DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Rick Hendrick was telling the truth when he insisted this year was going to be much improved from last season, the worst in team history.
Hendrick Motorsports is now 2-for-2 at Speedweeks with the front row for Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 and Johnson’s victory in the exhibition Clash.
The proud Hendrick organization is using NASCAR’s biggest stage to show how serious the boss is about rebounding from 2018, when Johnson was winless for the first time in his career, Alex Bowman and William Byron had forgettable first seasons, and Chase Elliott’s three late victories were among the few bright spots.
If this was a sequel to “Days of Thunder,” with Randy Quaid again playing a version of Hendrick, the car owner might guarantee a Daytona 500 victory.
Hendrick, after all, is from a romantic time in NASCAR when a car salesman from Virginia could scrape together the money to enter the Daytona 500 and turn a fledgling little Chevrolet team into one of the most valuable properties in sports.
Hendrick still has his folksy Southern charm, still longs for those simpler days of racing, still wants to arrive in Daytona knowing his cars are the very best in the field.
So consider Sunday the first day in a new era at Hendrick Motorsports, where William Byron and Alex Bowman gave NASCAR its youngest front row in Daytona 500 history by qualifying first and second.
Knaus made a statement in 2002 when he and Johnson debuted at Daytona and won the pole in their first race together.
It was the fifth consecutive year a Hendrick car has won the pole for the Daytona 500 and it was the 700th pole for Chevrolet, the only partner Hendrick has had in racing.
As Hendrick last season worked through a massive personnel consolidation, Chevrolet struggled with its NASCAR introduction of the Camaro and won just four of 36 Cup races.
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