Unifirst, Hendrick Motorsports strike 8-year sponsorship agreement
CONCORD, N.C. -- UniFirst and 11-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports have reached an eight-year agreement that will make the workwear and textile service company a primary sponsor of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS driven by Kasey Kahne . The contract runs through the year 2023. As the new Official Workwear Provider of Hendrick Motorsports , UniFirst will be a two-race primary sponsor in both 2016 and 2017, with the relationship increasing to three primary races annually from 2018-2023. In addition, UniFirst will be a full-season associate sponsor of the No. 5 team. UniFirst will make its Sprint Cup Series primary sponsorship debut later this season with back-to-back races Oct. 23 at Talladega Superspeedway and Oct. 30 at Martinsville Speedway . "UniFirst is excited to be a primary sponsor of Kasey and Hendrick Motorsports ," said Adam Soreff, director of marketing and communications for UniFirst. "This partnership is a great opportunity for our company because Hendrick Motorsports is one of the premier -- and most highly respected -- teams in professional auto racing. UniFirst's broad customer base, which includes 300,000 business locations across North America, employs thousands of enthusiastic NASCAR fans, so this relationship is a natural fit. We're extremely proud to have the UniFirst brand represented in such a dynamic atmosphere." UniFirst is one of North America's largest workwear and textile service companies, providing managed uniform, protective clothing, custom corporate image apparel, and ancillary facility services programs to businesses in virtually all industries. As part of the new relationship, UniFirst will supply work clothing and uniforms to Hendrick Motorsports and sister company Hendrick Automotive Group, which is the largest privately held retail automotive organization in the United States. "When a sponsor feels strongly enough to commit for eight years, it sends a clear message," said Rick Hendrick , owner of Hendrick Motorsports . "There's tremendous excitement about the opportunities our team and our sport present for UniFirst. They have a reputation for world-class service, the highest quality products and services, and having incredible people. We share a similar mindset and culture, and we're looking forward to working together across our entire organization." Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne, 36, has earned three Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths and five race wins with the No. 5 team. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career victories, 27 pole positions and 166 top-10 finishes in NASCAR’s top division. "UniFirst will be a great addition to our partners at Hendrick Motorsports ," Kahne said. "They're a reliable company that we've worked with at Kasey Kahne Racing for a long time, so I was happy to hear they are coming on board. I'm looking forward to having them as part of the No. 5 team and working with them in the years to come."
Hendrick Motorsports welcomes 2017 pit crew class
MORE: No. 48 pit crew coach discusses recent pit road mishaps In a building filled with banners, trophies and famed race cars, five newcomers entered Hendrick Motorsports ' Nos. 48 and 88 shop as part of their induction to the decorated four-car organization, carving out their own slice of history. These five young men, coming from various backgrounds, stood together -- a united group -- as part of the Hendrick's 2017 pit crew class for its second annual signing day. Completing the class are: TJ Semke, Mason Harris, Austin Holland, Timmy Hall and Dylan Intemann. The quintet were joined by Andy Papathanassiou, Director of Human Performance, and Keith Flynn, Developmental Pit Crew Director. "To me the reason why we decided on a formal presentation of our pit crew recruits is because this really is, in my explanation, the completion of a dream, Papathanassiou said Thursday, looking at the 2017 class. "And to have something like NASCAR come in … and say, 'Hey, you can fufill your dream of being a professional athlete.' " The goal of this program is to have the recruits work their way up to eventually lining up behind the wall for one of Hendrick's Sprint Cup teams. "Over 100 guys came through and (only) five guys made it," Flynn revealed, highlighting the difficulties of the rigorous program that he manages. One of the inductees, Hall, says his four-year professional hockey career -- Hendrick's first hockey player recruit -- helped him prepare for not only the program, but also the NASCAR industry as a whole. "I think a ton of stuff translated over," the tire carrier hopeful revealed. "Obviously, just the practice and preparation that you are used to with hockey ... there's a lot of hand-eye coordination and hand skills involved. I think that really translates with tire changing, especially." All five Hendrick Motorsports recruits have extensive athletic backgrounds: Semke played football for three years at the University of Kansas; Harris was a four-year football player for the University of South Carolina; Holland briefly provided behind-the-wall support at Roush Fenway Racing ; and Intemann was an offensive lineman at Wake Forest University. Papathanassiou -- and the entire HMS organization -- are confident in this group, envisioning a promising future for the five in their motorsports careers. "They found us as much as we found them. And you're seeing the fruits of the labor of our constant year-after-year recruiting process."
