Junior: Jimmie Johnson is an 'encouraging' teammate
Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses his relationship with his Hendrick Motorsports' teammate, Jimmie Johnson during his media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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."
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."
Johnson's passion for fitness inspires Hendrick teammates
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS – If you were to break out the bicycle in the infield of any given race track on a Saturday morning or afternoon, you'd likely have some elite company. Matt Kenseth has embarked on both long and short cycling excursions. Kasey Kahne could show up, or Trevor Bayne. But perhaps one of the most familiar faces and leaders among the cycling groups at the track is reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. A seasoned athlete in a variety of athletic pursuits from cycling to running to snowboarding in his new home of Aspen, Colorado, Johnson has accomplished some feats that only experienced athletes could achieve: He and Kenseth completed a 130-mile ride for charity in March 2016 from Asheville, North Carolina, to Charlotte, North Carolina. He celebrated his 40th birthday in 2015 with a 101.2-mile bike ride, and joined Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kahne for Johnson's first of many triathlons. That first one was in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2012, just one day after competing in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Chevrolet supplements his regular weekday training with these group cycling or individual running sessions during downtime at the track. "It's easy to sleep in in the motor home or sit on the couch between qualifying and practice and eat," Johnson told NASCAR.com on Friday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday's Kobalt 400. "There's a four-hour window there; you could be out on the bike, go for a run, burn some calories instead of ingesting them." But the group rides at the track accomplish more than just an elevated heart rate -- even with a group of competitive NASCAR drivers riding. "It seems that during the week we're serious about those disciplines, kind of putting in your gym time, your speed work -- the weekend rides are much more (easygoing)," Johnson said. "So, we'll sit side-by-side, chat, talk, talk about life. It's much more of a social thing than really a hardcore ride. "Granted, we do race in Pocono, we do race in upstate New York. There are some areas, what I'm getting at, where there's some serious climbing. And the competitive spirit kind of kicks in and guys kind of try to bury each other and race up mountains." It was the social aspect of physical fitness that became Johnson's main case for his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to commit to a company-mandated workout on a regular basis. "For me, the social component is what has made this last so long for me," Johnson said. "I think we all start a crash diet, we all say we're going to the gym and you're lucky to make three or four months because it's kind of monotonous and not a lot of fun. There's not a social element to it. "So, I pushed hard to set some minimum requirements for our Hendrick drivers and then trying to get us together. Weekend rides, there are some great social media apps that keep you connected with what your friends are doing. You can follow them, they can follow you. The one we like to use is Strava and it's amazing if you can just have a little spin on it and make it a social thing, your interest goes up tremendously. You have accountability and before you know it, you're putting in quite a few hours a week and you're pretty fit." Johnson's teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. discussed the new workout plan at length on his Dirty Mo Radio podcast Monday. The drivers have set hours for cardio and strength exercises each week that they must complete and log into the Strava app. The drivers also have access to Hendrick Motorsports' top-notch facilities, trainers and nutritionists used by the pit crews, as well as Johnson's own personal triathlon trainer Jamey Yon, to help aid their health journeys. RELATED: Junior talks about his first cycling trip Earnhardt took his first cycling trip with Johnson last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, pulling out the bike that "Seven-Time" gifted him about a year ago. The trip began with the humorous struggle of getting Earnhardt comfortable with the spandex cycling attire. "I told Jimmie, I said, 'Look, I'm going to meet you outside the track,' " Earnhardt said on the podcast. "Ain't no way in hell I'm going to let anybody see me ride through the infield wearing this bike gear, spandex stuff." Johnson smiled at the experience. "I couldn't believe my eyes, to be honest," Johnson said of his reaction to Junior agreeing to a cycling trip. "He was a little worried about the attire, but I promised him you really feel weird standing around other people in street clothes when you're in the attire. When you're in a group of guys, proper attire really makes a big difference. "So, he cleared that hurdle, which I wasn't sure we could get on Ride 1, and through the course of the ride, his comfort grew tremendously. The speed came up and his bike handling skills and stuff came right around. So, he's excited to ride this weekend and looking forward to getting him on a bike again." Hardest part of cycling? Being brave/crazy/stupid enough 2 wear spandex The hills R the 2nd hardest part. Me & our awesome pilot Jeff. pic.twitter.com/qzemyzgKlr — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 11, 2017 Johnson's passion for physical