunday’s 600, contact between the pair sent Bodine’s No. 5 Chevrolet to the garage. This time, NASCAR officials penalized Earnhardt, holding the driver of the black No. 3 Chevrolet on pit road for five laps. The following week, both drivers and the two car owners were summoned to Daytona. The incident was recreated for the movie "Days of Thunder." "They made a movie about it," Hendrick recalled. "We got summoned to Daytona; Bill France brought us in a room … Dale, Geoff Bodine, Richard and myself. "I’m not going to use all the words he used but he said, 'There aren’t two monkeys that are going to mess up our show. … We can sit here and watch videos all day.' … but Richard and I had already agreed that we couldn’t control it; we tried to, but it was costing us a lot of money. "Mr. France said, 'We’re going to go have dinner.' Dale said, 'I’ve got some plans.' Mr. France said, 'There’s the phone, change your plans.' "Richard and I rode together; Dale and Bodine rode together and we never did have any more trouble." Childress, who won six premier series titles with Earnhardt at the helm of his cars, said such incidents weren’t exactly "great," but said it was a fun time in the series. "That wasn’t fun that night," Hendrick said. "That wasn’t any fun at all," replied Childress. "He (France) was serious. He definitely said 'I don’t care if one of you has to run on one side of the track and the other run on the other side, you better not do it again.' He was pretty serious. "But you look back on that … to be part of it and build the friendship we did … it was quite a trip." In addition to Childress and Hendrick , drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons, along with former car owner Raymond Parks, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2017.
Kahne: 'If I haven't performed by 2018, I need to leave'
Kasey Kahne doesn't see Hendrick Motorsports ' hiring of William Byron to drive in the XFINITY Series as a threat to his current Sprint Cup ride in the No. 5 Chevrolet. But Kahne hasn't won since August 2014 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , and he does recognize that if he doesn't perform by 2018 -- the final year of his current contract -- a change is needed. "I didn't really think about the rest," Kahne told FOXSports.com . "If I haven't performed by 2018, I need to leave. It's pretty simple. That has nothing to do with William Byron or anyone else. "If I haven't performed by then, it's time to go do something different. That's just the way racing and life is." The 36-year-old driver also told FOXSports.com that he received a call from team owner Rick Hendrick prior to the Byron announcement giving him a heads-up on the hiring. Kahne joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, winning twice in his first year with the organization. He's won five Sprint Cup events all together under the Hendrick umbrella, but two winless seasons have caused him to miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for two straight years. He currently is ranked 17th in the driver standings heading into Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR radio).