Rated as one of NASCAR’s best ‘comeback drivers’ Ricky Craven started racing at the tender age of fifteen. Young Craven grew up in the state of New England and he began his racing career at the Unity Raceway, where he won two races in his first year and also garnered the Rookie of the Year award. At this young age his career skyrocketed, and in his second year of racing he won as many as twelve feature events and the track championship, following which he made the decision to run the Canadian-American tour, where he enjoyed even more success.
Shortly after this brilliant start, Ricky Craven suffered a number of failures. His bad luck lasted roughly four years, but he persevered and went on to enjoy some notable successes such as winning the Rookie of the Year Award at the Busch North Series. In 1991 he became the Busch North Series Champion, won two Busch Series races and made his debut at the Winston Cup. He decided to race the Busch Series full-time in 1992 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award yet again. In subsequent years he finished as a runner up in the championship standings and soon had several Winston Cup team owners knocking at his door. In 1995 he teamed up with Larry Hendrick Motorsports and Kodiak for a sensational season. He qualified for every race in the Winston Cup, finished in the top-ten four times and took the top rookie award. He also enjoyed an excellent year in 1996.
At the end of the year Craven was given the opportunity to drive for the Hendrick Motorsports team, which he immediately agreed to, and the new season started well. However, while practising for the Interstate Batteries 500 in1997, Craven crashed hard into the wall, suffering a concussion resulting in him missing two races. Before long he was back in the driver’s seat winning the Winston Open and finishing 19th in points. Unfortunately, things did not go so well the following year when the long-term effects of his concussion became evident and he was forced onto the sidelines until he recovered. He made one premature attempt at a return, winning the pole at the New Hampshire International Speedway before fading again. He went through a bad patch after this before returning to racing glory in 2000 when he won the Michigan International Speedway’s summer race, amongst other things. In 2003 he made NASCAR history at the Darlington Speedway, where he finished first in an epic battle against Kurt Busch. Following a season with Rousch Racing in 2005, and a failed attempt at winning the Goody’s 250 for FitzBradshaw Racing, Ricky Craven retired from the track and became a commentator and NASCAR analyst for ESPN and Yahoo! Sports.
Terrance Lee Labonte, a former NASCAR driver, was born on November 16, 1956, in Corpus Christi, Texas. As a youngster Labonte was surrounded by the sport through his father, who would work on his friends racecars as a hobby. Terry is the older brother of Bobby Labonte, 2000 NASCAR and Winston Cup champion, and father of Justin Labonte, Busch Series driver.
At the age of seven, Terry Labonte began racing quarter-midgets and when he was nine he won the national championships. Later as a teenager he moved to local short tracks in a stock car. Terry won track championships on both dirt and asphalt in his hometown, in San Antonio and Houston from 1975 to 1977.
Terry Labonte took part in his first NASCAR race in 1978 at Darlington Raceway. Then in 1979 he competed against Dale Earnhardt, Joe Millikan and Harry Gant for the NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. Although he did not win he did finish as one of the top three rookies to get into the top ten in points. His season ended with thirteen top-ten finishes. The following year he took part in the Winston Cup race on Labor Day and won it.
In 1986 Terry announced that he would be leaving the Hagan’s team for the Junior Johnson and Associates. This move proved successful and he earned four pole-position starts as well as winning the Holly Farms 400. Again he moved teams, and this time he joined the #1 Skoal Classic Oldsmobile team under Precision Products Racing.
Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1994, and in 1996 he broke Richard Petty’s streak for consecutive races. Although he only had two wins that year he won the championship as well. In 2000 his consecutive race wins were broken at 655 due to an inner ear injury at the Pepsi 400, forcing him to miss the Global Crossing @ The Glen and the Brickyard 400.
The year 2003 was Labonte’s first pole win since 2000 and he also made his second career major. Terry Labonte then announced that 2004 would be his last full year on the circuit and that for the next two years he would instead participate on a part-time basis. The last race Labonte took part in, in 2006, was the Dickies 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.
The story of Hendrick Motorsports started in 1984. Rick Hendrick was a businessman with a passion for racing, and a dream to be a part of the racing world. Harry Hyde, a veteran racing driver, was not ready to retire from the sport he loved. Together, they created All Star Racing, just a small company that would only compete in a few events. But All Star Racing was not destined to take a back seat. Hendrick Motorsports, or HMS, raced only Chevrolets, and were seen in the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup circuits.
With nine Sprint Cup Series Championships, one Busch (now Nationwide) Series crown and no less than three Craftsman (now Camping World) Truck Series titles, Hendrick Motorsports has become one of the leading and celebrated racing organisations in the world of stock car racing. Starting with only one entry into a series, HMS now boasts four Sprint Cup Series vehicles.
