HARRISBURG, N.C. (Nov. 22, 1999) One of NASCAR's more successful tandems, veteran crew chief Gary DeHart and driver Terry Labonte will once again join forces in the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. DeHart, who as crew chief helped lead Labonte to his second series championship in 1996, returns to Hendrick Motorsports as team manager/crew chief of the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet. The 1996 title was the second time DeHart was involved with a Labonte championship. He was chief fabricator for Billy Hagan Racing's Piedmont Airlines team when Labonte won his first title in 1984.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for me," said DeHart, 51, who will begin his new position on Dec. 1. "Terry and I are great friends and the Hendrick organization is where I want to be. I'm looking forward to working with Terry, Rick and John Hendrick and winning races and championships."
DeHart, who left Hendrick Motorsports following the 1996 season to form his own company, working as a research and development engineer, consultant and race car constructor, most recently worked as an interim crew chief for Morgan McClure Motorsports. DeHart takes over the reigns of the No. 5 team from Andy Graves, the team's crew chief for the past two seasons.
Graves accepted another position at Hendrick Motorsports working in "research & development" with each of the organization's teams. Andy Graves' father, Fred Graves, joined his son midway through this season working as a chassis specialist after serving as Ron Hornaday's championship winning crew chief in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. As of today, a Hendrick spokesman said Fred Graves' position with the No. 5 Kellogg's team was "status quo."
"Andy has a great deal of talent and will continue to help our overall operation improve," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "Gary has played a major role in our growth and success through the years, including starting our chassis building operation. It's a huge plus for Hendrick Motorsports to have him back and to have Andy continue to help us meet the challenges in the future."
DeHart's background as a mechanic and chassis man is extensive as he worked with many teams, but his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career as a crew chief began at Hendrick in 1990. He was hired to lead the effort of driver Greg Sacks in a limited "research & development" 15-race schedule using Slim Fast Chevrolets. With that program, Sacks won the Bud Pole for the 1990 Pepsi 400 at Daytona and contended for several race wins.
In 1992, Rick Hendrick named DeHart as crew chief for the No. 5 Tide Chevrolets driven by Ricky Rudd.
Rudd opted to depart the Hendrick stable in 1993 to form his own team, opening the door for Labonte, who joined the program in 1994. He and DeHart got off to a quick start together, producing three victories in their first season. They captured three more wins in 1995 and with uncanny consistency landed the 1996 championship with two wins, 21 top-5 finishes and four Bud Poles, enabling Labonte to hold off teammate Jeff Gordon for the title.
In their four years together, Labonte and DeHart forged eight victories before DeHart departed in 1997 to form his own business, building race cars.
"I'm excited about working with Gary again," Labonte said. "He is one of the sport's most talented and experienced crew chiefs, and I'm really looking forward to the 2000 season. Our association has been a long one and together I'm confident we'll be right back in the hunt for another run at the championship."