Daniel Suárez receives hero's welcome in Mexico City
MEXICO CITY -- A NASCAR championship aside, Daniel Suárez is still making his name known in the United States. In his native Mexico, his name is etched in gold. He’s a rock star, the kind of guy who draws large crowds of adoring fans, each one seeking an autograph or selfie or handshake or high-five. Need proof? Just look at the crowd that packed Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on Sunday. Suárez served as the grand marshal of the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series exhibition race, continuing a whirlwind celebration that hasn’t stopped since he won the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship last month. Suárez could barely take a step without posing for a picture, signing an autograph or hearing the words “felicidades campeón (translation: congratulations, champion).” "I was expecting something good, but this was great," said Suárez, shortly after a large group of photographers captured a photo of him posing with the Mexican flag. "Every time I talk about this, I feel very, very happy for all the fans, all the teams and everyone who has been helping me to get to this point -- the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship." Hoy fue uno de los días más especiales del año! Gracias a todos los fans de @NASCARPEAKMX por si amor y cariño!! De corazón GRACIAS!!!! pic.twitter.com/cVBBoyWkuN — Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) December 4, 2016 Suárez went out of his way to show his appreciation to fans who came to see him in Mexico City . After being interviewed over the public address system, Suárez slowly walked down the length of the frontstretch and waved to all of his fans. Chants of "Dani! Dani! Dani!" could be heard as a beehive of photographers followed his every step. It’s no shock that Mexican fans know him well. The 24-year-old from Monterry, Mexico, was the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series Rookie of the Year in 2010. He finished third in the championship battle in 2012 and runner-up in 2013. His star power grew in the process. Such potential made him an inaugural member of the NASCAR Next program, NASCAR’s initiative that spotlight’s the sport’s rising young stars. And now he’s a champion, basking in the glory he earned during the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Along the way, Suárez balanced the weight of expectations with the weight of his country and found the road to success. The reception he received on Sunday is just the latest manifestation of a champion’s just reward. He’ll continue to race for Mexico … and more. "We’re not just talking about Mexico; we’re talking about the entire Latin American community," Suárez said. "That’s something that is unbelievable. I feel very lucky for being a Mexican driver racing in the U.S. and hopefully I can do that for a long time."
One crew member reinstated, one suspended by NASCAR
NASCAR reinstated crew member Michael Casto on Tuesday after he successfully completed NASCAR's Road to Recovery Program. Casto was a crew member with Stewart-Haas Racing 's No. 4 team and driver Kevin Harvick when he was suspended after the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, the August Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International . Ryan D. Hess, a crew member with BK Racing , was placed on indefinite suspension on Tuesday by the sanctioning body.
Bristol, Food City launch Tenn. wildfire relief effort
Bristol Motor Speedway announced a fund drive Wednesday to assist wildfire relief efforts in nearby Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the surrounding areas. The initiative was made in conjunction with longtime track sponsor Food City , which made a $50,000 donation to the Gatlinburg/Sevier County Relief Fund. Bristol announced that the Medallion Campground area would be opened free of charge to displaced campers and RV drivers. The .533-mile track also indicated it would collect donations during its annual Speedway in Lights holiday display through Jan. 7. The speedway also said it would match all proceeds raised during Thursday's holiday exhibition. "While we can't undo the damage from wildfires, we can all play a major role in relief efforts by donating money," Bristol executive vice president and general manager Jerry Caldwell said in a release provided by the track. "Gatlinburg and Sevier County hold a special place in the hearts of NASCAR fans, Food City and all of us at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway. When you visit the Speedway this holiday season, we encourage you to bring along a little something extra to help our neighbors in need." Food City announced that it would accept cash contributions at participating stores from Dec. 1-7. The Abingdon, Virginia-based supermarket chain also delivered a tractor-trailer full of beverages to relief workers and others in need. Tennessee authorities have confirmed four deaths in the widespread blaze, which has burned approximately 15,000 acres this week. Emergency officials said that nearly 14,000 residents and visitors were evacuated from the Gatlinburg area by Monday.
