Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Jeff Gordon explains HMS’ changing approach to extracurricular racing

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Hendrick Motorsports announced on January 12 that Kyle Larson will take over the 2024 Indy 500. Now Jeff Gordon has explained how a changed approach in the organization of the NASCAR Cup Series led to this significant step.

The Hall of Famers appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on January 25 as part of a preseason media tour celebrating NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary. He conceded during the sit down that Hendrick Motorsports hasn’t always been willing to let its drivers take over other forms of motorsport. However, that all changed when Larson joined the organization ahead of the 2021 season.

“I think, first of all, the sport has changed,” explained Gordon. “And I guess you look at people racing other races, even within Xfinity and Trucks, and I would say Kyle influenced that. When we started thinking about how to get Kyle Larson here, he made it clear that he wanted to keep racing dirt.

“So when I had this conversation with Rick [Hendrick], and we talked about it, I said, ‘You know what, that’s not a bad thing.’ And actually it turned out to be a great thing because it brought our people together. And our other riders started riding other things as well and found that it served them well.”

Larson is the most prominent example at Hendrick Motorsports in terms of extracurricular racing. He shuttled back and forth between dirt races and the Cup Series during his 2021 championship season, which required traveling across the country at a blistering pace.

Fast forward to 2022 and Larson had a similar race schedule. It wasn’t quite as crowded, but he did co-found a midweek racing series with bigger prize pools.

The other members of HMS have used their own opportunities to compete in other motorsport series. Alex Bowman, for example, started competing on both sand and tarmac before he switched to stock car racing. Now he has his own team, which regularly makes multiple entries to the Chili Bowl.

Bowman’s extracurricular schedule expanded in 2022. He entered the first event of Larson’s High Limit Racing and decided to test himself in Winged Sprint cars. The experience was unique and he will continue in 2023.

William Byron added a different style of racing to his schedule. He returned to Super Late Models during the 2022 season while working for Donnie Wilson Motorsports. This was an opportunity for him to revive some of his racing roots while striving for wins.

Chase Elliott is the runaway. He doesn’t spend as much time as his teammates competing outside of the Cup Series. Instead, he stays out of the limelight. Although he has competed in two different Nitro Rallycross race weekends in the last two years.

The championship-winning organization has changed its approach in recent seasons, which has opened up opportunities for its drivers to compete in other series. However, there are important factors they must consider.

As Gordon explained during his appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, he was having a discussion with Larson when the California native joined HMS. He said they should talk about the opportunities that must arise.

There are several factors in this conversation. HMS wants to ensure its drivers have a great experience and are competitive on their extracurricular starts. The organization also wants to make sure everything is done properly and safely.

These factors will continue to be the focus as the four drivers take part in unique racing opportunities. They will remain critical as Larson prepares to face The Double and attempts to complete both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

These factors will continue to be the focus as the four drivers take part in unique racing opportunities. They will remain critical as Larson prepares to face The Double and attempts to complete both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

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