Right Sides Only: Notes from the Ally 400


If you track (pardon the pun) NASCAR statistics, here's an interesting one. The last time that Nashville hosted a Cup race, the race winner was the red and white No. 5 car driven by Geoff Bodine for Hendrick Motorsports. The Ally 400 marked Nashville's return to hosting a Cup Series race, and the race winner was the red and white No. 5 car driven by Kyle Larson for Hendrick Motorsports.

The man who was present for both wins talked to the media after Larson's win.

Rick Hendrick, perhaps better known to his staff as Mr. H, said, "We're happy to be here. I love this place. I love the crowd. It felt like old times. Fans [were] excited. I got trapped trying to get in. But it just felt good. It felt like we were back years ago with the fans excited, shoulder to shoulder. Really proud of this guy [crew chief Cliff Daniels]. He's worked hard. They've all brought good cars. Glad to get this win." 

Daniels also weighed in about the Nashville crowd. 

"We didn't know how the race was going to play out like here in Nashville. Hats off to the folks at Nashville Superspeedway. What a great crowd, what a great race.. Really cool atmosphere being here."

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Mr. H reminisced a little about the early days of Hendrick Motorsports.

"Every time that the car’s on the track, I think back to Geoff Bodine, I think Harry Hyde. I think about the little shop on the hill. I think about how I was renting transmissions, rear end, all those things. I don’t think I had 200, 300 thousand dollars to start.

"I think back to those days, kind of reminisce how hard it was, then how lucky I’ve been to have the talent that I’ve had, the drivers I’ve had. It’s just been unreal.

"I was talking to Richard Petty. I said, I remember getting an autograph from you. I never thought I’d get to go in the pits, let alone have a team. Then we talked about the fact that he backed out on me (smiling). Maybe he had enough championships.

"No, it means a lot. I think about all the people along the way. I still kept Harry’s shop just like it is with equipment in it. I can go up there and walk through there. It’s like going back in time," Hendrick said.

Daniels was quick to point out some other equipment that worked well for the No. 5 team.

"I thought Goodyear brought a great tire. Our tires never had cords, never had any edges worn out or anything like that. A tire, when you can race hard, has two seconds of falloff or more over a run, the drivers get to slip and slide around. It looked to me like guys that pushed their stuff really hard, you could kind of back off, cool it down, make another run.

"I thought the track, the way the resin application went down, was great because we had multiple lanes you could race at any point of the race. You had guys that were fast on the bottom, guys that were fast on the middle, or even up top. That’s what we want to see from a racing standpoint when we come to any track really, especially a new track.

"Hats off to the track. Hats off to Goodyear. I thought it was great," Daniels said.

Hendrick gave big props to Daniels, as well as to the other crew chiefs on the HMS team.

"I think they’re feeding off each other. This guy right here, he’s not taking enough credit for the hours and the videos and the work that he does. I think when I look at all the crew chiefs, I think about Ron, Chad in the shop. I think we’ve got more talent, more depth than we’ve ever had.

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Mr. H was also quick to point out that Larson himself just goes out and gets those wins ... in whatever car and on whatever kind of track.

"He’s one of the hungriest drivers that I’ve ever seen. Other than his family, he doesn’t care. I mean, that’s all he wants to do. That’s all he thinks about ... He just eats, sleeps and drinks racing. He wants to win every race.

"I think about him getting tired. But if you run 600 miles, go win another race that night, win two more races, his stamina is unbelievable. But I’ve never seen anybody more intense that wants to race every minute of every day, and he wants to win," Hendrick said.

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With four consecutive wins, the No. 5 team is certainly strong, but they have to have a weakness somewhere, don't they?

"We’re still searching every week," Daniels said. "We identify things on a Monday. I know Kyle’s nature, he’s going to come in and meet with us. We may do it over video conference tomorrow or Tuesday. He’s going to identify things that he can do better, I’m going to identify things I can do better. That’s the mentality of our whole team. We search a lot every week.

"Guys call me sad or grumpy at the shop trying to make sure we uncover every detail that we can, just to make sure we don’t miss something. We missed a little something in qualifying today. I was sad about that. Kyle and I talked about it. We made sure we had good stuff under him for the race.

"But, look, all teams are working really hard right now to make sure they can bring their best stuff to the racetrack. Our team is certainly doing that. We just have a really heightened sense of awareness. We know any point we get comfortable, that’s when the competition is really going to catch up. They’re going to do more than just catch up.

"It’s amazing to have the wave that we’re riding. I can promise you we’re going to keep our foot on the gas and keep it going," Daniels said.

Larson briefly talked about his string of wins.

"Yeah, I mean, it’s awesome to get multiple wins in a row now in the Cup Series, he said. "I mean, really it’s four wins in a row. Just cool to do that. Didn’t think that was possible ever for me in the Cup Series anyways. I’ve gone on streaks in dirt racing and stuff before, but never been close to doing anything like that in Cup.

"It’s been awesome. To get to now double-digit point-paying wins is great. I’d like to keep winning and keep inching my name up the winner’s list not only at NASCAR but at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think that’s important to me.

"I think fans can appreciate me because I do it in all different types of forms of racing, not just NASCAR. You don’t know what car I’m going to be in on what day of the week. I could be in a sprint car like I will be tomorrow, in a late model middle of the week some other day, then a Cup car on Sunday.

"I think fans, because I’m a little bit different than your normal race car driver, I think that’s why fans so far seem to still cheer me on and like to see me winning.

"Too, I think they can appreciate my story and how hard I’ve had to work to come and get to where I’m at today, too. I think there’s a lot that goes into it. I appreciate the fan support and I like being a fan favorite. It definitely means a lot to me," Larson said.

The fans appreciate that about him, too.


Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream most weekends throughout the season.
This self-admitted grammar nerd loves reading mysteries, playing with her dogs, and binge-watching programs with her husband.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Ally 400 Right Sides Only: Notes from the Ally 400 Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, June 21, 2021 Rating: 5