Hendrick closing in on Petty record

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 10: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, Team Owner Rick Hendrick, William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, pose for a photo after Byron won the pole award during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 10, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Petty Enterprises set the standard for victories in the NASCAR Cup Series, but Hendrick Motorsports is closing fast.

In 1949, Lee Petty gave his family-founded organization its first win, at Heidelberg Raceway in Pittsburgh. Fifty years later, John Andretti claimed the last victory—and 268th—for Petty Enterprises at Martinsville Speedway.

The Randleman, N.C.-based team ceased operations after the 2008 season, as seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty took on partners in what is now Richard Petty Motorsports, whose five wins don’t count in the Petty Enterprises total.

Chase Elliott won five races for Hendrick on the way to the series championship last year, and Alex Bowman and William Byron added one victory each to bring the HMS total to 263. Even if Hendrick surpasses the Petty Enterprises total, team owner Rick Hendrick acknowledges that there will only be one “King”.

“The Petty organization will always be kind of the backbone of the sport,” Hendrick said. “Richard will always be the King. We may end up with more wins than they did, but what they’ve done for the sport—you know, Richard has been with Presidents. He is the kind of person that when you mention his name, it helps our whole sport.

“So I’m a little humble to think that ‘Hey, I’m going to maybe one day pass his record of wins. I would love to, but I don’t know if I’ll ever contribute as much to the sport as Richard Petty and the Petty organization have.”

Greg Engle