NASCAR Team Owner Rick Hendrick Has More Than Rooting Interest in Greg Anderson, NHRA
NASCAR team owner and Southeast auto-sales mogul Rick Hendrick had a go at drag racing when he was 14 years old, competing with a 1931 Chevrolet he built himself.
So when Hendrick decided to sponsor four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson for his 2021 Camping World Drag Racing Series run, it was not only a nod to his late son Ricky’s stock-car paint scheme but also a tribute to the grassroots beginning of the NASCAR-record-setting empire he was to build with Hendrick Motorsports and his Hendrick Automotive Group.
His four-car NASCAR Cup Series team of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, and William Byron has pushed his victory count to 274 and he is the leader in America’s premier motorsports series with 16 owner’s championship and 17 overall.
But this summer, and particularly the past two weekends, Hendrick has an eye for the NHRA.
Thanks to his Pro Stock victory in the HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro last Sunday at Reading, Pa., which is just five miles or less from the headquarters of Hendrick’s NASCAR team rival Roger Penske, Anderson tied now-retired mentor Warren Johnson for the second-most victories in NHRA history. Anderson and Johnson have 97 triumphs—most in the class’ 70-year register—and are second only to runaway leader John Force, who has 154 Funny Car trophies.
This weekend, as Hendrick’s stock cars run at Bristol, Tenn., in the Bass Pro Shops-sponsored 500-lapper, vying for their own survival in NASCAR’s championship chase, Anderson will be trying to pass Johnson’s mark and own that No. 2 overall position outright.
And at this weekend’s NHRA DeWalt Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C., in Hendrick’s backyard, Hendrick was on hand Friday to experience the sensory overload of drag racing and watch Anderson qualify in pursuit of his ninth top starting spot in 13 races this season. Qualifying at zMAX Dragway will start with a Friday-evening session and set the 16-car fields following two scheduled sessions Saturday.
Anderson said that Hendrick phoned him 15 minutes after his Reading achievement to congratulate him and that he was convinced then and there that “I’ve met my match there. he is, without a doubt, all about winning.
“As excited as I was to win the race and to beat Erica (nemesis Enders, also a four-time champ) and to win the first playoff race and to get No. 97, that guy right there likes to win more than I think I do. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that wants to win as bad as I do or likes to win as much as I do,” Anderson said of Hendrick.
“And he’s so excited. He’s so in tune with what’s going on over here.”
‘And he’s so excited,” Anderson said. “He’s so in tune with what’s going on over here. I mean, obviously he’s got a ton going on with the NASCAR program and they’re certainly awesome over there and they’re going to have a great chance to win a championship over there with four of his cars. So he’s got all these things going on, and he’s staying in touch with our program over here. And he knows exactly what, when all the things that are on the line are, all about the history with Erica and the history of Warren and the record books and all that stuff. And it’s just impressive to see.
“But what sticks out is how much I can tell that he is all about winning. He wants to win,” he said in a WFO Radio podcast with Joe Castello. “That’s his life too, just like it is mine.”
“Obviously, I’m happier than heck to see that, to hear that, and I’m proud to be associated with him,” Anderson said. “And I’m just as proud as can be that I finally got a win with his logo on the side of the car. I apologize that it took so long.
“Now we’re rolling into Charlotte, his home track, with a chance to break the record,” the year-long Pro Stock points leader said of the man he called “one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life.” He said, “So if somehow, some way, the stars align and that happens this weekend, what a story that will be.” With a laugh, Anderson said, “I’ll tell the world that I planned it this way and I just kicked it in neutral for four or five races, ’cause this is what I wanted to happen. It’s big lie, but that’s what I’ll tell everybody.”
He said Hendrick, “is excited as could be about the weekend and what could go down this weekend. He’s all about that. You know, he obviously just broke a record himself. He used he’s the winningest NASCAR owner in team history. So he’s all about the records. He’s all about winning and he wants to be a part of this great story, too. So it’s an exciting deal.”
Anderson said he’s eager to teach Larson, No. 3-ranked driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy, “a little bit about these Pro Stock cars. The guy obviously can drive anything, and I wouldn’t be afraid to throw him the keys to this Pro Stock car any day, ’cause he’s proved to the world he can drive anything with wheels on it. So it’d be cool to see him in one of these Pro Stockers.”
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