Hendrick gets warm welcome back By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online HARRISBURG, N.C. (Jan. 15, 1999) Judging by his reception Friday, you'd think Rick Hendrick is a popular man in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Not only is he one of the most ...
Hendrick gets warm welcome back By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online
HARRISBURG, N.C. (Jan. 15, 1999) Judging by his reception Friday, you'd think Rick Hendrick is a popular man in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Not only is he one of the most popular men in the sport, but the owner of Hendrick Motorsports is also one of the most beloved. Hendrick, who recently served a one-year banishment from the sport because of legal problems and his health, was greeted warmly by over 150 members of the media on the last stop of the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by UAW-GM Motorsports on Friday.
Hendrick, whose teams have captured four consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships, officially returned to his duties as owner of the multi-car operation on Jan. 1, but Friday was his first public address -- a press conference held at the Hendrick Motorsports complex.
"It's certainly an emotional day here today to see him come back," said Jeff Gordon, Hendrick's protege' and winner of three titles in the last four seasons.
"The most difficult part of our championships (1997 and '98) were that Rick was not around. But despite his physical absence, we've always felt like he's been around. It's really very exciting to see him back, and it will be even more exciting when we're first able to get to Victory Lane for him this year."
Hendrick said he received thousands of letters over the past year from fans, friends and media wishing him well in his ongoing bout with leukemia. That outpouring of goodwill got him choked up only a couple of minutes into Friday's opening address.
"I'm here, I'm back, I'm taking some wicked medicine but it's doing a wicked job on the disease," Hendrick said. "I love what I'm doing. I love this sport. I love racing ...
"I've got some awful good friends out there, and the people sitting up here with me (drivers and crew chiefs, plus his brother John Hendrick, who filled in for him during his absence), well, it's been quite a cruise. I wouldn't be here without these folks, and I'm eternally grateful to all of them for their wonderful friendship."
Hendrick said there are over 30,000 donors signed up for the national 1-800-MARROW-2 campaign, which was began in honor of Hendrick to find bone marrow donors to combat the deadly disease.
Hendrick is confident that his illness is disappearing, but he still takes part in regular chemotherapy and takes regular doses of a drug known as Alpha Interferon, which Hendrick said has many side effects.
"You know me, I'd love to go to all of the races, but I really don't think that's going to be a possibility," Hendrick said. "I'll probably, in some form, but on Inferon my entire life, but I'm not going to let it keep me from enjoying life."
Dr. Steven Limetani, who initially diagnosed Hendrick with the disease, was on hand Friday afternoon as well. Limentani said it will be difficult for Hendrick to attend every one of the 34 regularly-scheduled NASCAR Winston Cup Series events, but that will depend solely on Hendrick's health.
"He has done much better than the average person with the disease," Limentani said. "But with the drug, he still has chills, fever and aches and pains.
The season-opening Daytona 500 is set for Feb. 14.
Source: NASCAR Online