Hendrick Motorsports has been using Charlotte Motor Speedway as its own personal playground for the past 25 years, accumulating 25 wins between the track's two points-paying races each season and its non-points spectacle, the Sprint All-Star Race. Its dominance began in 1988 with a driver nicknamed "Jaws" and continues to this day with its stable of four drivers.
Early days - Back in 1988, Darrell Waltrip - known to many fans and fellow drivers as "Jaws" due to his outspoken nature and aggressive driving style - won the first of two consecutive Coca Cola 600s, but the team didn't return to victory lane again until 1994, when Jeff Gordon won the first of three 600s in a five-year span, also winning in 1997 and 1998. Hendrick also won three All-Star events in the mid- to late-1990s, two by Gordon (1995 and 1997) and one by Terry Labonte (1999).
The Johnson era - After Gordon won his last All-Star Race in 2001, the Jimmie Johnson era at Hendrick Motorsports was ushered in. Since 2003, Johnson has picked up wins in Four All-Star Races, including last weekend's record-setter that broke a tie with Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt, and six points-paying races - in a span of six races from 2003 through 2005, Johnson earned five of those wins and had a worst finish of third.
New kid on the block - Kasey Kahne, the new kid at Hendrick Motorsports having joined the team in 2012, came to the team with two wins in the 600 already (2006 and 2008, with Evernham Motorsports and Gillette Evernham Motorsports, respectively), as well as a win in the fall 2006 race. In his first season with Hendrick, Kahne added to that total with a third win in the 600.
The fan favorite - Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose fans have voted him Most Popular Driver 10 years running (2003 through 2012), is the only current member of Hendrick Motorsports without a points-paying win at Charlotte - he has 11 top 10 finishes in 26 total starts at the track, as well as an All-Star win in 2000 as a member of Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Can anyone beat Hendrick Motorsports at Charlotte? - The Coca Cola 600 has been known to bring out first-time winners - in addition to the "Silver Fox," David Pearson back in 1961, Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Casey Mears and David Reutimann all picked up their first wins in NASCAR's longest race of the season. Aric Almirola started last year's 600 from the pole and is looking for his first Cup Series win, while Rookie of the Year contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr. makes his third start in the Cup Series at Charlotte and is also looking for his first win.
Kenseth, who has the most wins this season with three, has been on a hot streak since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, but his two wins and 14 top 10s in 27 Charlotte races all came with Roush Fenway Racing. JGR has just one Coca Cola 600 win, Labonte's first win back in 1995, and three wins in the fall race. Another driver who had Charlotte success with Roush Fenway is Mark Martin, who earned four wins for the Ford team.
Sources: "Storylines: Charlotte Motor Speedway," NASCAR Media, May 20, 2013
"Statistical Advance: Analyzing the Coca Cola 600," NASCAR Media, May 20, 2013
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Examiner.com and Skirts & Scuffs.
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