A significant milestone start is in the making for the Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 car, which is currently competing in its 29th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series and being piloted by William Byron. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at Watkins Glen International, the No. 24 HMS car will reach 1,000 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.
The No. 24 car competing under the Hendrick Motorsports banner made its debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in November 1992, the final event of the season, with Jeff Gordon, a California-Indiana native who was competing in the Xfinity Series, piloting the car after being recruited by team owner Rick Hendrick. Starting 21st, Gordon finished 31st in his series debut after retiring due to an accident. Gordon’s Cup debut was one of three headlines highlighting the 1992 Atlanta event, with the others being seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty making his 1,184th and final career start in NASCAR and driver/owner Alan Kulwicki capturing the season’s championship over Bill Elliott.
Gordon competed as a full-time HMS competitor in the 1993 Cup season, driving the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet Lumina led by crew chief Ray Evernham. Despite the season being a winless one, Gordon achieved a pole, seven top-five results and 11 top-10 results before finishing in 14th place in the final standings. In addition, Gordon captured the 1993 Cup Rookie-of-the-year title.
The following season, it took the first 11 races of the schedule for Gordon to capture his first victory in NASCAR’s premier series, which occurred in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway following a late two-tire pit stop call from Evernham that gave Gordon the track position to win. The victory was also the first for the No. 24 overall in NASCAR history. Eight races later, Gordon achieved his second Cup career win in the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In addition to his first two NASCAR Cup career victories, Gordon recorded a pole, seven top-five results and 14 top-10 results before finishing in eighth place in the final standings.
In 1995, Gordon won seven of the 31 races in the schedule and he managed to beat seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt by 34 points to capture his first NASCAR Cup Series championship, which was also a first for Hendrick Motorsports.
From 1996 to 2000, Gordon and the No. 24 HMS car achieved 43 race victories, 23 poles, 98 top-five results and 118 top-10 results. They also captured back-to-back Cup championships in 1997 and 1998 along with two Daytona 500s (1997 and 1999), a second Brickyard 400 title (1998), four Southern 500s (1995-98), two Coca-Cola 600s (1997 and 1998) and two All-Star Races (1995 and 1997). By then, Gordon surpassed 50 Cup career victories. During the 2000 season, the No. 24 team was led by crew chief Brian Whitesell, who won three races with Gordon.
In 2001, Gordon and the No. 24 HMS team received a new crew chief, Robbie Loomis, a former crew chief for Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises. During the season, Gordon drove the No. 24 Chevrolet to six victories, six poles, 18 top-five results and 24 top-10 results. He also added a third All-Star title and a third Brickyard 400 victory to his resume. When the season concluded, Gordon went on to claim his fourth Cup championship.
From 2002 to 2004, Gordon and HMS’ No. 24 team earned 11 victories, 13 poles, 44 top-five results, 65 top-10 results and top-five results in the final standings, with a best result of third place in 2004. By then, Gordon surpassed 60 Cup career victories.
In 2005, Gordon kickstarted the season on a high note when he drove the No. 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo to his third Daytona 500 victory, which marked his 70th career win in the Cup circuit. Despite winning two more times during the following eight races, Gordon failed to make the Playoffs following an inconsistent regular-season stretch. He managed to achieve a win at Martinsville Speedway in October before settling in 11th place in the final standings. By then, the driver and team welcomed Steve Letarte as their new crew chief.
Following the 2006 season, where Gordon won twice, made the Playoffs and finished sixth in the final standings, Gordon and the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet team achieved a productive 2007 Cup season, where the driver won six races and notched seven poles, 21 top-five results, a modern-era record 30 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 7.3. The victories in 2007 totaled Gordon’s career victories to 81 as he also surpassed the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth place on the all-time wins list. Despite leading the standings for the majority of the season, Gordon settled in the runner-up position in the final standings and 77 points shy of a fifth Cup title to teammate Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team.