Food City -Bristol partnership roots run deep
RELATED: Bristol quick facts " Full weekend schedule BRISTOL, Tenn. – It began with a promotion to help former series sponsor RJ Reynolds sell product. Today, 25 years later, the Food City sponsorship of Bristol Motor Speedway 's spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event is as strong as ever. It is the second-longest race entitlement in NASCAR – trailing only the Coca-Cola sponsorship of the 600-mile May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We started in 1992, followed up the Valleydale 500 ," Steve Smith , Food City President and CEO, said Thursday at BMS. "That was back when it was still Winston Cup. We worked with RJ Reynolds on a promotion ... that was the whole genesis of us getting involved in racing." Initially, it wasn't a long-term deal, but by the time the next season had arrived, officials with the grocery chain were ready and willing to return. "We signed the (initial) agreement and we had a great first race," Smith said. "Alan Kulwicki actually won our first race in 1992; I remember that well. We were off and running." Kulwicki, an owner/driver, went on to win the series title that season. Tragically, the following year he was killed in a plane crash while en route to BMS to defend his Food City 500 title. Smith said his company, founded by his father Jack, became involved at the right time in the sport, when the fan base was on the upswing, TV coverage was gaining traction and sponsorship dollars were flowing. "What happened with Bristol was really indicative of what was happening with NASCAR, it was just growing and growing," he said. "Five years later Bruton (Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder) bought the track and things just really started to escalate here with the amenities and the things that they did for the race fans. ... Folks love coming here, they love the racing environment, and they love, I think, the southern hospitality. "We try, as a sponsor, to do a lot of things to get them in here a little bit early, whether it's Food City Race Night or other events to really make it a full week of fun for the race fan." In addition to the Sprint Cup race sponsorship, the company also sponsors the August NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Bristol. While there have been times that spending money on race entitlement rights might have been questionable, Smith said "I don't think there's ever been a time when we really thought about dropping the race. "Now, we've negotiated pretty tough with Speedway Motorsports because obviously the fan base dropped a little bit, the viewership dropped a little bit, but when you've got folks like (former BMS General Manager) Jeff Byrd and (current GM) Jerry Caldwell that you know are going to do everything they can to give the race fan, our customers, that experience, it makes it pretty easy to continue to spend the dollars and continue to keep our associates that work in our stores involved in racing, and that's a big part of it, too." The return for Food City , he said, comes in many forms. No. 1 is name recognition. "We're a relatively small regional company -- we're in four states, 135 stores, 16,000 associates," Smith said. "It sounds like a lot but in the scheme of things compared to some of our competition, it's not. But it's a sense of pride for our associates, our customers who know we sponsor racing. "NASCAR fans are very loyal, they're loyal to the brands that are involved whether it's Food City or other consumer products sponsors. We think it helps us sell more products and bring more people in to our stores." In February of 2014, Food City and BMS officials announced a five-year extension for the naming rights of the track's spring Sprint Cup race. "At the end of the day, it's hard to put a financial statement together that proves that it's a great spend, but we've been doing good ever since we been sponsoring racing so we don't want to stop there," Smith said.
F1 champ Nico Rosberg retires, Jeff Gordon drops hint at future?
The motorsports world was sent into a state of hysteria Friday morning when Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg, 31, abruptly announced his retirement less than a week after winning the title, garnering congratulatory tweets from a few NASCAR drivers. Wow! Congrats on being F1 Champion and on a outstanding career. Enjoy what comes next. https://t.co/iETU8ZVJa9 — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) December 2, 2016 Congrats Nico https://t.co/YU22d5z2Pk — landon cassill (@landoncassill) December 2, 2016 I think @nico_rosberg broke twitter this morning. Bold move, love it. — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) December 2, 2016 After the initial shock of the news subsided, speculation immediately began regarding who would fill Rosberg's coveted seat. There was one particular name that seemed to be making its way into a lot of speculatory tweets. Take a look at the guy pictured above sharing a laugh with Rosberg's (now former) Mercedes teammate and F1 standout, Lewis Hamilton. FOX Sports analyst Mike Joy jokingly tossed it out there ... Jeff , Maybe MB F1 need a high-caliber sub for '17 ! “ @JeffGordonWeb : Wow! Congrats Nico, on being F1 Champion and on an outstanding career.” — Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) December 2, 2016 ... and his FOX partner Gordon certainly didn't do much to quell those rumors. https://t.co/M3TAM6Xkdg — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) December 2, 2016
Jeff Gordon to join Cadillac team for Rolex 24 at Daytona