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."
H2H: Chase's Round of 12 set to stir at Charlotte
RELATED: See the Chase Grid Story lines abound, and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup enters the Round of 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . 1. What surprised you most from Dover weekend in terms of who advanced in the Chase elimination race and who did not? Cain: I was surprised by the results in several areas, but more so by drivers who did not advance as expected. Like many, I believed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson would advance well beyond the Round of 16. In fact, I had him in my Championship 4. I do believe he will win another race before the season is over. And perhaps I was being sentimental in expecting Tony Stewart to advance, but I still remember the amazing Chase charge in 2011 and saw the motivation in the three-time champion's eyes after he won at Sonoma this summer. Albert: Austin Dillon 's advancement on the basis of pure consistency didn't send shock waves through the ol' surprise meter, but fate's cruel hand for Chip Ganassi Racing did. To see both Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray ejected from the Chase field at least qualified as a mild stunner. It's a solid dozen that remain, but Dover showed again how exacting this postseason format can be. RELATED: Larson, McMurray ousted from Chase after Dover woes 2. With the points standings reset for the Chase Round of 12, all drivers resume with a clean slate. Are there any incentives you would add to enhance the current format? Cain: A case could be made to give drivers who have won in the Chase a small points bonus in the ensuing round. But the equal reset given to all 12 drivers in the current format certainly increases the drama in a very different way from the Chase start, when regular-season wins are factored in. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 green flag that the top-tier drivers are ranked evenly, and it should make the next three races even more dramatic. Albert: It may not rate highly on the drama scale, but I've always maintained that the top points-earner during the regular season should be rewarded -- nominally if not handsomely. A first-round bye might be a stretch, but a bigger bounty of points would offer a larger incentive for consistent performance over the opening 26 events. Offering bonus points through each elimination round would be an inviting enhancement, but keeping them out of the championship race -- leaving the calculators at home -- has valuable merits. RELATED: Are added incentives for regular-season winners on horizon? 3. Among the remaining 12 Chase drivers, who's your pick to win this weekend at Charlotte and lock in early in the Round of 8? Cain: There's a certain six-time champion who I believe will collect his eighth win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson has been close to wins already in the Chase only to fall victim to pit-road miscues -- something uncharacteristic of his Hendrick Motorsports organization. You've got to think that will be cleaned up, and I believe there's no one more motivated to remind naysayers why he is the modern era's very best. Albert: Is there any stopping the Truexpress? Wins in two of the first three Chase races have established the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota as a strong title favorite, and the team returns to the site of Truex's crushing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Placing former Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson under the heading of "sleepers" ranks as a testament to Truex's formidable stature this season. Upcoming wild-card races at Talladega and Martinsville have the potential to derail the No. 78's march; don't count on that happening this weekend at Charlotte.
