By Geoff Bodine
Earlier this week, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Kyle Larson would return to the Cup Series with the No. 5 car entering 2021.
I texted team owner Rick Hendrick earlier this week, telling him I was glad to see the No. 5 coming back after a three year absence. He agreed.
The No. 5 car has a lot of history for Hendrick Motorsports. It was the first car number for the team when it joined the NASCAR Cup Series circuit in 1984 and I was its first driver.
Paired with crew chief Harry Hyde, Rick had promised me about 15 races that season.
Unfortunately, the team had gone over budget and Rick had told the team that it would be shutting its doors after Darlington, the seventh race of the season.
Harry had convinced Rick to let us go to Martinsville, the eighth race of the season, since the car was ready to go, and Harry had said I could get the job done.
Rick didn’t make the race weekend, as he was committed to a church conference in Greensboro.
The race weekend was on birthday weekend, and my fan club held a get-together the Saturday before the race.
During the meeting with a microphone, Harry was talking with the fan club, telling the fans that I had run well in the past at Martinsville, but he was not sure if I could get the job done Sunday.
I grabbed the microphone from him and said “I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about Harry, but we’re going to win tomorrow!”
We started the race in sixth. I had to race against the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Ron Bouchard and Bobby Allison for the win that day.
I had saved my brakes throughout the race and was able to pass Bobby Allison in Turns 3 and 4 on the high side for the lead late in the race, which was ultimately the pass for the win.
I led the final 49 laps that day, 55 in total, for my first Cup Series win.
The victory ultimately secured our single-car team additional sponsorship to run the rest of the year.
I was able to drive the car through 1989, winning five more times for Hendrick Motorsports, including the 1986 Daytona 500.
It’s nice to see Kyle Larson getting another chance in NASCAR’s elite series.
It’s a shame, and ridiculous, how he was penalized. We all slip up and say things we shouldn’t say.
We know he is a wheelman and saw him produce win after win in the World of Outlaws during his time away from NASCAR.
But with Kyle Larson back at the top of the sport, he and the team will see some success out of the box.
I expect to see the No. 5 produce great results right away.
OUTLOOK ON 2020
Two races remain before the NASCAR champion is crowned next week in Phoenix. With Joey Logano the only driver locked in, there’s only three open spots that seven drivers are vying for.
There are some really good drivers who are not locked in, like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Martinsville will be a great race for the drivers and the fans.
If I was in a must-win position like some of the guys, I’d love the challenge of trying to win the race.
It’s going to be an exciting race and I can’t wait to watch it.
And with the championship being determined at Phoenix, we are all in for a treat with the racing there too.
It’s way too early to tell who is going to take it all, but I am pulling for Joey Logano.
Joey and his family helped with the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project. I’d like to see the Hendrick cars do good too, but I’m rooting for Joey too.
Get your favorite beverage, popcorn and chips ready, it’s going to be a great final two races!
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