Atlanta II: Rick Henrick - Saturday media visit

RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with media following the announcement of an expansion of his 15-year relationship with Quaker State, which includes primary placement for Quaker State on the No. 5 Chevrolet in four Sprint Cup...

RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with media following the announcement of an expansion of his 15-year relationship with Quaker State, which includes primary placement for Quaker State on the No. 5 Chevrolet in four Sprint Cup races annually and associate sponsorship of all Hendrick Motorsports cars. Quaker State also will continue to be poured in the more than 80 Hendrick Automotive Group franchises throughout the United States. Discussion with media included topics about the economy and sponsorships, changes in NASCAR, having two cars in the Chase, and more.

WHAT'S THE SITUATION ON THE NO. 5 CHEVROLET FOR NEXT YEAR? FOUR RACES FOR QUAKER STATE AND WHAT ELSE? " is coming back so this about fills us up. There is one more sponsor that we haven't announced. But we're pretty much done."

REGARDING THE ECONOMY AND THE SPONSOR/DRIVER SITUATION, IS THIS THE HARDEST IT'S BEEN? "It's definitely the toughest I've ever seen it. Of course I guess the economy is as tough as I've ever seen it and what you have is most everybody is wanting to cut back some if they can. So when you've got one that's willing to up the ante a little bit, it's pretty neat. They've been on all the cars and now they've got the primary races too. I've wanted to see them do it for a long time because I think there are some good marketing opportunities for us not only in the racing, but in the racing too."

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF SPECULATION WITH JEFF (GORDON) AND WAL-MART AND THEN WAL-MART PUT OUT A STATEMENT SAYING THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BE ON THE CAR. CAN YOU CLARIFY THAT? "It's like anything else. You talk to people and they were someone we were talking to. We got down the road a bit, but timing is kind of one of those things that I think possibly we'll do something down the road with them but it won't be next year. It's good though, to see companies have interest. And I guess at the end of '08 and '09 it was pretty dismal. You didn't see, if someone wasn't already out here on a car, you didn't talk to anybody. And now there is interest from people that haven't been in the sport. They're kind of doodling around with it. So it's good. It feels better today than it did in the first half of '09. So that's encouraging to see. And it's real encouraging to have people re-up. That's good too."

WERE YOU TALKING ABOUT A LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH WAL-MART TO GET SOME OF YOUR GUYS PRODUCTS IN WAL-MART STORES? "Yeah, that's still ongoing. We have a good relationship with them. It's a timing issue and we're still working on a lot of stuff."

ON UPCOMING SPONSOR ANNOUNCEMENTS "I don't really want to go into that. We've got a lot of our folks coming back and I'm not really sure how many we've got committed in what area. But we're getting close. We'll be announcing in the next 60 days. In the past we would announce mid-year but companies now waiting later and later to make announcements. We plan to have everything done by the end of November."

WOULD THAT REQUIRE HENDRICKCARS.COM TO BE ON ANY CARS TO FILL THAT? "Oh, it could be. I enjoy that if I can afford it (laughter). It's worked real good for me in the past. I think that probably if I could win Daytona or run up front with the Hendrick cars logo, it would be something I'd really like to do one day. But we don't know if that'll ever happen."

ARE YOU STILL WORKING ACTIVELY ON THE 2012 DEAL FOR KASEY KAHNE? "Oh, the 12; like 2012. I'm trying to get 2011 done. Gosh (laughter). We're always talking to people and you run a lot of what-if's and you have a tremendous amount of discussion. I think the exciting thing and the important thing is in the first half of '09, there was nobody talking about anything. And now there are a lot of people talking and things happening. In general, the feeling is much better and people are looking beyond what we've been through. They're not looking backwards anymore; they're looking forward. But the economy is still tight and people are still trying to stretch their dollars; and we've got to be fairly creative to be able to make it work for everyone."