Heads up: Martinsville weekend
Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Martinsville Speedway . WEATHER Another beautiful race weekend is forecasted for Martinsville. The National Weather Service says Friday will be sunny with a high near 70, and Saturday will be even warmer with a high of 77 and sunshine. Sunday is downgraded to only "mostly sunny," with a high of 74. Overall, it should be a perfect fall weekend. KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: The first practice will be Friday at 11 a.m. ET, with another pair of practices coming Saturday at 9 a.m. ET (CNBC) and noon ET. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is at 4:40 p.m. ET Friday. Aside from the Saturday morning practice, all race coverage will be broadcast on NBCSN and NBC SportsApp this weekend. Camping World Truck Series: The Camping World Truck Series has a pair of Friday practices, at 12:30 p.m. ET and 2:30 p.m. ET, both on FS1. The race is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying just before at 10:15 a.m. ET (FS1). CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Martinsville media center at NASCAR.com/presspass . Notably, Jimmie Johnson speaks at 10:15 a.m. ET Friday, followed by Denny Hamlin is at 1 p.m. ET and Jeff Gordon at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here for a full schedule. LAST TIME Jeff Gordon punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway in style, outracing Jamie McMurray in the final two laps as darkness fell at Martinsville Speedway . "We're going to Homestead!" Gordon bellowed after the win gave him a chance at the Sprint Cup title in his final season of full-time driving. It was Gordon's only victory of 2015. The storyline that grabbed all the headlines, however, was Matt Kenseth nudging then-race leader Joey Logano into the wall on Lap 454 of 500. At the time, Kenseth was 10 laps down. The move was widely viewed as retaliation for Logano bumping Kenseth out of the lead at Kansas two weeks earlier, which effectively eliminated Kenseth from advancing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kenseth was suspended for two races, and Logano did not advance to the championship round. YOU SHOULD KNOW • Jeff Gordon returns to his best track on the circuit as he gets behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who continues to recover from a concussion. Gordon won here a year ago, and has some of the best statistics among any driver at Martinsville: nine wins, highest average finish (6.8) and most laps led (3,779). Can the 45-year-old recreate that magic at his eighth subsitute race of this season? This is Gordon's final scheduled race of the season in place of Earnhardt Jr. • This is the first of three races in the Round of 8, before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is cut to the Championship 4 for the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. • Somehow, this is the first time since the current format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup began in 2014 that Jimmie Johnson has advanced to the Round of 8. He started the Round of 12 with a victory at Charlotte; can Six-Time repeat that feat with an opening-round win to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami? He's an eight-time winner at Martinsville, so it's no stretch to imagine. • The addition of extra timing lines in the pits has added another layer to monitoring drivers for speeding penalties. In Martinsville's tight pits, if figures to have a big impact.
Hendrick Motorsports picks up new technical partner
CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 18, 2016) -- WIX Filters has joined Hendrick Motorsports as a key technical partner with an agreement that will supply innovative filtration products and provide critical development support to the 11-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions through 2019. With a four-year pact, WIX's air and oil filters will be used in competition by the four Sprint Cup Series teams of Hendrick Motorsports with drivers Kasey Kahne , Chase Elliott , Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr . Its logo will be featured on team equipment, transporters and underneath the hood of Hendrick Motorsports ' Chevrolet SS race cars. "Since the early 1960s when Richard Petty began using our filters, generations of motorsports champions have driven to Victory Lane with WIX," said Jennifer Gibson, brand manager for WIX Filters. "Adding a team like Hendrick Motorsports only further positions us as the number-one filter in motorsports , and we couldn’t be more excited to see what that means on the track this season." "We pride ourselves on our technical superiority and high performance racing filters, and we like to align ourselves with the best," said Bill Stamey, engineering manager for WIX Filters. "Becoming a Hendrick Motorsports technical partner this race season is an incredible honor and a testament to our ongoing innovation and hard work." Hendrick Motorsports has earned 240 points-paying Sprint Cup wins since 1984, and its engines have more than 300 victories across all NASCAR series. Last season, the team’s engines posted wins in 14 of 36 Sprint Cup races and powered six Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders. "WIX Filters has been involved with NASCAR for nearly five decades," said Doug Duchardt, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports . "They not only will provide proven filters for our race cars but impressive capabilities in research and development. We know both their products and insights will ultimately help improve our performance. It’s an exciting partnership for our entire competition group, and we look forward to many successes together."
