Hendrick has a new look
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — Rick Hendrick threw a glamorous party last fall when he formally introduced his 2018 driver lineup.
It was a lavish car unveiling that used lasers, spotlights and an emcee to celebrate a Hendrick Motorsports roster that had undergone a dramatic makeover.
Each of the four drivers was paired with someone for the event. Chase Elliott was joined by his Hall of Fame father, Bill, who helped uncover the new No. 9 his son will drive this year in his honor.
William Byron was introduced with Jeff Gordon, who won four titles in Byron's new No. 24. Alex Bowman came out with Dale Earnhardt Jr., the guy who helped him get his ride when Earnhardt retired. The team owner accompanied seventime NASCAR champion and Hendrick frontman Jimmie Johnson.
Standing next to glittering new race cars, the quartet was able to briefly mask the striking youthfulness of Hendrick's rebuilt organization.
Now, at the Daytona 500, the four drivers stand alone.
They passed their first test, and the boss could not be prouder.
Bowman, who sat out all of last year waiting for Earnhardt's seat to open, put a Hendrick car on the Daytona 500 pole for a record-tying fourth consecutive year. Johnson was third fastest. Byron, a rookie rushed into a Cup car this year because Kasey Kahne was fired, was fifth. Elliott was 10th.
"We've got a lot of racing to do and we're going to make mistakes," Hendrick said. "But to come down here, it's a statement by the whole organization to run four cars and get them that close."
Hendrick preemptively noted that the organization may have a rollercoaster season, largely because of the various resumes on his roster.
Johnson is the best of his era, and even though Elliott is entering just his third season, he made NASCAR's playoffs last year and proved he has the potential to be a star.
Bowman and Byron? Well, no one knows yet.
Aside from Johnson, in his 17th season, the roster has a combined 158 Cup starts with zero victories. It's three kids, Hendrick views it, at the start of their careers. Byron, Bowman and Elliott are fast, and will now develop their talents in the best equipment with on-the-job training.
Hendrick knows there will be bumps. But he doesn't care because there's some fresh air in the building.
In this Nov. 10, 2017, file photo, Chase Elliott, left, and Jimmie Johnson talk inside the garage area before practice for the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.