Situated in Concord, which is in North Carolina, is the 250 000 square meter HMS complex, where all their racing cars are built from scratch. The entire manufacturing process takes place here. Each year, more than 550 engines are either built or rebuilt at this facility, with other NASCAR outfits leasing them from the team.
At present, HMS has over 500 employees that each contribute to the success of the company. They are the people who manage, take care of the team store, do the marketing, ensure the licensing, stay on top of the merchandising, run the public relations department, update the company’s website, and look after the HMS museum, which is 1400 square meters in size.
The drivers of the cars and the sponsors such as Corporation, Pepsi, Go Daddy, Lowe’s, DuPont, Delphi, National Guard and Carquest all play an important role in the success and growth of the company. It never occurred to either Rick Hendrick or Harry Hyde that the little “All Star Racing” company would grow up to be the mighty Hendrick Motorsports, but just as with many success stories, it started with a dream, loads of passion and a strong sense of commitment.
Darrell Lee Waltrip is a former three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion as well as the 1989 Daytona 500 winner. At the moment Waltrip is working at Fox Broadcasting Company as a television race commentator. His racing days started off in Kentucky, but with his growing success it led him to move to Nashville, Tennessee. There he raced at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds on the Nashville Speedway USA, where he won two track championships. Darrell Waltrip did a lot to help promote races by appearing on the local television program, something many other competitors refused to do.
In 1972 Waltrip started in the Cup level driving an old Mercury Cyclone, which was his primary car during the first few seasons. At the Cup level races Darrell drove aggressively and was known for his outspoken style, which earned him the nickname “Jaws” as given by his rival Cale Yarborough. The year 1980 was the height of Waltrip’s NASCAR success but at the same time it was where he had to endure criticism from his fans. Eventually he used his wit and silliness to win their hearts over.
Darrell Waltrip had much success with Junior Johnson, a car owner, winning three national championships. However, there was concern with Waltrips involvement with Budweiser as it created this image of alcohol, fast cars, and success. With that Darrell Waltrip made a move to Hendrick motors. In 1989 Waltrip won the Daytona 500 for the first time in his entire race career. That same year a lot of pressure was placed on Darrell to win one more race, that being the Heinz Southern 500 in Darlington. If he did so, he would earn himself one million dollar bonus for having won four majors in one season.
However he did not cope well with the pressure as he also had the added strain of winning the Career Grand Slam. This led to him hitting the wall early on in the race, putting him out of the race as a contender. The year 1990 also proved unsuccessful. While practicing for the Pepsi 400, Waltrip spun out in another car’s oil and suffered a broken leg, two broken arms and a concussion.
Darrell retired from racing in 2000 and upon retirement signed up with Fox as an analyst on the network’s NASCAR telecasts.
Jimmie Kenneth Johnson was born in El Cajon, California on the 17th of September 1975. His racing career began successfully on 50cc motorcycles when he was five-years old. By the age of eight he won the 60cc class championship, even though he had injured his knee and there were still seven races to go. From motorcycles he made his way to four wheels where he competed in many off-road leagues. These included SODA, Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group and SCORE International. Here he received Rookie of the Year honors in all three leagues, made a total of 25 wins, over 100 top-three finishes and six championships. In 1996 and 1997 SODA series Jimmie Johnson raced with Herzog Motorsports as well as being a field reporter for ESPN in the SODA series.
A year later Johnson joined the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit where he was chosen for Rookie of the Year honors as well as finishing fourth overall. At the same time he joined NASCAR Busch Series and began racing with them. In 1999 he did the same, running in both the ASA and Busch Series and won twice, finishing third in the ASA point race. The following year he became a Busch Series driver but this time with Herzog Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson won his first Busch Series in 2001 on the Chicagoland Speedway at the Hills Brothers Coffee 300.
By the end of 2006 Johnson had the honor of being the only driver to win the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship all in one year and the only driver to win three Coca-Cola 600s in one go. Jimmie’s 2006 season saw him win the first of four Sprint Cup Series championships, as well as the Nextel All-Star challenge. He was voted 2006 Driver of the year, an award that is unique in that it covers the entire racing series in the United States. Johnson continued on a winning streak in 2007 where he won a series of races as well as his second consecutive championship. 2008 saw Johnson notching up 7 wins, 6 poles, 15 top-fives, 22 top-tens and the Sprint Cup Series championship. In 2009 he made NASCAR history by being the first driver to win four consecutive championships. His achievements for the season included 7 wins, 4 poles, 16 top-fives, and 24 top-tens. Jimmie Johnson was chosen as the 2009 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Having set the goal of winning five consecutive championships, by the end of March 2010 Johnson was right on track with 3 wins, 3 top-fives, and 3 top-tens, the downside being a DNF at the Daytona 500. Currently Johnson drives the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, which is owned by Jeff Gordon, sponsored by Lowe’s and operated by Hendrick Motorsports.