Whitesburg KY

Hendrick way continues

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

Every organization that fields cars in the Sprint Cup Series has its own way of doing business. Each has experienced success in the sport, but none can compare to that of Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick’s giant operation that fields four teams goes about its business in what it likes to refer to as the Hendrick Way.

Now exactly what the Hendrick Way is not really understood by the rest of the sport, but if you have ever been employed by HMS then you know it is all about how the employees work together not only for the benefit of the individual teams but for the overall benefit of the organization.

Owner Rick Hendrick has taken his four teams and paired two together to share one shop. Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne’s teams make up the 5/24 shop, while Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s teams share the 48/88 shop. Each shop is set up the same way with the crews of both teams working together to not only prepare one car for the upcoming race, but to make sure both cars are prepared as well as possible.

Decisions made in each shop come from both crew chiefs working together along with team manager Michael Landis. The three decide on how the racecars are prepared for both teams as well as the direction and approach that the teams take into the season.

The shop of the 48/88 teams has enjoyed tremendous success in the sport and it has the trophy case to prove it with Johnson’s six titles. According to Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus and Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief Steve Letarte, the two teams’ success is the product of how well the two teams’ crews work together in the shop preparing the cars.

It’s a work environment that definitely takes the “I” factor out of it and replaces it with an “us” mentality that puts the fortunes of the entire operation ahead of those of the individual teams. All four of the Hendrick teams made the Chase this season, further stating the case that the so-called Hendrick Way works.

Steve Letarte announced early in the just completed season that he would be stepping down after the completion of the Chase to move into the broadcast booth for the 2015 season. The position of Dale Jr.’s crew chief is one of the most coveted jobs in the sport but with it comes great expectations.

Dale Jr. was in the midst of enjoying one of the best seasons of his career when Letarte announced he was leaving, making the naming of his new crew chief one of the most anticipated hires for the upcoming season. Rick Hendrick has always had the knack for pairing up the right crew chief for his drivers, and according to everyone associated with HMS, the naming of Greg Ives as Earnhardt’s crew chief for next season was the right hire.

There will be no worry about if Ives can go about business in the Hendrick Way as he was a long-time member of Knaus and Johnson’s crew when Johnson won his first five titles. He started working as a mechanic in the 48 shop and eventually worked his way up to a chassis set-up guy before becoming the team’s lead engineer.

Ives left the 48 team after the 2012 season to become a crew chief for Dale Jr.’s JR Motorsports team in the Nationwide Series with driver Regan Smith. This year in his role as crew chief he won the Nationwide title with JRM’s Chase Elliott.

Ives’s return to the 48/88 shop is more of a homecoming for Knaus who feels it was the right hire for Dale Jr. as the two have that long history of working together. Maybe more important it is the right hire for HMS as the work that comes out of that shop will continue to be a product of the race proven Hendrick Way.

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