fitness is evident, his love for outdoor activities strong. He uses activities as a way to socialize, train and escape from the stresses of his high-speed career. "It's been really good for me physically, but more mentally on a lot of levels," Johnson said. "I can have an afternoon to clear my mind, I find that all I think about is the race car and I get my thoughts in order and really handle the race car situation to the best of my ability." But as Johnson's interests in the field vary and grow, his passion also has transcended as a way to help others: In 2016, Johnson lent his personal trainer Yon to No. 41 crew chief and longtime friend Tony Gibson and offered to help him get on track physically. RELATED: Crew chief's health boost from Johnson "He's like, 'Look, I've been thinking about you for the last three weeks,' and he said I want to get you healthy," Gibson said prior to the start of the 2016 season. "He said, 'We've known each other since I got into this and you've been a great friend to me.' He said, 'I'm worried about you. I'm worried about your health and I want to see you get healthy.' So I'm like, 'OK.' The next step was we got together and he's like, 'I'll take care of everything, I'll handle everything. We'll use my trainer. You just have to do it.' "So I said, 'You know, if he's willing to go to the length of that and put that much effort into it, then I'm a fool if I don't.' So I took him up on it and I've been losing weight ever since." But while Johnson enjoys helping others achieve their physical goals and has many fitness goals after he's done driving ("there's quite a few endurance races that I want to do from triathlons to mountain bike races," he says), he doesn't necessarily envision a career in personal training after he's hung up his fire suit. "I love helping people -- that's in my DNA," Johnson said. "Fitness has been a hobby of mine, a passion of mine for a while now and I've been able to influence many. But I just enjoy being there for others and tell my story -- maybe I can be there for them." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hendrick Motorsports welcomes new class of pit crew members
CONCORD, N.C. -- Hendrick Motorsports is in the midst of playoff season and enjoying the success of three of its drivers who are competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And although one of NASCAR's most successful racing teams is focused on finishing off the 2015 season with another championship, they are also working on building a brighter future for years to come. The Hendrick organization hosted its first Signing Day for its developmental pit crew program Wednesday at its lavish No. 48 and 88 shop. Their introduction came against the backdrop of the shop's banners and trophies, honoring achievements set by the teams of Terry Labonte , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson and more. The seven men who participated in Signing Day are all former collegiate athletes and were chosen out of over 150 candidates for the annual recruitment process. The newcomers hope to pursue awards of their own, similar to the ones they are constantly surrounded by and to become a part of the company's lucrative 31-year history. Andy Papathanassiou, Director of Human Performance at Hendrick , opened the ceremony saying, "It's the people (here) that make the difference. And if you treat your people well they're going to want to perform not only for themselves but for you and for the company and for the team, and not only is that the best solution, it's the only solution to truly become a champion and to keep that championship mentality going." Another thing Papathanassiou highlighted was that the seven chosen are "not just here because they are big, strong guys … they're here for the way they think." And they all come from diverse backgrounds, most of which have little to do with NASCAR. Mike McClure, a former WWE prospect, was an All-American wrestler at Michigan State University and, too, an All-American in academics. McClure was at Michigan International Speedway for a race where he was recruited for the program. After receiving debilitating injuries in his journey to become a professional wrestler, McClure pursued the opportunity with Hendrick and is now working on honing his craft as a fueler and jackman. "Even on day one, I could tell they were genuine and they cared about the people here," explained McClure. Another recruit, Rod Cox, too, had "briefly seen NASCAR on TV," but knew he found his passion during his training at Hendrick . Cox, who played football at North Carolina State University and earned a degree in civil engineering, was convinced to join the organization after Coach Keith Flynn, Developmental Pit Crew Director, spoke to his football coach. "I met Coach Flynn and he was the greatest guy I had ever met," said Cox, an aspiring tire changer. "Everyone around here loves their job. I wake up in the morning like 'Man, I can’t wait to go practice and do my drills and lift weights and just enjoy everyone here.' " At the end of the event, Papathanassiou told NASCAR.com about how he is excited about the future and looking forward to the next chapter at Hendrick , with a new driver joining its Sprint Cup roster in Chase Elliott . "I think what's next for us is … we will have to redefine ourselves as a company. It's very exciting, especially with a guy like Chase Elliott . We could be on another 20-year run … another 20-year dominance."
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.
The history of Hendrick Motorsports and full crews for Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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
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