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Before teams even got to Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports had gotten a big lift last Wednesday when an appeals panel restored the driver, owner and playoff points that NASCAR had stripped from all four of its Cup teams.
Last month, NASCAR penalized all four teams for unapproved modifications of a single-sourced supplied part (hood louvers).
The appeals panel kept the $100,000 fines and four-race suspensions for each crew chief in place but restored the points – which had been the one big blemish to an otherwise remarkable start to the 2023 season for HMS.
On Sunday, Hendrick then returned to what it has done best this season, dominating the competition on the track.
Larson’s victory came by holding off Josh Berry, who is substituting for injured teammate Chase Elliott. Fellow teammate Alex Bowman finished eighth, putting three HMS teams in the top 10. Had Byron not been spun, all four likely would have been there.
Hendrick drivers have now won three of the last five races and Larson and Byron continue to show they remain the class of the field.
“Certainly, we’re off to a great start,” said HMS vice chairman Jeff Gordon. “Our folks at Chevy are doing an amazing job with not only the design of this car starting last year, but also some of the new things that have been brought to all the OEMs and opportunities that they’ve had.
“Then the job that the teams do collaborating together, sharing information, and trying to prepare for each and every race. They’ve done an amazing job.
“I think there is a lot of parity out there. But right now, I just like the way that I’m seeing our teams execute and our teams come prepared and the speed that are in our race cars.”
Not hindered by loss of regular crew chiefs
The strength of the organization as a whole is also demonstrated by the fact the loss of all four team’s crew chiefs hasn’t slowed their collective effort.
And with each passing race, Berry – a regular in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports – seems to be getting more comfortable running in the Cup series. Prior to jumping in Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet last month, he had made only two previous Cup starts.
“We’ve been put under really, really difficult circumstances with all four crew chiefs being out, and just the job that I’ve watched them do, how they’ve communicated, you know,” Gordon said.
“I mean, we’re lucky we have people that have been crew chiefs that have a lot of experience, but at the same time with this car, with no practice, no qualifying (both were rained out at Richmond) there’s so much that has to be done to tie everything in together.
“Great job for Kevin (Meendering, Larson’s interim crew chief) for all the hard work that he has put in. He is still doing his other job, too, in that contribution.”
Race winner Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images
The strong performance by HMS drivers also came at a track where the organization has been hit-or-miss in recent seasons.
“This has historically been a really bad track for Hendrick,” Larson said. “So, to have all of us run up front majority of the day, come away with a one-two finish, lead as many laps as we did between William and I, it was the best day I think Hendrick has had at Richmond in decades probably.
“Just a great day all around for Hendrick Motorsports. Great week especially.”
And on track for a great year.