PHOENIX, AZ (Oct. 26, 2001) - The goal for Ricky Hendrick in the Chevy Silverado 150 was a solid finish. Unfortunately, solid contact with another competitor early race derailed Hendrick in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Phoenix International Raceway.
"We had a really good truck," said Hendrick, driver of the No. 17 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet Silverado. "We ended the day with a very disappointing finish. We worked so hard since we unloaded to get our truck up to par, but we didn't qualify well and we got tangled up in a wreck back in the pack. After that, we just couldn't do any more than 28th-place." Hendrick's effort went south on the 21st circuit when Loni Richardson hit the Turn 1 wall and came back across the track in the path of Hendrick and the rest of the field. Despite his best effort, Hendrick was unable to avoid the crippled truck impacting it with a resounding thud.
"All I saw was smoke and I heard my spotter told me to go high," said Hendrick. "When I came out of the smoke, I was in his bumper. It just one of those things. It's racing. That's been our story this year. We have had great runs and we have had horrible runs - highs and lows."
The incident caused severe front-end damage to Hendrick's red, white and blue GMAC Chevy. Despite the carnage, Team GMAC rallied to have the truck back on the track within 19 laps.
"I can't say enough about this team," said Hendrick. "It looked bad, real bad. I couldn't see over the hood to get into the pits. We had to take it behind the wall and Lance McGrew (Hendrick's crew chief) and the guys went to work and they fixed it. Every single guy on the team was working to put that truck back together. They did it with tape and bungee cords. We got back out there and ran the rest of the race turning decent laps. It wasn't a pretty truck, but we finished the race."
While Hendrick's fortunes weren't the best, the same couldn't be said for his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jack Sprague. Sprague used a solid second-place finish to all but clinch a record third NCTS championship. "Congratulations to Jack and the team," said Hendrick. "I know every team works hard in this series, but I'm really happy for those guys. This is Jack's third NCTS Championship and that team really deserves it."
The 28th-place effort earned Hendrick $7,090 in prize money and kept him solidly in sixth-place in the championship points battle. Hendrick also remained second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race.
Team GMAC will take the green flag for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season finale in the Auto Club 200 at California Speedway Saturday, November 3. The race will be telecast live on ESPN and broadcast by MRN Radio at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.