BRIAN FRANCE HAS TALKED ABOUT CHANGES TO THE CHASE. HOW IMPORTANT WOULD IT BE IF THEY EXPANDED THE FIELD TO 15 CARS? AS A CAR OWNER LOOKING FOR SPONSORS, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT WOULD HELP? "I have got mixed feelings about expanding it to 15. If you expand it to 15, somebody is going to want to go to 18. Twelve is fine with me. If 15 happens, okay. But that's not going to make or break any kind of sponsor deal in my opinion."

WITH QUAKER STATE ON YOUR CARS NOW, DOES THAT MEAN THAT STEWART-HAAS HAS TO USE QUAKER STATE NOW? "No. The folks that rent or lease motors for us, do whatever they want to do. That's their call."

IS THE PRICE POINT HOLDING FIRM FOR A SPONSORSHIP THESE DAYS? IS IT CHANGING? 'Well, the price point is pretty close compared to what it has been. If you had your best world scenario, you'd have one sponsor all year and they'd never change their logo and you don't have to paint cars and change uniforms and all that. But as it's worked out, we have some really good partners that work together like CARQUEST and and now Quaker State and they all get along. It's tough for the team sometimes to have to do back-up cars and different paint schemes but that's a whole lot better than not having a sponsor."

DO SPONSORS GET ALONG? "I think most of the time it's communication. And we try to work really hard to get them together like in another week we're going to have about 80 sponsors in Charlotte for two-day workshops. We try to stay ahead of that and find out what's important to them, and then let them meet the other guys and so they have a relationship and then they share show car programs and so forth. So we try. I can't ever remember having to referee a problem with a sponsor.

"I think where you get into trouble is when a sponsor shows up one weekend and they didn't know that they were secondary and somebody (else) was primary. I've heard those kinds of stories. But we get all that squared away before the season starts so they know and they can plan and we can plan with them. It's communication."

A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN JEFF GORDON DIDN'T MAKE THE CHASE, YOU MADE A CREW CHIEF CHANGE AT THE START OF THE CHASE. LOOKS LIKE DALE EARNHARDT JR IS NOT GOING TO MAKE THE CHASE. WHAT OPTION IS THAT FOR A POSSIBLE CREW CHIEF CHANGE THERE? "Actually, I'm pretty happy with the chemistry there now. Maybe some of you guys don't agree but I'm around them and I'm in the shop during the week and the Tuesday meetings and I talk to Dale and I talk to Lance (McGrew) and I talk to them both after they've been testing. And we had some good momentum going and then we kind of fumbled the ball a little bit here right before the Chace. If you can't pinpoint where your problem is, then the whole organization needs to be better. We're working hard but we're not as sharp as we want to be with all four cars. But the guys are working hard and working together. If you miss the Chase and you just decide that you're going to change something to be changing it, I think that's a mistake. I've never tried to do that. I keep my options open, but at the same time if the driver and the crew chief are getting along and they're working together and they're trying, that's all I can ask for. It's pretty darn competitive here in the garage. Guys get on a streak and then guys fall back a little bit. We're not happy with where we are as an organization, but we're working on it. And nobody is blaming anybody and nobody is giving up. So we're getting ready for the Chase. We're trying a lot of stuff and we're all over the map here this weekend, but we're trying some things. We know we've got to get better. And I'm really happy with my whole group and the way they work together and of course we'd like to win more races and you like to dominate, but it's hard in this sport. You look at the guys up there now and they get a streak and then they cool off. That's probably a 10-minute answer to a short question."

SO IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU PLAN TO KEEP LANCE MCGREW AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. TOGETHER THROUGH THE CHASE AND GOING INTO NEXT YEAR. YOU ARE NOT PLANNING ON A CHANGE AT THIS POINT? "That's correct. We make decisions as things develop during the season. And right now we've got a game plan and we're sticking to it. Next week and going into the Chase and during the Chase, our plans are for those two guys to be together."

