CHARLOTTE Tucked away in an off-limits-to-the-public building on the sprawling Hendrick Motorsports campus which could best be described as Rick Hendricks man cave, Dale Earnhardt Jr. set up in his seat.
NASCARs 10-time winner of the Most Popular Driver Award fastened the second button on a white shirt adorned with the HMS logo on one side and sponsor National Guard on the other.
He rolled over the question for a second before answering: Hendrick Motorsports is driven by .
Hendrick Motorsports is driven by winning races and winning championships, strictly those two things, Earnhardt said.
The results have been undeniable, and as some of the most accomplished and biggest names in the sport answered the same question as part of FOX Sports Souths upcoming DRIVEN: Hendrick Motorsports, so too was what they think is the secret to the organizations success.
Mr. Hendrick and the people he gets to make this place go.
People and passion in what they do.
The people. Its all about the people.
--Crew chief Kenny Francis
It was a point driven home by Hendrick himself, the patriarch of an organization that has won 209 Sprint Cup Series races and 10 championships.
We say were driving performance together, he said. Its everybody working together.
In the nearby Team Center, two tour buses sat outside and a line of media piled in as part of the NASCAR Media Days tour.
Inside, the new Chevy SS cars Hendricks team of Earnhardt, Gordon, Kahne and Jimmie Johnson will debut at next months Daytona 500 which will air Feb. 24 on FOX were displayed under a wall plastered with Hs, each one including the date, track and driver behind the teams victories.
It says Ive been doing this a long time, Hendrick said of the wall. Im an old man, especially when I look back at the books, back to the first one. It blows my mind when I think about OK two-hundred?
Hendrick and his drivers sat on stage taking questions from the collected media, a line of cameras lining the back of the room. They answered questions on expectations for the 2013 season, the transition to the new Gen 6 car and queries on hair, both facial and on their heads.
Kahne unveiled a new haircut he described as high and tight, and Gordon, who was sporting a mustache during last falls Chase, said of its possible return No, but I feel like Im working on a mullet, drawing laughs.
All four Hendrick drivers qualified for the Cup series playoff last season, winning a combined 10 races, including five by Johnson. But it couldnt deliver another title as Johnson finished third in the standings, with Kahne fourth, Gordon 10th and Earnhardt 12th.
It was a season Hendrick categorized as We feel like we fumbled the ball in the closing minutes of the game, and we want to get back to the Super Bowl.
As cameras flashed, Hendrick and his drivers made their way next door, where the teams museum and shop had been transformed for Media Day, with each driver, crew chief and Hendrick himself stood in a booth before crowds of reporters.
Back at Hendricks private quarters he settled into his seat wearing a black fleece vest embroidered with the years of each of his Cup championships.
He detailed his transition from boat racing to stock cars as Hendrick left the water following the death of his good friend Jimmy Wright in a boat racing accident in 1981. Looking for a place to store his boats he rented space from retired crew chief Harry Hyde.
Approached to be part of a group that would include Kenny Rogers, his tour manager C.K. Spurlock and have Richard Petty behind the wheel, Hendrick jumped in. But when the deal fell apart, he was left with five employees and a racecar.
Needing to find a driver he hired Geoff Bodine and after three top 10s in the first three races of 1984 he broke through with Hendricks first win at Martinsville.
The rest is history, Hendrick said. I look back and its been 30 years. When I think about 30 years, that seems like an awful long time, but its all mine and Ive earned it.
From those humble beginnings, Hendrick has forged a dynasty. His company has gone from five employees to 550 and produced its first title with Gordon in 95, starting a string of four straight (three by Gordon and one by Terry Labonte) and then five in a row with Johnson from 06-10.
As Hendrick left the interview he passed by Gordon, exchanging a few words and laughs before the driver who helped solidify HMS place atop the sport took his seat.
The senior-most driver on the roster, like the newest in Kahne, didnt hesitate when asked the question everyone as everyone to sit in the seat before him.
Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon said. Is driven by people and passion.