LAS VEGAS, NV (December 20, 2000) - Running a select event schedule of NASCAR races in 2000, Ricky Hendrick proved he had the ability to make the step to the next level. In 2001, Hendrick will do just that piloting the Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 GMAC Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on a full-time basis.
"I've run a lot of different kinds of race cars - Late Models, Busch Series, some Truck races - but I've never run a full season of anything, never gotten rid of my rookie stripe," said Hendrick as he took a break from pre-season testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "Running the Truck Series this year is going to give me that opportunity. It's going to give me and my guys the chance to get a lot of great experience that will help us as my career progresses."
Last year, Hendrick split time between the Truck and the Busch Series. Competing in just six Truck events, the 20-year-old driver posted four Top-10 finishes including a season-best sixth at Pikes Peak International Raceway. In 11 Busch starts, Hendrick was just as impressive notching a Top-5 finish at Nashville and a third-place qualifying effort at Charlotte.
This year, Hendrick has high hopes as he enters his first full campaign in the Truck Series. In addition to having a proven organization like Hendrick Motorsports providing the hardware, Hendrick is sure to benefit from having two-time NCTS champion Jack Sprague as his teammate.
"Having Jack around helping me is going to be great," said Hendrick of Sprague, who will drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet Silverado in NCTS competition this season. "In the past, if I was having a problem some place, I could go to Jack and get input from him. A lot of times we've felt the same things and he's really been able to help me get back on the right track. We're going to have our radios set up so we can communicate with each other during the race this season. That will also be a tremendous help. Jack and I have the type of relationship where I can go to him with anything. If he's got the answer or even a suggestion, he'll tell me. I have to say having a teammate like Jack is going to do a lot more for me than for Jack. After all, I'm still a rookie and he's the one with all the experience."
Another advantage Hendrick will take into his inaugural foray into the Truck Series will be the support of a strong primary sponsor - GMAC.
"GMAC has been a part of our family for a long time," said Hendrick, noting the GMAC colors will also be flown as the primary partner in the 8-10 Busch races he will also run this year. "Our relationship started a long time ago in our car dealerships and progressed to our race teams. I'm so thankful to have a sponsor like GMAC behind me with the commitment they have to the sport and to our team. I was very fortunate to have had them as my primary sponsor in both the Truck and Busch Series last year. That's certainly true again this year. I'm looking forward to growing the relationship with them as my career progresses."
Despite his inexperience in the Truck Series, Hendrick is confident his GMAC Chevy can run near the front every week. He's also high on his team's chances to be near the top of the standings at season's end.
"I think our team has the potential to run up front and be competitive every week," Hendrick stated. "I think we can finish in the Top-5 in points for the year. Hopefully we can pick up where the Roush trucks left off and finish first and second in the point standings at the end of the season."