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#SrigleyStats: Hendrick Motorsports Writes Storybook Beginning to 40th Anniversary Season

This week, #SrigleyStats covers a storybook start to Hendrick's 40th anniversary season, a big victory on a significant date, the youth at the front of the Daytona 500 field, and a career-best run from Natalie Decker.


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There isn't a wordsmith anywhere on the globe able to craft a narrative as perfect and moving as the fairytale that Hendrick Motorsports experienced during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

Proudly carrying the name of team patriarch and undisputed leader, Rick Hendrick, the organization found overwhelming success in Monday's Daytona 500, with drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman sweeping the top two positions in the prestigious event.

The victory, a record-tying ninth for Hendrick Motorsports in the Daytona 500, coincided with the first of multiple special events planned throughout the year to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary, a kick-off party Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

In some ways, it's felicitous for William Byron, a driver on the precipice of superstardom, to be responsible for hand-delivering Hendrick Motorsports its first Daytona victory in a decade, considering the role that the No. 24 has played in the organization's decorated history.

Pair Byron's victory with a second-place finish for Alex Bowman and the No. 48 team -- the same number that Jimmie Johnson brought half of the team's 14 NASCAR Cup Series titles home with - and things couldn't have worked out any better for Hendrick Motorsports.

In the storied history of 'The Great American Race', only on nine occasions has an organization swept the race's top-two finishing positions, four of which belong to Hendrick Motorsports -- the only organization to do so multiple times (1989, 1997, 2013, 2024).

The strength wasn't just limited to Byron and Bowman, though, as teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson also had strong runs, with NASCAR's Most Popular Driver claiming a valuable playoff point, via his victory in the first stage.

With finishes of 11th (Larson) and 14th (Elliott), Hendrick Motorsports broke ground on new territory -- something incredibly difficult to do for an organization of its stature -- placing four entries inside the top-15 in the Daytona 500 for the first time in the team's history.

Additionally, Monday's 500-mile contest also marked the first time since 1997 that the organization had all of its vehicles finish inside the top-15 in the 'Great American Race'.


With inclement weather pushing the start of the 2024 Daytona 500 to Monday, February 19th, the stars perfectly aligned for a memorable day in the Hendrick Motorsports camp.

The season-opener, and eventual victory, came exactly 40 years to the day of Hendrick Motorsports' debut in the NASCAR Cup Series, where Geoffrey Bodine scored a top-10 result piloting the No. 5 All Star Racing Chevrolet in the 1984 Daytona 500.

But, that's not all. Monday's result by William Byron and Alex Bowman holds additional significance to the organization, marking exactly 35 years since Hendrick Motorsports recorded its first of four 1-2 finishes in the Daytona 500, with Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader holding down the top two spots in the 1989 Daytona 500.

After the 1-2 result in the Daytona 500, Darrell Waltrip went on to win the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship, an outcome that would follow for each of the organization's other top-two sweeps in the Daytona 500.

Both Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2013) also followed the trend, where one of the drivers involved in a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2 in the Daytona 500 would go on to win the championship. Richard Petty (1971) and Kyle Busch (2019) would also accomplish the same feat, but while driving for Petty Enterprises and Joe Gibbs Racing, respectively.

Could 2024 be the year of William Byron... or even Alex Bowman?


William Byron, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie, and Bubba Wallace made up the top-five finishers in Monday's 2024 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, after a last-lap accident jumbled the running order at the front of the pack.

Shockingly, the oldest of those five drivers is 32-year-old Corey LaJoie, who had just celebrated his first birthday when four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon made his debut at NASCAR's top level in 1992.

Byron (26), Bowman (30), Bell (29), LaJoie (32), and Wallace (30) combined for an average age of 29.4 for the top five in the NASCAR Cup Series season-opener, marking the third time in the last six years the average age of the top-five has dropped below the three-decade mark.

It's quite the unprecedented scenario, where drivers competing for victories in 'The Great American Race' are all under the age of 35, whereas just a decade ago, the three-year average of top-five finishers had crept up to 38 years old

In fact, throughout the event's last 58 iterations, there has always been at least one driver older than Corey LaJoie (the oldest competitor to finish inside the top-five in the 2024 Daytona 500) who has recorded a top-five result.

Only in 1966, with a top-five including a star-studded roster of Richard Petty (28), Cale Yarborough (26), David Pearson (31), Fred Lorenzen (31), and Sam McQuagg (28), did the NASCAR Cup Series season-opener fail to have a driver older than 32 years old in its top-five.


In Monday's NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona International Speedway, which took place directly after the conclusion of the 2024 Daytona 500, Natalie Decker had the best run of her career, to date, in the United Rentals 300.

Driving the No. 36 Amped Fitness Chevrolet Camaro for DGM Racing, Decker finished a career-best 18th place, after depositing just a couple of minor scratches and dents on her primarily purple racecar.

However, the defining moment of the event for the Eagle River, Wisconsin native, her second start at Daytona International Speedway in the second-tier series, was during the final stage when an alternate pit strategy left her on track to lead seven laps, the first laps led in her NASCAR National Series career.

In doing so, Decker became just the third woman in the history of the NASCAR Xfinity Series to lead laps, joining the likes of Patty Moise and Danica Patrick. Additionally, Decker is the second to lead laps in the series at Daytona, after Danica Patrick.

Following her incredible run in the season-opener at Daytona, Decker spoke to Toby Christie of TobyChristie.com and Racing America about her fantastic performance.

After a thrilling Speedweeks at Daytona, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to another track with a superspeedway basis, Atlanta Motor Speedway, for what is likely to be another jumbled-up weekend of competition for each of NASCAR's National Series.

#SrigleyStats is a weekly feature piece on Racing America, written by Joseph Srigley, that highlights some of the most interesting stats from the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Truck Series race weekend.

-- Images: Craig White (TobyChristie.com) & Will Bellamy (Racing America)