The history of Hendrick Motorsports and full crews for Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Darian Grubb heads back to Hendrick Motorsports
RELATED: See who is on the move for 2016 Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday that it has named former Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Darian Grubb as its vehicle production director. The 40-year-old Grubb "will oversee every aspect of race car manufacturing" in the newly created role, according to a release provided by the Hendrick organization. Grubb will work alongside vehicle technical director Kenny Francis, another former crew chief, to spearhead production and engineering for Hendrick Motorsports ' four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. MORE: Grubb 'surprised' by JGR decision The hiring also reunites Grubb with the Concord, North Carolina-based operation, where he worked in various engineering and crew chief roles from 2003-08. "It means a lot to come back to Hendrick Motorsports ," said Grubb, a Floyd, Virginia native. "This is a role that will allow me to contribute to the success of the entire organization, which was very important to me. Kenny is someone I greatly respect, so the chance to work side-by-side with him was a big factor. Everything is familiar, and I think that will make for a smooth transition. "The more we talked about the opportunity, the more it felt right. I'm ready to get started." Joe Gibbs Racing said in a Dec. 21 news release that Grubb was "currently exploring several opportunities" as it unveiled its 2016 crew chief lineup. It ended a four-year tenure at JGR, where Grubb paired with drivers Denny Hamlin (2012-14) and Carl Edwards (2015), combining for nine Sprint Cup victories in his time there. RELATED: JGR announces crew chief lineup for Cup teams Grubb began his stock-car racing career with team owner Richard Petty, shortly after graduating from Virginia Tech with a mechanical engineering degree. After three years as lead engineer for the No. 48 Chevrolet and Jimmie Johnson , then an up-and-coming star, Grubb made his biggest splash in his debut atop the pit box, helping guide Johnson to a victory in the 2006 Daytona 500 as interim crew chief while Chad Knaus served a four-race suspension. After notching two more premier-series wins and filling other engineering roles, Grubb departed Hendrick to serve as crew chief for Tony Stewart and the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. That prolific pairing netted 11 victories over three seasons, culminating in Stewart's third Sprint Cup championship in 2011.
Hendrick Motorsports plane forced to make emergency landing
A Hendrick Motorsports plane carrying team members was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning as the team traveled back from Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . According to a team spokesperson, the plane was diverted to Memphis International Airport after a presence of smoke was noticed in the plane's cabin. The plane landed safely and is being evaluated, according to the HMS spokesperson. No injuries were reported and none of the team's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were on board the aircraft. The passengers returned to North Carolina on another flight. Listen to the spotter for Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Chevrolet, Earl Barban, recount the flight in the video above. Jessica O'Brien, wife of Dale Earnhardt Jr . No. 88 engineer Tim O'Brien, tweeted the following reaction: This was scary to wake up to! Glad my hubby @tobrien82 & everyone at @hendrickfeedr are home & safe! https://t.co/8ZuwHQf92b — Jessica O'Brien (@EdgehillMgmt) March 7, 2016
Great Clips extends relationship with Hendrick , No. 5 team
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2016) -- Great Clips Inc. will continue its sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 5 Chevrolet SS team of driver Kasey Kahne in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a contract extension through 2018. The two-year agreement covers the 2017 and 2018 seasons and secures primary sponsorship of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS for 10 events annually. Great Clips, which joined Hendrick Motorsports as a partner in 2012, also will be a major associate sponsor of the No. 5 team each year. The world's largest salon brand, Great Clips became a first-time Sprint Cup primary sponsor with three races in 2013. The program grew to 10 primary races annually in 2014. "We are very pleased to extend our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and with Kasey through the 2018 NASCAR season," said Terri Miller, senior vice president of marketing and communications, Great Clips Inc. "Kasey has been a member of the Great Clips family for over 13 years and is a great ambassador of our brand. He embodies the same qualities and values that are synonymous with Great Clips -- loyalty, family, dedication and a passion to succeed. "We have built a successful partnership with Hendrick Motorsports over the last several years that has allowed us to activate and elevate our brand and partner programs to a new level, and we are excited to be able to continue that into the future." Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne, 36, has earned three Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths and five race wins with the No. 5 team. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career victories, 27 pole positions and 165 top-10 finishes in NASCAR's top division. "Great Clips has a very strong culture," said Rick Hendrick , owner of Hendrick Motorsports . "The company cares deeply about relationships with their customers, franchisees, stylists, corporate staff and partners. We’ve enjoyed working together to build an effective program, and it's been terrific to see the Great Clips business grow over that time. We're committed to their success and look forward to the future." Minneapolis-based Great Clips, which has more than 4,000 locations and 1,200 salon owners who employ 40,000 stylists throughout the United States and Canada, has a long history with Kahne. Since 2003, the company has supported his efforts as both a driver and car owner across multiple racing series. "Great Clips has believed in me throughout my career," Kahne said. "They're a big part of the No. 5 team, and we feel like members of their team, too. It's been an awesome partnership, and I'm grateful for their commitment and support. It means a lot to represent them on and off the track."