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May 14th, 2012
Rick Hendrick praised Jimmie Johnson and his team following the organisation’s 200th Sprint Cup victory which they claimed on Saturday at Darlington.
Despite Johnson being the driver who had led the most laps during the season ahead of his team-mate Jeff Gordon, It took 17 races for the organisation to move up from 199 wins after the five-time champion had most recently won at Kansas last year.
The team had come close to win a number of races this year but different circumstances had prevented their drivers from getting to Victory Lane, suffering a massive blow at Martinsville last month, where Johnson and Gordon led most of the race and battled for victory between them until their hopes were dashed in an incident during a late restart.
Hendrick paid tribute to late team members as legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, who was instrumental to the outfit’s early success in the 1980s. He also dedicated the milestone win to the memory of family and team members who died in an airplane crash close to Martinsville in 2004.
“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” said Hendrick. “I thought we were going to haul those [200th-win commemorative] hats around forever!… When we got to 199, we got stuck.
“I was at a wedding for one of my best friends in the western part of North Carolina. And at eight o’clock we jumped on the helicopter and got [to Darlington]. I’m so proud of the guys and all of the folks from Harry Hyde that helped me get this thing going, to everybody…
“I just want to thank everybody and those folks that gave it all and gave their lives in ’04, my family and my friends, this is a special night we’re going to remember them.”
Jimmie Johnson, who has contributed to the organisation’s tally with 56 wins, was reminiscent of how Hendrick and Gordon gave him the chance to kick off a successful career in NASCAR’s elite series in 2001.
Since then, Johnson is accountable for more than half the races the team has won.
“I wouldn’t have won a bunch of these now if it wasn’t for his vision and [sponsor] Lowe’s coming on board to believe in me in the beginning,” said Johnson.
“I wouldn’t be here today to contribute to these great wins. But in typical Rick Hendrick fashion he said, ‘We got 200, now let’s go get 250′, so we didn’t even savor it. He’s already put the pressure on us to go win 250!”
Hendrick Motorsports ranks second in the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winning teams behind Petty Enterprises which claimed 268 wins, 197 achieved by Richard Petty alone.