Kasey Kahne says he appreciates and recognizes the impact of Rick Hendrick's support as he looks for a new opportunity in 2018.
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman goes 1-on-1 with the newly announced driver of the No. 88 car for the 2018 season, Alex Bowman and his boss Rick Hendrick .
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;
Dale Earnhardt talks about his relationship with team owner and friend Rick Hendrick and the emotions surrounding his decision to retire after the 2017 season.
Chase Elliott talks about his appreciation for team owner Rick Hendrick and the contract extension that was announced earlier this week.
Rick Hendrick showers Dale Earnhardt Jr. in praise at the announcement of his retirement following the 2017 season.
Rick Hendrick looks back on Hendrick Motor Sports' spectacular 2016 season which includes Jimmie Johnson's record-tying seventh NSCS title.
RELATED: Gordon keeps pedal down on way to Homestead Hendrick Motorsports , winner of six of the last nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, fields four teams but only one will be going for the 2015 championship later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . It's a fact that team owner Rick Hendrick doesn't like to be reminded of, given his organization's run of success in the series. Three Hendrick drivers qualified for this year's 16-team Chase for the Sprint Cup field -- Jeff Gordon , a four-time champ; Jimmie Johnson , winner of six titles; and Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt is still chasing his first Sprint Cup crown. Teammate Kasey Kahne was the only Hendrick driver who failed to earn a berth in the 10-race playoff. Gordon qualified for the Championship Round at Homestead thanks to a win last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Johnson failed to advance past the first round, while Earnhardt was eliminated after the second three-race segment. With only Gordon still title eligible, how does the organization balance what's best for the No. 24 team while not ignoring the needs of its other teams in the remaining three races? "The cool thing about our deal," Hendrick told NASCAR.com, "is all the stuff is the same. We don't play favorites over any of them. We give them the best stuff we've got -- all four of them. "So it won't be any different the next few races." While Gordon's efforts are top of mind, it's just as valuable for his other teams to continue to succeed as the season winds down, Hendrick said. It's just as important for Jimmie, Kasey and Dale," Hendrick said. "Dale's won twice, Jimmie's won four times this year, so it would be nice if Kasey could get a win. He's been running really well here lately, running up in the top five and top 10. "For all of those teams to end the year on a high is important because that momentum rolls you into next year. You go into the off-season kind of feeling like 'Man, I can't wait to go to Daytona.' "So yeah, it's important for all of them to run good."
Rick Hendrick was more than pleased with JR Motorsports driver, William Byron's throwback paint scheme that honors the late Ricky Hendrick .
RELATED: Everything to know about Friday's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction Rick Hendrick is going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the owner of Hendrick Motorsports might be the one most surprised by his selection. "It is more than just 'Hey, this is cool,'" the 67-year-old said recently. "It's more than that to me. It's humbling; it's just very humbling to me that I could even be looked at." Hendrick will be inducted into the Hall Friday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), along with fellow team owners Richard Childress and Raymond Parks and drivers Benny Parsons and Mark Martin. There hasn't been much time for reflection, Hendrick said, as he continues to oversee an organization that fields four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams in addition to one of the nation’s most successful automotive sales groups. "I think when you are in the day-to-day and in a day-to-day race and you are going to the track and you are trying to win races … or you are running for a championship, all that other stuff is kind of back there, but it doesn't come to the forefront," Hendrick said. "But then when you get to an event like this and you are going into the Hall of Fame with Raymond Parks and Benny and Richard and Mark and all these guys and you look at who is in there and you look at what the sport has meant to you and your family, it is really special and it's very emotional. "You think about those things. It's humbling. I think the word is humbling because … I never thought I would ever race in NASCAR. I never thought I would ever win a NASCAR race. I never really thought we would win a championship and now to be in the position we are in to win as much and have the success we have had and to be recognized as doing something in the sport to get into the Hall it's a tremendous honor.” Parsons and Martin each drove for Hendrick at one time. Childress and his Richard Childress Racing organization were the benchmark when Hendrick arrived on the scene in 1984. RELATED: Racing lifer Childress ready for induction "Really when I first started I didn't think anybody would ever beat them," Hendrick said of Childress and his driver, Dale Earnhardt. "I thought they were just, basically, unbeatable." That changed with Jeff Gordon 's arrival at HMS in the early '90s, and for nearly a decade, the two organizations were the best in the NASCAR garage, winning seven championships between themselves from '93 through '01. The Hendrick organization continues to set the pace today, with Jimmie Johnson winning the 2016 championship to become just the third driver to win seven titles. Officially, HMS teams have won 12 championships in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 245 races. Previous programs in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series produced nearly 50 more victories and three additional championships. It's almost overwhelming for Hendrick , who built his first car (for drag racing) when he was a teenager with help from his father. "When you get something like this in life, when someone recognizes you, you think about going to Hillsborough (North Carolina) to watch a race on dirt," he said. "You think about all the sacrifices your Dad made to get you in the cars and your son's love for the cars, your brother, (engine builder) Randy Dorton, all those guys that aren’t here now that gave it all. "It's super emotional for me because I know how much they loved it, how much they sacrificed for it and this is almost like the culmination." Sixteen drivers have won at least one race while competing for HMS at the NASCAR Cup level. Johnson, Gordon and Terry Labonte won championships as well. RELATED: Johnson's seventh title leaves him speechless, but peers say plenty In spite of all his accomplishments and those of his organization, Hendrick said he still feels a bit awed by his selection. "I think it feels a lot like the first time I went to New York after I won a championship, the first championship," he said. "You feel … it's an unbelievable accomplishment when you dreamed about being involved in a sport or just watching the sport and to think that now you are being recognized in the Hall of Fame, it's a really emotional and a very special feeling." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;