Four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon will make his return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time in 10 years as Wayne Taylor Racing on Thursday confirmed Gordon alongside full-season co-drivers Jordan and Ricky Taylor and endurance driver Max Angelelli as the driver lineup in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona. The race opens the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season on Jan. 28-29, 2017. Gordon's lone previous Rolex 24 appearance in 2007 came with the same team. He co-drove the No. 10 Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype with Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen to a third-place result. "When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event -- with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing -- with the hopes of winning it this time," Gordon said. "I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination." Gordon, now an analyst on NASCAR on FOX telecasts, and the No. 10 team will be part of the debut race for the brand-new Cadillac DPi-V.R, which was officially unveiled Wednesday by the manufacturer. "I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years," Angelelli said. "I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time -- we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it's happening again, with the new car, it's going to be absolutely great." Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who finished third in the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype standings, are also looking forward to running with the NASCAR legend. "It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it's become less and less frequent," Jordan Taylor said. " Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. I can't wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It's going to be an experience of a lifetime." "Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us," added Ricky Taylor. "It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. I'm sure he will be a great addition to the lineup and hopefully we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together." The No. 10 entry will compete for the overall Rolex 24 race victory in the WeatherTech Championship's Prototype (P) class. It will be one of three Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars in the field, as three-time defending series champions Action Express Racing confirmed its plans to field a pair of the new race cars earlier Thursday morning. Gordon, who has participated in private test sessions with the team in recent weeks, is expected to join the team for the upcoming IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway in Dec. 13-14, as well as the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test on Jan. 6-8, 2017 prior to the race on the final weekend of January. &lt;/p&gt;
Rick Hendrick: Dale Jr. 'on track' for Daytona 500
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Rick Hendrick shed light Friday on Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s timetable to return to NASCAR competition, saying he anticipated his driver to be on pace to compete in time for the 2017 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Jr., 42, has been sidelined from the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet since July after two severe crashes left him with concussion-like symptoms. He was ruled out for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season in September. "I think sometime in December the doctor's going to give him the final clearance and then we'll get him in a car," Hendrick said Friday after a news conference with the Sprint Cup Championship 4 car owners at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "He feels great. Everything's on track. I mean, every step that we supposedly need to go through, we've gone through, and I don't see anything holding us back." Earnhardt, who has been working on rehabilitation of his neurological conditions since this summer, reiterated that intention last month at Martinsville Speedway , saying in a pre-race interview that "we're booking things as normal" ahead of the 2017 season. That included sponsorship plans, photo shoots and other logistical agreements in preparation for next year. But Earnhardt Jr. also indicated he was eager to return to NASCAR's premier series, something Hendrick reaffirmed Friday. "He sent me a text the other day that he was excited and waiting for Daytona," Hendrick said. "I think we've just got a couple more hurdles to clear." Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have split time in Earnhardt's No. 88 this season, with Gordon filling in for eight races and Bowman set to make his 10th start of the year in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Gordon has indicated that he's likely to resume his retirement from racing next season unless called upon by Hendrick. As for Bowman, the 23-year-old racer who competes part-time in the XFINITY Series has said he's still uncertain what his driving responsibilities -- beyond simulator work for Hendrick's team -- will be in 2017. Friday, Hendrick was uncertain as well. "Alex is a good guy. He's helped us in a lot of ways," Hendrick said. "We're just kind of taking that one a day at a time. He's done testing for us, he's done simulation for us and he's really done a good job. We're just kind of taking it a day at a time. We don't really have any certain plan." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Betty Jane France named Myers Brothers Award Recipient