In 2008, Gordon and the No. 24 HMS team went winless for the first time since 1993, with the driver managing four poles, 13 top-five results, 19 top-10 results and a seventh-place result in the final standings. He rebounded the following season by winning at Texas Motor Speedway in April, which snapped a 47-race winless drought for Gordon and the No. 24 team. Gordon went on to record a pole, 16 top-five results, 25 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 10.2 before finishing in third place in the final standings behind teammates Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin. During the 2010 season, however, Gordon and the No. 24 team went winless for the second time in three seasons. The four-time Cup champion only achieved a pole, 11 top-five results and 17 top-10 results before settling in ninth place in the final standings.
Entering the 2011 season, Hendrick Motorsports reshuffled its crew chief lineup that saw Letarte paired with Dale Earnhardt Jr. while Gordon and the No. 24 Chevrolet team were led by crew chief Alan Gustafson. It only took the first two races into the 2011 season for Gordon, Gustafson and the No. 24 team to snap a career-long 66-race winless drought and return to Victory Lane at Phoenix Raceway in February following a late battle with former teammate Kyle Busch. The driver and team went on to win at Pocono Raceway in June and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September. By then, Gordon achieved his 85th Cup career victory and was ranked in third place on the all-time wins list behind Richard Petty and David Pearson. Including the three victories, Gordon and the No. 24 team achieved a pole, 13 top-five results, 18 top-10 results and a spot in the Playoffs before finishing in eighth place in the final standings.
The 2012 Cup season was a roller coaster season for Gordon and the No. 24 HMS team, which started the season with a harrowing rollover accident in the Shootout at Daytona in February followed by an engine failure in the Daytona 500 and seven results outside of the top 20 through the first 11 scheduled events. After finishing in the top 10 in six of the following nine events, Gordon notched a rain-shortened victory at Pocono Raceway in August and placed himself in contention to make the Playoffs. Despite finishing 21st and 28th the following two weekends, Gordon earned three consecutive top-three results and secured the final spot in the Playoffs. While he achieved another round of three consecutive top-three results through the first four races of the Playoffs, Gordon’s title hopes came to an end midway by October. The low point of his career occurred at Phoenix in November, when Gordon intentionally wrecked championship contender Clint Bowyer in the closing laps as a result of an earlier on-track contact between the two. The incident led to a brawl in the garage as Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points. Gordon, though, rebounded the following week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final event of the 2012 season, when he held off Bowyer in a fuel-mileage battle to win and claim his 87th Cup career victory. When the season concluded, Gordon managed to claim 10th place in the final standings.
After finishing in sixth place in the final standings in 2013 while recording a single victory at Martinsville in October, Gordon and the No. 24 HMS team won four races in 2014 (Kansas Speedway in May, Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, Michigan International Speedway in August and at Dover International Speedway in September). By then, Gordon surpassed 90 Cup career victories. He went on to record three poles, 14 top-five results and 23 top-10 results as he entered the Playoffs as a title favorite. A late incident and brawl with Brad Keselowski at Texas in November, however, prevented Gordon and the No. 24 team from earning a spot in the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November as Gordon concluded the season in sixth place in the final standings.
Coming off a strong 2014 season, Gordon announced in January 2015 that the upcoming Cup season would be his last as a full-time competitor. Gordon kickstarted his final NASCAR season by winning his second pole award for the Daytona 500. The achievement also marked Gordon’s 23rd consecutive season of winning a pole in a Cup season. Despite finishing 33rd in the 500 following a last-lap wreck and earning 13 top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Gordon managed to secure a spot in the Playoffs for the 11th and final time in his career. At Martinsville in November, Gordon secured the lead late and fended off veteran Jamie McMurray in a two-lap shootout to score his 93rd Cup career win and earn a one-way ticket to the Championship Round at Homestead. His final hopes for a fifth time, however, came to an end after Gordon finished sixth in the finale and third in the final standings in his 797th and final start in HMS’ No. 24 car.
