HOMESTEAD, FL. (Nov. 10, 2001) - Ricky Hendrick, making only his third NASCAR Busch Series appearance, suffered an engine failure on the 58th-lap relegating him to a 39th-place finish in the GNC Live Well 300 at Miami-Homestead Speedway Saturday.
"What a disappointment," said the 21-year old Charlotte, NC native. "We qualified fairly well and with the 11th-place start, we thought we would be able to stay up front. During Happy Hour yesterday, we weren't as good as we hoped. We weren't sure what we had to start the race with, but we never expected the engine to give out. We came here to run well and to be out this early is really a shame. We love this track and we really wanted to race today."
Hendrick engine problems came after a loose handling condition sent the young driver back in the running order in the early going. Hendrick called for aggressive chassis changes and the crew chief team of Dennis Connor and Lance McGrew answered with a green-flag stop making major adjustments and taking four fresh tires.
"Our first pit stop turned out to be our last pit stop," said Hendrick.
"Those guys really made some serious changes and when we got back on the track, we were turning laps three quarters of a second faster than we were before the stop. We went two laps down pitting on the green, but it seemed like the caution would never come and we kept drifting further back in the field. The changes really helped, but then the motor gave out and our day was done."
A week ago, Hendrick and Team GMAC concluded their first full season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finishing sixth in the final standings. On Thursday, the team celebrated their sixth -place point finish. For his efforts, Hendrick collected a bonus check for $91,666 at the NCTS Awards Banquet in Miami Thursday evening bringing his total for the year to $ 452,031. He also signed the NCTS record book twice - once for being the youngest driver to win a race (Kansas 7/7/01) - and the second for scoring the most Top-10's (19) in his rookie season.
"I really enjoyed the banquet," said Hendrick. "The entire truck team and my family were there and my family was too and that made it really special. This team has a lot to be proud of. We have worked so hard and learned so much. I am truly grateful for this year."
Hendrick and his GMAC Financial Services team will now take a little time off before resuming testing in December and January. The 2002 NASCAR season will take the green flag in Daytona Beach, FL the week of February 10.