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Hendrick NASCAR's most valuable team
During the past month, Rick Hendrick has been in a plane crash and seen the end of his NASCAR team’s five-year reign as Sprint Cup champion. Other than that, it’s been smooth sailing.

Despite those setbacks, Hendrick remains optimistic. And ready for a new racing season in 2012.

A look at the Hendrick Motorsports portfolio offers ample cause for optimism. Even as Hendrick nurses four broken ribs and a broken clavicle at home in Charlotte, his driver line-up gets stronger. In addition to his three returning Chase For The Sprint Cup qualifiers — Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and the recently dethroned champion, Jimmie Johnson — Hendrick adds 12-time Sprint Cup race winner Kasey Kahne next season.

Just as important, his stable of sponsors remains enviable, fueling a company that generates $177 million annually, according to estimates by Forbes magazine. In February, the financial magazine ranked Hendrick Motorsports as NASCAR’s most valuable team, worth $350 million. That puts Hendrick well above Forbes’ average value of $136 million for racing’s top 10 teams.

Since then, Hendrick has added Farmers Insurance Group as the primary sponsor for Kahne’s car. Farmers will occupy the hood for 22 races for each of the next three seasons. Hendrick also has an agreement with Quaker State for four races per year as Kahne’s main sponsor.

PepsiCo and the National Guard remain as top sponsors for Earnhardt Jr., with Lowe’s backing Johnson and Gordon driving for the AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger and DuPont.

Such stability bucks industry trends. Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Red Bull Racing have already shut down Sprint Cup teams or are considering it, while companies such as UPS, Home Depot and General Mills have cut back on NASCAR sponsorships.

“First of all, it’s good to see the TV ratings up at the end of the year,” Hendrick says, referring to ESPN’s 21 percent gain in audience for the season finale at Homestead. “And it’s good to see some new sponsors coming into the sport. You hate to see people like UPS cutting back or Red Bull leaving the sport.” More at SceneDaily.com

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