NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick 'absolutely' wants Chase Elliott, William Byron to retire with team
Rick Hendrick — whose NASCAR team, Hendrick Motorsports, became the winningest organization in Cup Series history this season — is looking ahead to the future. And keeping his current four drivers with the team is an “ongoing” focus “to keep the band together.”
And so far, it looks like things are working out the way the 72-year-old team owner wants with defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and William Byron.
In June, Hendrick Motorsports announced Bowman signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet through the 2023 season. Bowman is in his fourth full-time season with Hendrick.
Then Wednesday, it announced Larson signed a one-year extension, also through the 2023 season, to stay in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Larson is currently in his first season with the team after Chip Ganassi Racing fired him early in the 2020 season after he said the N-word during a live-streamed iRacing event.
And now, the focus is on the remaining two Hendrick drivers: Elliott and Byron.
“Absolutely, my plan is for Chase and William to retire with us, so that’s an ongoing situation with me,” Hendrick said, via NASCAR.com. “I love the lineup right now, and I want to keep the band together.”
Elliott and Byron have deals through the end of the 2022 NASCAR season, and it makes sense that Hendrick would want to keep them around, especially considering Hendrick Motorsports has been the team to beat for much of the 2021 Cup Series season so far.
Through the first 21 races, the four drivers combine for 10 wins: Larson has four, Bowman has three, Elliott has two and Bryon has one. All four drivers are currently in the top 11 in the driver standings and are projected to be ranked among the top-7 drivers when the 16-driver, 10-race playoffs begin in September.
Also for the long-term future of the team, Jeff Gordon will officially take over next year as the organization’s vice chairman, parting with FOX Sports after six seasons in the broadcast booth. He’ll be the team’s No. 2 leader behind Hendrick.
Gordon is one of several drivers to spend a huge chuck of their careers – or, in his case, his entire career — competing for Hendrick Motorsports, racing full-time for the team from 1993 until he retired in 2015. Other recent drivers in that category include Dale Earnhardt Jr., who retired in 2017 after his last 10 seasons with the team, and Jimmie Johnson, who retired (from NASCAR, not racing) at the end of the 2020 season after spending his whole 19-year career with Hendrick.