Larson’s Darlington win brings up a special milestone for Hendrick’s engine department

A triumph by Kyle Larson at Darlington Raceway was a milestone for the Hendrick Motorsports engine department as it marked its 500th NASCAR national series victory.

The engine department has been a source of pride at Hendrick Motorsports for decades. Randy Dorton was the visionary behind the department and is credited with what it has become. Hendrick hired Dorton in the early 1980s after purchasing Dorton’s company, Competition Engines.

“Randy led our engine program, but most don’t understand how involved he was in all aspects of the team,” Hendrick said. “When we started out, he and Harry (Hyde) were two key people who hung in there when things were looking pretty bleak. They believed in what we were building. Over the years, Randy’s role evolved into more of a general manager, helping me run the place and being involved in every major decision, like selecting drivers. He was a terrific leader, and we shared the belief that people would always be the key to winning. Stepping back and taking a global view was one of his great strengths. He constantly researched the latest technology.”


Dorton was one of the 10 individuals who lost their lives in October of 2004 when a plane crashed in Virginia on the way to Martinsville Speedway. During his tenure with the company, Dorton was a key part of winning nine NASCAR championships.

“Randy was a guy who would take trips to Europe to visit suppliers and tour Formula 1 facilities to see what they were doing,” Hendrick continued. “I can’t tell you how much we benefited from that. He was a pioneer in our industry, introducing technology like CNC machines that are standard today.

“When you look at his record and the totality of his contributions to the sport, I have to believe Randy Dorton will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Without him, there wouldn’t be a Hendrick Motorsports. The folks in our engine shop have worked so hard to carry on his legacy and reach this milestone. For that group to win 500 races is a monumental tribute to Randy.”

Of the 500 victories, 309 have come from Hendrick Motorsports teams in all three national series. But combined with teams the Hendrick Motorsports engine department supplies Chevrolet engines to, there have been 356 victories in the Cup Series, 122 victories in the Xfinity Series, and 22 victories in the Craftsman Truck Series.

Geoff Bodine scored the first in April 1984 at Martinsville, while Jimmie Johnson scored the 100th victory at Dover Motor Speedway in June 2002. The 300th and 400th victories came in the Xfinity Series. Chase Elliott, driving a JR Motorsports car, was triumphant at Darlington in April 2014 and Larson, driving a Chip Ganassi Racing car, won at Daytona in the summer of 2018.

“We had the good fortune to be able to speak to Mr. Hendrick (Saturday) and he spoke of looking up there into Turn 1, and he said, you know, 1976, I came here with Linda and they snuck in and sat in the grandstands and watched the race,” Scott Maxim, Hendrick Motorsports director of powertrain, said. “To think that we would be here at Darlington for this weekend, such a historic track, and have an opportunity to get 500 engine wins, and think about for him how much contribution he had with his vision and commitment to us, it’s just really fitting to be able to be here.”

Hendrick Motorsports supplies engines for JTG Daugherty Racing, Spire Motorsports, JR  and DGM Racing. Those who used Hendrick engines in the past included Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

There have been victories in every crown jewel event on the Cup Series schedule: eight in the Daytona 500 (Hendrick teams won seven of them), 11 in the Coca-Cola 600 (Hendrick teams won 10 of them), 11 in the Brickyard 400 (Hendrick teams won 10 of them), and 13 in the Southern 500 at Darlington (Hendrick teams won 11 of them).

“It’s absolutely amazing to think back,” Jeff Andrews, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, said. “I was just on the phone with Mr. Hendrick… and I asked, did you ever think all those years ago when you went to see Randy Dorton in this small kind of really what was a tin shed, what is at the top of motorsports now, and the buildings that Harry Hyde owned there, but did he ever think we would be sitting here talking about 500 wins that it would have started there?

“It’s just really incredible. So many amazing people along the way that have fostered that program. Of course, Randy Dorton started that from the ground up and hired so many of us, including Scott and myself, many years ago. It’s obviously a testament to Mr. Hendrick and Randy’s vision of the partnership that they started there together all those years ago.”

Story originally appeared on Racer