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When Kyle Larson took the checkered flag on Sunday, it meant that all four current Hendrick Motorsports drivers had won NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway in the past four seasons.

The organization has celebrated 27 victories there since Rick Hendrick founded his team in 1984, and Fox Sports did a nice job before Sunday’s race with a re-enactment capturing the circumstances and significance of the first win.

There have actually been 28 Hendrick victories at The Paperclip, and the one not celebrated is why all of them have been bittersweet for close to two decades.

Geoffrey Bodine’s win in 1984 saved the Hendrick team

Kyle Larson’s win at Martinsville on Sunday was No. 295 for Hendrick Motorsports, extending the NASCAR Cup Series record for an organization. It was also the 28th at the 0.526-mile track located in Virginia, barely five miles north of the North Carolina border, a record for a team at one track.

Before the race, FS1 showed a nearly four-minute re-enactment of the circumstances surrounding the first win, which came with Geoffrey Bodine driving in 1984. We’ve noted the significance before, namely that Rick Hendrick was on the verge of folding the team, which was competing as All-Star Racing, until that victory.

The video didn’t go deep into certain details, so two are worth pointing out:

  • Crew chief Harry Hyde overstated Bodine’s prowess at Martinsville while convincing the owner to give it one more shot; Bodine was still running at the finish in just two of five previous starts there, never ending better than fifth.
  • Bodine and Hyde were doing quite well with three top-10 finishes in the first six races in 1984, but sponsors weren’t interested. The seventh ended in a crash and demoralizing 35th-place result at Darlington.

Hendrick felt he was risking his fledgling automotive dealership chain if he funded the season beyond Martinsville, but Bodine’s win there generated enough sponsorship money to plow ahead. They won twice more that year to launch what’s become a dynasty.

Tragedy struck Hendrick Motorsports in 2004

The tribute carried on the hood of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowes Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, during practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 on Oct. 30, 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. | Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
The tribute carried on the hood of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowes Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, during practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 on Oct. 30, 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. | Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

On Oct. 24, 2004, Jimmie Johnson scored the first of his eight Martinsville victories as the middle piece of a three-race winning streak. That’s hardly the lasting memory those of Hendrick Motorsports have of the day.

Hours before the race’s conclusion, 10 people associated with HMS died in a plane crash in heavy fog seven miles short of the airport near Martinsville Speedway. Six were Hendrick family members or key employees. Among them were Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky; the owner’s brother John, president of the racing team; John Hendrick’s twin daughters; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; and Randy Dorton, the chief engine builder.

NASCAR officials learned of the tragedy during the race but withheld the information until after Johnson beat Jamie McMurray to the finish line. The traditional Victory Lane ceremony was scrapped, and the Hendrick drivers and crews went to the on-site command center, where they learned what had happened.

When the Cup Series moved on to Atlanta Motor Speedway the following week, the Hendrick team replaced its scheduled hood designs with pictures of those who perished.

A moment of silence was observed before the race, and Johnson beat Mark Martin to the checkered flag by less than three-tenths of a second. Johnson performed a Polish Victory Lap, and he and the other HMS drivers participated in the Victory Lane ceremony while wearing their hats backward in a nod to Ricky Hendrick.

The list of all the Hendrick Motorsports wins at Martinsville

Kyle Larson and son Owen pose next to his winner sticker on his car after winning the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Kyle Larson and son Owen pose next to his winner sticker on his car after winning the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Here is the rundown of the 28 victories by Hendrick Motorsports drivers at Martinsville Speedway:

  • 1st victory, April 29, 1984, No. 5 car, Geoff Bodine
  • 15th, Sept. 27, 1987, No. 17, Darrell Waltrip
  • 19th, Sept. 25, 1988, No. 17, Waltrip
  • 22nd, April 23, 1989, No. 17, Waltrip
  • 25th, Sept. 24, 1989, No. 17, Waltrip
  • 58th, Sept. 22, 1996, No. 24, Jeff Gordon
  • 64th, April 20, 1997, No. 24, Gordon
  • 92nd, Oct. 3, 1999, No. 24, Gordon
  • 110th, April 13, 2003, No. 24, Gordon
  • 116th, Oct. 19, 2003, No. 24, Gordon
  • 128th, Oct. 24, 2004, No. 48, Jimmie Johnson
  • 133rd, April Oct. 2005, No. 24, Gordon
  • 139th, Oct. 23, 2005, No. 24, Gordon
  • 149th, Oct. 22, 2006, No. 48, Johnson
  • 153rd, April 1, 2007, No. 48, Johnson
  • 164th, Oct. 21, 2007, No. 48, Johnson
  • 174th, Oct. 19, 2008, No. 48, Johnson
  • 176th, March 29, 2009, No. 48, Johnson
  • 207th, Oct. 28, 2012, No. 48, Johnson
  • 212nd, April 7, 2013, No. 48, Johnson
  • 217th, Oct. 27, 2013, No. 24, Gordon
  • 230th, Oct. 26, 2014, No. 88, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • 238th, Nov. 1, 2015, No. 24, Gordon
  • 244th, Oct. 30, 2016, No. 48, Johnson
  • 262nd, Nov. 1, 2020, No. 9, Chase Elliott
  • 279th, Oct. 31, 2021, No. 48, Alex Bowman
  • 284th, April 9, 2022, No. 24, William Byron
  • 295th, April 16, 2023, No. 5, Kyle Larson

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.