RELATED: Full schedule for Champion's Week DARLINGTON, S.C. (Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016) – Betty Jane France, whose philanthropic endeavors away from the race track rivaled those of the well-known family business of NASCAR, has been chosen as the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's prestigious Myers Brothers Award. France, who passed away Aug. 29, 2016, is the mother of NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy. She was the widow of former NASCAR Chairman and CEO William C. France. While auto racing has been the cornerstone of the family profession, Betty Jane France's reach far exceeded the boundaries of the track. Kind and compassionate, France was the guiding force behind the formation of the NASCAR Foundation, the charitable arm of the sanctioning body that seeks to improve the lives of children most in need. She served as chairwoman of the Foundation upon its inception more than a decade ago and was later named chairwoman emeritus. In 2011, the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, presented by Nationwide, was established in her honor. Each year, the award recognizes outstanding charitable and volunteer efforts of NASCAR fans. Active in her Daytona Beach community as well as abroad, France also helped establish the Speediatrics children's care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach as well as Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Fla. The Myers Brothers Award is named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers. Determined by a vote of the NMPA membership, it recognizes individuals and/or groups who have provided outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing. It has been presented annually since 1958. Myers Brothers Award Winners 2016, Betty Jane France; 2015, Darlington Raceway ; 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr .; 2013, Tony Stewart ; 2012, Jeff Gordon ; 2011, Drs. Joseph & Rose Mattioli; 2010, Jim Hunter; 2009, Barney Hall; 2008, T. Taylor Warren; 2007, Bill France Jr.; 2006, Benny Parsons; 2005, Rusty Wallace; 2004, Kyle and Patti Petty; 2003, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 2002, Mike Helton; 2001, Dale Earnhardt; 2000, Kyle Petty; 1999, Junie Donlavey; 1998, T. Wayne Robertson; 1997, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1996, Rick Hendrick; 1995, TNN: The Nashville Network; 1994, Brickyard 400/ Indianapolis Motor Speedway ; 1993, Goody's Manufacturing Co.; 1992, Richard and Lynda Petty; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990. Dick Beaty; 1989, Bill France Jr.; 1988 Richmond International Raceway ; 1987, ESPN; 1986, Hayride 500 ; 1985, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway ; 1983, CBS-TV; 1982, MRN; 1981, Junior Johnson; 1980, STP & Champion Spark Plug Co.; 1979, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1978, Busch Beer; 1977, First National City Travelers Checks; 1976, Junior Johnson; 1975, Bill France Sr.; 1974, H. Clay Earles; 1973, Wood Brothers; 1972, Winston Cigarettes; 1971, Richard Petty; 1970, Richard Howard; 1969, David Pearson; 1968, Wood Brothers; 1967, Richard Petty; 1966, Norris Friel; 1965, Ned Jarrett; 1964, Richard Petty; 1963, Marvin Panch; 1962, Hank Schoolfield; 1961, Ned Jarrett; 1960, Russ Catlin; 1959, Lee Petty; 1958, Bob Colvin. Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon : · NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Betty Jane France · Buddy Shuman Award: Jack Roush · NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Comcast XFINITY · Chevrolet Cross Flags Award: Tony Stewart · American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Kevin Harvick · Coors Light Pole Award: Carl Edwards · Duralast Brakes "Brake in the Race" Award: Kyle Busch · Goodyear NASCAR Series Champion Award: Jimmie Johnson · Ingersoll Rand Power Move Award: Dave Rogers, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Crew Chief · MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Scott Vester, Hendrick Engines No. 4 team · Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team · Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Kyle Busch · MOOG Steering & Suspension Problem Solver of the Year Award: Alan Gustafson, crew chief No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team · Sherwin-Williams Fastest Lap Award: Kyle Busch · Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Jimmie Johnson · Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Chase Elliott · Champion Sponsor Award: Lowe's · Champion Crew Chief Award: Chad Knaus · Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide: Andy Hoffman &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Top pit crews of 2016 as voted on by coaches
RELATED: Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew When we decided to start the All Pit Road Team five years ago we wanted to make it as legit as possible. In the past, we had crew members vote on who they thought were the best of the best. This year we changed it up a bit and sent out a ballot to each organization and had one coach's ballot turned back in from each organization. We had a great response from the coaches, and below are the crewmen who were selected. Just like last year, only members of the 16 Chase pit crews were eligible for the awards. If there was a tie in voting, the crewman whose team finished highest in the points won. Front Tire Changer First Team: No. 41 Shane Pipala (5) Second Team: No. 2 Hunter Masling (5) Third Team: No. 11 Dustin Necaise (4) Honorable Mention: No. 19 Clay Robinson (3) Front Tire Carrier First Team: No. 19 Kevin Harris (4) Second Team: No. 22 Dylan Dowell (3) Third Team: No. 11 Brandon Pegram (3) Honorable Mention: No. 2 Jeremy Ogles (3) Jackman First Team: No. 22 Ray Gallahan (4) Second Team: No. 11 Nate Bolling (4) Third Team: No. 42 Graham Molatch (4) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Sean Cotten (3) Rear Tire Changer First Team: No. 11 Mike Hicks (7) Second Team: No. 22 Zach Price (4) Third Team: No. 18 Jake Seminara (4) Honorable Mention: No. 19 Kip Wolfmeir (3) Rear Tire Carrier First Team: No. 11 Heath Cherry (4) Second Team: No. 19 Matt Ver Meer (3) Third Team: No. 20 Blake Haugland (3) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Dwayne Moore (3) Gasman First Team: No. 11 Caleb Hurd (4) Second Team: No. 22 Kellen Mills (2) Third Team: No. 18 Tom Lampe (2) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Justin Wilson (2) Pit Crew of the year (Voted on by pit crew coaches) Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 (5) Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 (4) Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 (4) Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year (Voted on by crew chiefs) Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com.