Following Gordon’s retirement, Chase Elliott, the 2014 Xfinity Series champion from Dawsonville, Georgia, took over the driving responsibilities of the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet SS with continuous support from Alan Gustafson for the 2016 season. In his first laps in the No. 24 car, Elliott won the pole position for the season-opening Daytona 500 and became the youngest pole-sitter of the 500 at age 20. During the main event, however, Elliott finished 37th following an early accident. He rebounded the following week at Atlanta by finishing eighth and recording his first top-10 result in the Cup Series. While he did not achieve a victory in his rookie season, Elliott achieved his first two Cup career poles, 10 top-five results, 17 top-10 results and a spot in the 2016 Cup Playoffs before finishing in 10th place in the final standings. Elliott also claimed the Rookie-of-the-Year title in his first season piloting the iconic No. 24 HMS car.
In a similar fashion to the previous season, the No. 24 HMS car commenced the 2017 Cup season on pole position for the Daytona 500 as Elliott achieved his second consecutive 500 pole. Finishing in 14th place in the 500, Elliott and the No. 24 team went on to achieve 12 top-five results, 21 top-10 results and a spot in the Playoffs before finishing in fifth place in the final standings. By then, Elliott had collected seven runner-up results in his first two Cup seasons.
For the 2018 season, William Byron, the reigning Xfinity Series champion from Charlotte, North Carolina, took over the No. 24 HMS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as a full-time Cup rookie while Elliott transitioned to sport his father Bill’s famous number, 9. In addition, former Cup championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb was named crew chief for Byron and the No. 24 team while Gustafson remained as Elliott’s crew chief. In his first full-time Cup season while piloting the No. 24 car, Byron recorded four top-10 results before finishing in 23rd place in the final standings. Despite an inconsistent season, Byron managed to capture the 2018 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title over Bubba Wallace as he became the third competitor to achieve the rookie title as driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 car.
In 2019, Byron and the No. 24 team received a new crew chief as Chad Knaus, seven-time Cup championship-winning crew chief who was a pit crew member of the No. 24 car in the mid-1990s, inherited the leadership role for the team following a 17-year run with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 HMS team. The new relationship between Byron and Knaus commenced on a high note when Byron rocketed the No. 24 Chevrolet to pole position for the Daytona 500. Despite finishing 21st in the 500 following a late multi-car wreck, Byron earned nine top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, which were enough for him to make his first appearance in the Playoffs. His title hopes, however, came to an end following the second round as Byron and the No. 24 team finished in 11th place in the final standings. While he did not record a victory, Byron earned a career-high five poles, five top-five results. 13 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 14.9.
The No. 24 car commenced the 2020 season on a strong note when Byron won the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel event at Daytona prior to the Daytona 500. The 500 event, however, ended on a disappointing note for Byron, who wrecked early and settled in 40th, dead last. Through the first 25 regular-season event, Byron recorded eight top-10 results and was above the top-16 cutline to the Playoffs by a mere margin. Everything changed, though, during the following event at Daytona in August when Byron notched his first Cup career victory and secured his spot in the Playoffs. By then, he joined Jeff Gordon as the only competitors to achieve a victory in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car. Byron also snapped a two-year winless drought for crew chief Chad Knaus, who appeared in the Playoffs for a 17th consecutive season. Following an early exit in the Playoffs following the first round, however, Byron went on to finish 14th in the final standings.
This season, Byron and the No. 24 team received a new crew chief as Ryan “Rudy” Fugle joined Hendrick Motorsports and replaced Knaus, who became HMS’ vice president of competition. The move was a reunion for Byron and Fugle, who guided Byron to seven NASCAR Truck Series wins in 2016 when Byron competed for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Three races into this season, Byron and Fugle captured a dominating win at Homestead, which marked Byron’s second Cup career triumph following two consecutive results outside of the top 20 to start the new season. The victory was also a first for Fugle in the Cup circuit.
Through the first 22 Cup events of this season, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car piloted by Byron has achieved a win, a pole, eight top-five results and 14 top-10 results, with the team currently ranked in sixth place in the regular-season standings.
Through 999 previous starts, HMS’ No. 24 car has achieved four championships, 95 victories, 90 poles, 364 top-five results, 558 top-10 results and 26,514 laps led with three different competitors.
The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car is set to make its 1,000th career start in NASCAR’s premier series at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 8, with the race scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.