Rick Hendrick Widens Title Record
by Tom Jensen November 18, 2020
Chase Elliott’s 2020 NASCAR premier series championship was the 13th for Hendrick Motorsports founder and owner Rick Hendrick.
More than any other single factor, championships define NASCAR Hall of Fame careers. Winning races is important, but championships are the pinnacle of all sports, including NASCAR racing.
Among drivers, former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stars Richie Evans (2012) and Mike Stefanik (2021) won nine titles each, while in the premier series, Richard Petty (2010), Dale Earnhardt (2010) and Jimmie Johnson were each seven-time champions.
Those numbers are certainly impressive, but NASCAR’s all-time premier series champion is Rick Hendrick (2017), who now is a 13-time title winner as a team owner. Hendrick’s nearest competition is Petty Enterprises, which won nine times for team owner Lee Petty (2011), two with Lee behind the wheel and seven with his son Richard in the cockpit. As a footnote, Lee won three titles as a driver but in 1954, when Lee won his first title, Herb Thomas captured the owner’s crown.
Two other team owners, Junior Johnson (2010) and Richard Childress (2017) earned six titles each. All of Childress’ championships were taken by Dale Earnhardt (2010), while Cale Yarborough (2012) and Darrell Waltrip (2012) captured three each for Johnson.
Hendrick’s record is certainly impressive, especially when you add in the 263 race wins the team posted by the end of the 2020 season.
But what might be even more impressive is that Hendrick’s 13 titles have come with four different drivers: Jeff Gordon in 1995, ’97, ‘98 and 2001; Terry Labonte in 1996; Jimmie Johnson in 2006-10, ’13 and ’16; and now, Chase Elliott in 2020.
Since the inception of the premier series in 1949, Hendrick drivers have won 18 percent of the total championships awarded, including 50 percent of all the titles in the last 26 years. Those are big numbers, to be sure.
I just really love to see young guys at our company have an opportunity to go out and do something really special.
— Rick Hendrick
Asked if the success got old, Hendrick was emphatic. “I wouldn't be doing this at my age if that got old, I'll tell you that,” Hendrick said after Elliott’s championship run at Phoenix Raceway. “No, I just really love to see young guys at our company have an opportunity to go out and do something really special.”
And the future remains bright for Hendrick Motorsports, the team Hendrick founded as All-Star Racing in 1984. “I feel good about our company. We've got young crew chiefs, young drivers, and they're super competitive,” Hendrick said. “I think we'll be good for years to come.”