Jeff Gordon reflects on Johnson's legacy as he runs for a seventh title
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend Jimmie Johnson . A worldwide household name, Johnson has reached remarkable feats in the racing world. This weekend could represent a pinnacle in his racing career, as he runs for his seventh championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the opportunity to tie the great Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time Sprint Cup Series championships within reach. But "Six-Time" wasn't always that way: Former Hendrick Motorsports teammate and No. 48 car owner Jeff Gordon recalls when Johnson wasn't a world champion, a race winner or even a Sprint Cup Series driver. He was just Jimmie. • • • Gordon remembers a tremendously fast, red, white and blue car that took the track at an XFINITY test at Darlington Raceway back in 2000. "I was helping Ricky Hendrick -- (team owner) Rick (Hendrick’s) son -- who was getting in the XFINITY Series and wanted to run a few races and Darlington was one of the races on that schedule," Gordon told NASCAR.com on Thursday. "… So, I went down to Darlington for a day of XFINITY testing and I remember going out there on top of a truck … and a car was out there -- it was a red, white and blue car. Really had a nice line, carrying a lot of speed, right up next to the wall. You know, Darlington's a very intimidating track and usually it takes not just a lot of skill but experience to understand the track." Gordon complimented the driver's style, telling Hendrick "that's pretty much how you need to do it." Then he asked who the driver was. " Jimmie Johnson ," Gordon recalls Hendrick answering. With his seemingly experienced motor skills, Gordon wondered how many times Johnson had raced at "The Track Too Tough to Tame." Hendrick surprised Gordon by telling him he thought it was his first time. Gordon wanted to meet him. "I remember going down to the garage and Jimmie was sitting in his car and I went over there to him and said, 'Hey, what's up, how are you?' and introduced myself," Gordon said. "I said, 'So, have you ever been here to Darlington before?' And he said, 'Nope, today's the first time I ever saw the place.' "That to me in itself kind of floored me -- it looked like he had been there for years; tremendous speed," Gordon admitted. " So, I started watching him from that point forward. "… To me, (he) was an overachiever for the team and the equipment." Jimmie Johnson : A 24-year-old "overachiever" without a future ride, Sprint Cup win or championship to his name. Sounds about right for someone who would later be christened "Six-Time." RELATED: Johnson through the years in photos • • • The date is August 19, 2000. The now- XFINITY Series heads to the rolling Irish Hills of Michigan International Speedway . Already a three-time now- Sprint Cup Series champion under the Hendrick Motorsports umbrella, Gordon is making his fourth XFINITY start in the No. 24 Gordon-Evernham Motorsports ride. After the drivers meeting, Johnson approaches Gordon. "(He said), 'Hey, I've got some opportunities and some people talking to me and I'd love to pick your brain about it and get your opinion,'" Gordon recalled. "So, I was impressed that he was willing to come up and ask me and I felt honored that he thought to do that." The veteran driver was even more impressed during the race. "I was running, I think third or fourth or something on a late restart," Gordon said. "… I had a faster car than him all day long, but on that final restart he made a big, bold move and passed me, and I was like, 'Whoa!' I was like, 'This guy's got some real skills here.'" GALLERY: How Johnson became 'Six-Time' During that time, Hendrick Motorsports was a three-car team, fielding the Nos. 5, 25 and 24 cars out of three-separate shops on the Concord, North Carolina, campus. But soon, more teams began to adopt the four-car team concept, where each of the cars worked together to share information and were seeing positive on-track results. "When I left that Michigan race, I remember calling Rick (Hendrick) and I said 'You know, I was just racing in the XFINITY race -- Jimmie Johnson is extremely impressive … I really think that we could build this fourth team and hire him,'" Gordon said. Hendrick had met Johnson through his son Ricky, as the pair were friends. But he worried about a lack of sponsorship for a no-name rookie out of El Cajon, California. But Gordon was relentless. "Maybe a week or two went by and we talked some more about it," Gordon said. "and Rick said to me … 'Listen, if you're that adamant about it, why don't you be a partner with me on it and we'll go in together?' "I said, 'Done.'" On Sept. 22, 2000, Jimmie Johnson officially signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet part-time. He made his first start behind the wheel of the No. 48 ride less than 13 months after that, signed with the team full-time in 2002 and earned his first Sprint Cup Series race 10 races into his rookie year. Less than five years after that, Johnson was celebrating his first Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway . • • •