An Interview With: RICK HENDRICK
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Hendrick, congrats again on your 200 wins and that accomplishment. I imagine you have received many, many congratulations over the past few days, who is the most interesting person who has called to congratulate you? Or do you have any fun stories to share?
RICK HENDRICK: I have had so many folks call me and e-mail me, and my phones kind of blew up Saturday night and Sunday.
But I have guys that I went to high school with and haven't talked to in 30 years that have reached out, and that's been pretty special. But all of the folks from GM, and just in racing that I have not seen or heard from in probably 20 years, that's been the neat thing, to talk to some of the drivers that have been calling in and jabbing me. It's been a real neat deal.
THE MODERATOR: And I have one quick question about the All-Star Race. Three of Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne are locked in and Dale, Jr. is going for a Showdown win; can you comment on the honor it is to win such a race for the drivers and for the team, and also just what a fun event it is for the fans?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I think the All-Star Race was one of my favorite races. You get to run flat-out. You don't have to worry about points. And the fans, it's a night race, it's at Charlotte; it's always a wild race.
We always have some kind of spectacular event during that race, and it's one that we really want to win, but it's also a fun race to watch, because you really don't have the pressure of the points. You don't have as much on the line. And I like that the format is always pretty interesting.
It's a race everybody wants to win and it pays a lot of money. It's so much action and it's really a good, fun race.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, HMS only needs to average seven wins over the next season to get there. First, how would you assess your chances of doing that? And two, do you still seeing yourself being directly involved as an owner if and when that comes to pass?
RICK HENDRICK: I hope it's ten years from now. I hope I make it ten more years. You know, that's going to be a hard hill to climb to get to that number. I would love to see our organization be able to do it.
You know, that would be an unbelievable accomplishment, but I'm very thankful for 200, and, man, it was hard enough to go from 199 to 200.
So for me to think about trying to average seven a year for the next ten years, that's a tall mountain right now. I'm going to enjoy 200 and just try to win a championship from here on out.
Q. In January, your comments on the media tour were very strong. The quote was: "I'm going to be disappointed if we don't have all four cars in the Chase and I'm going to be disappointed we don't win a Championship." How surprised are you at how the season has gone? Is it luck or parity? Is there something different in NASCAR?
RICK HENDRICK: I think it is a lot of parity and I think it's a lot of luck, too.
If you look at Jeff Gordon, I think he's led the second-most number of laps of anyone out there and I think he's run the fastest, he had all the fastest laps. I think he's like third or fourth.
So when Jeff Gordon runs like that, you don't expect him to be 24th in the points. We have had so many races get away from us right there at the end of the race, and I can't count how many races, we have had all four in the Top-10 and Top-5 and battling in the win to have something go wrong.
So I stick by what I said. Dale and Jimmie are tied, I think, for the Top-10s. Jeff has led a lot of laps, and Kasey is coming on.
Between Kasey and Jeff Gordon, probably the rottenest luck I've had in racing in my career, I mean, I can't even remember as many flat tires or wrecks or Kasey is running third on the last lap and gets shoved into the wall. We have had some freak things break on the car.
But I'm not going to take away from the competition level that's out there, but I still believe that I think the momentum is going to be on our side when we get to the Chase. I think Jeff is going to win races. We have got to get to 20th in the points but I think he's going to win races, and Kasey is going to win races.
So I'm going to stand by what I said, because I do feel that way. The scorecard doesn't show it but I feel that way.
Q. First of all, on 200, I know over at your campus there, you have the big wall with the wins counted up; do you plan on doing anything to celebrate that win?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, we are really excited. We are going to have a party and all that. But we have got a lot of things planned for our people, because it is a milestone and we have reached out to all the drivers that have won races with us and they are excited about being a part of something.
We are going to have a little get-together and celebrate. It's a huge accomplishment for our people and I'm really proud of them. You know, you need to stop and celebrate something like, this because they don't come along too often.
Q. After getting 200 wins, is there anything throughout your career as an owner that really stands out as that one that got a way from you?
RICK HENDRICK: I would say that the race in Martinsville will have to go down as the one that's going to take a long time for me to get over.
When you're running one, two, three and you've got three laps to go, or two laps to go, and you've got a straight way on everybody and you just kind of are cruising and then somebody stops on the track and then you've got to restart and you have a big wreck that takes out everybody.
I think that one crushed me more than any one ever has, because I wanted to win at Martinsville, and that would have been a great place for the 200th win, where the accident happened. I have a lot of family there and had relatives on the plane. That one crushed me, and I don't think I'll ever get over that one.
Q. You've had so many accomplishments throughout your career. What gives you the most satisfaction season to season?
RICK HENDRICK: I think -- and you're right. I don't think I can pick one. I think winning the first one has to be, when you go to New York, and you get the trophy for the championship, and you never thought you would have a shot, that definitely is one you remember. And when Jimmie did them back-to-back, and did two and then three and then four, and then five; and it was like, man, it was hard to believe you could do that.
To see Terry win one -- they are all special. And then you get fired up next year to go back. I think you get fired up when you win; you want to repeat. When you don't win, you get fired up because you didn't accomplish your goal that year you and want to do it the next year.
So there's all kind of ways to motivate you, you and get motivated anyway at the end of the year. I think all of those championships are special.
Q. How big of an event is the All-Star Race for your team and do you think the win at Darlington gives you a little extra bounce in your step for this weekend?
RICK HENDRICK: It absolutely does. I mean, you know, I said it earlier but I feel really confident. Deal sent me a text and said, you need to be down here Saturday night in Darlington, going to get 200. He was real confident after practice.
Jimmie has been running so good. I think it's listed the whole organization to get the 200 out of the way, because we all -- we thought it was going to happen so many times and it didn't, and you get kind of like, man, you don't want to even talk about it anymore.
But it's always sitting in the back of your mind, so I think the fact that everybody is kind of running good, and we'll ride the momentum of the excitement of getting the 2000th one done, and everyone is on their toes for this race, anyway.
I think it's good momentum for all of our guys going into the race.
Q. You know, so many drivers just can't wait to get to certain tracks because they love that track. Is there any track that you look forward to going to and if so, for what reason?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you have to look at your record and Martinsville and Charlotte have been really good to me and Dover has been good. We have a lot of tracks that we seem to run real well at, so you kind of look forward to getting back to one that you have won a ton of races at.
So I think the Charlotte track, we have had so much success there, I look forward to that race and I look forward to the 600, but I really look forward to the All-Star Race.
We have kind of got guys that run good at most every where, so there's not too many that I dread going to now. The Super Speedways, Daytona and Talladega are such crap shots, you never know what's going to happen there; out of your control. If there's one -- they are probably the ones I would look forward to going to the least.
Q. How does racing in the All-Star Race prepare for the Coca-Cola 600 for night racing conditions and maybe teams run the in the Showdown race?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, when you're in that All-Star Race the track does some crazy things when the sun goes down. I've seen it get loose; I've seen it get tight. It does give the guys a good reference for running the 600.
I think this year, with the 600 moved back a little later in the day, it's even going to be more important to see how your car reacts on two tires and all of the other things, the adjustments you make during the race.
You know, we are going to take this one race at a time. We want to win the All-Star Race, because it's a lot of bragging rights. But we'll get a lot of information over there that will prepare us for the 600.
Q. And my next question is how much of an impact is it on a team that all of these tracks are getting repaved and how will it change things going into those events?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, when you repave a track, you know it's going to go away, because you don't know what transition the track is going to go to.
We know Michigan is going to be super-fast, and I don't know exactly how we are going to approach that deal. But you just lose your notes. Nothing that -- the history of the way the track has reacted doesn't make any difference anymore. If you're one of the guys that gets a tire test, then you get a little information. But without that, you just kind of go blind and you are going to have to just see how things develop during the race and make adjustments accordingly.
I think the big thing is, you just -- all the notes and all the history you have of the track go out the window.
Q. Wondering what you say to Jeff about this, and there's been a lot of luck issues, but he's never been in this position before. How is he reacting to it, and what do you say to him?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Jeff and I have talked, and we talk every week. You know, he's a pro and he's a champion, you and don't have to motivate him. He's carried it on his shoulders before. When we have had crew chief changes and things happen that are out of his control, he steps it.
Up. He's just a pro. I mean, he knows that he's not going to lose it on the radio and get the team down. He's going to try to rally the team.
And again, if you go back and look at a broken water neck at Daytona, burn a motor up; blow a motor at Kansas running up front; tire at Darlington; tire at Bristol; you just throw some of those out, and you look at the laps that have been led, if the car is not competitive you and can't hit a setup and you're running 25th and 30th every day, and just everybody is fighting and fighting each other, you know, we don't have to work on performance. We have to work on finishing.
And he's a guy that you just don't have to hold his hand to get through that.
Q. How is the development of the 2013 car coming long and do you feel good about making the change over for next year?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, it's going to be a whole lot of work and expense, but I think NASCAR has done a good job with all of the cars. They have had them in the wind tunnel and I guess NASCAR is getting pretty comfortable with the parity between all the brands, because we are making some slight changes but we are locking in and feeling good about the car. I think it's going to be great for the fans. We are going to have a production car that looks just like it.
We are back to seeing in the showrooms what we are racing on the racetrack and the fans have said they want that and the manufacturers want it, and actually the teams want it. So just getting through the change over is going to be the big deal, but, you know, the chassis are the same, so it's just a bunch of -- we are going to be working a lot of midnight hours to get all of the bodies done. It's always a chore when you go through it and it's a big expense.
At the end of the day, it's going to be better for the sport.
THE MODERATOR: A couple more questions. Are you guys doing anything with the 200th win car? Are you doing anything special with it at the shop? Any plans?
RICK HENDRICK: I told Chad I want to keep it. I would like to put it aside. You know, he didn't argue with me about wanting to race it this weekend, so I don't know if he's talked to Jimmie yet but we are going to try to protect it, preserve it and put it in the museum. That's what the plan is.
THE MODERATOR: Of the 200 wins, how many of those cars do you still own or are in the museum?
RICK HENDRICK: We have in the museum probably 20 and then another 50 -- so I would say in the warehouse saved, probably somewhere between 75 and a hundred.
THE MODERATOR: One other question, sorry. I wanted to ask about the helmet that was presented to you for the 200 wins. How special was that to receive?
RICK HENDRICK: That was probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen, because all of the drivers who had won races had signed it. And even Tim Richmond's sister signed for him. That's a treasure; to have a piece like that with the pictures and their signatures on it, because, you know, I look back, till the day I die at how fortunate we were and I am to be a part of this deal and part of NASCAR and to win this many races.
The coolest thing about it all is being able to meet guys like Tim Richmond and Jeff Bodine and Darryl and Kenny and Kyle and all of the guys that have been there that won races. Still see them in the garage, a lot of them. Some of them don't race anymore. But it's really an honor to have those guys be excited about the 200 and the relationship I have with all of them, so the helmet has all of that.
THE MODERATOR: Next Friday you're planning a big fan day; I guess it came at a really nice time where the fans can come out and celebrate with you guys. Do you want to talk a little about the fan day and what you guys have planned?
RICK HENDRICK: The drivers are going to be there. We are real excited about that. We have wanted to have a Fan Fest, and you know, we just haven't -- it just seems like we didn't put it together in time.
This year, you're right, timing is great. It's going to be Friday, may 25th from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM and the drivers will all be there at different points in time of the day. We are just going to have a good time. The museum will be open and we'll have some special cars on display and there will be sponsored cars on display. It's all about the fans and saying thank you to them.
You're right, it could not come at a better time; to be celebrating 200 and to have this at the same time is going to be a really special, special time for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us.