YOU HAVE TWO OF FOUR TEAMS IN THE CHASE. ARE YOU UPSET OR DISAPPOINTED? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FIRST 24 WEEKS? "Every year you start, you want to have all four guys in the Chase. We finished one-two-three in the points last year and I don't know the right word, but if you get the machete out, the first time you miss the Chase, that's not the way to build an organization. My philosophy is when you've got some areas to work on, you work hard and you work together. I would rather miss the Chase and have momentum in the last 10 (races) than be in the Chase and grind to a nothing toward the end of the year. So, our plan is to build momentum and get better every week. Hopefully by the end of the year we'll have all four teams going forward and not backing up. For your sponsors and your drivers and your fans, you're not happy when any of your teams don't make the Chase.

"But by the same token, when you've got three and only one of them can win the championship, if you miss it you want to go back and try to do better next year. So, you're going to have times where you get them all in and you don't win it. This year, we've had our work cut out for us to get any more than two in. But we've had some distractions and we haven't been as good as we need to be since we went to the spoiler over the wing, and we're still working on it. That's kind of the name of that tune."

DO YOU THINK THERE WAS AN AFFECT ON MARK WITH ALL THE QUESTIONS BEING ASKED ABOUT WHERE HE WAS GOING TO DRIVE NEXT YEAR? "(SMILES) Yes, it is your fault-all you guys. (LAUGHS) That is the problem we have had this year is your fault. (MORE LAUGHTER) That was a distraction, it had to have been. We're over that now. We don't have that excuse anymore so we've got to get going."

A COUPLE OF YEARS YOUR WERE OUTSPOKEN ON THE TESTING RULES WHEN THEY CHANGED THEM, NOW THERE ARE SOME TALKS ABOUT DIFFERENT CHANGES INCLUDING A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TRACKS COMING IN A DAY EARLY, THAT TYPE THING, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "I think that is good. I think the testing you need. A lot of young guys you have got coming on. Then if you have a new driver coming on or if you are in a slump, you can use a test. I think we should have some tests at the tracks we are at. It is really funny, when I talk to owners, they don't want any testing. If they have a bad week, they want to test. (SMILES)

"I think we need some tests. I think we need to be able to test a certain number at tracks we are going to race at. I think coming in a day early is good. I would also like to see us put some instrumentation in the cars, everybody here has instrumentation, we used to used to run it in the Trucks up to qualifying years ago, so I think that would help us just to be able to compare. I think that would be good. I'm for some more testing."

DO YOU MEAN TELEMETRY AT THE TRACK ON FRIDAY? "Yes. Because it gives the engine guys data they wouldn't have. It just gives you some good information that you can use and everybody's got it. It is not like one group has got it and somebody doesn't. I think they have been, in the past, reluctant, because of traction control, but, they are a lot smarter these days. Nobody's going to try that. So, I think that with fuel injection coming, it is going to be really critical to be able to capture a lot of that data for the engineers and the crew chiefs to go back and look at raw data after practice. I think that could actually cut down the need for some testing too."

ARE YOU OK WITH IT FOR A DAY BEFORE OR DO YOU WANT TO GO UP TO QUALIFYING? "I would like to see it all the way up to race. I think you could take it out right before qualifying. That is what I would prefer. But, I don't know how everybody else feels. I just think that you have that tool that the driver and the crew chief could look at. You are going on driver feedback a lot of times with a hot, slick track. Every other form of racing uses it and I think it would be good if we could use it."

ANYTHING ELSE THAT CAME OUT OF THE MEETING THE OWNERS AT YOUR SHOP? "I want to say that was the most unbelievable gathering. I mean everybody was represented that wanted to be there and everybody agreed. I think NASCAR is taking some of the things that we came up with under consideration and I think some of them might happen. It was a very good meeting. The owner's have had their financial guys getting together looking at ways to save money with hotel rooms and so forth. But, this was something that owners talked about how can we make it better for the fans and what would be a better show and what can we do, if we are going anyway, driver appearances at the race track. Doing the events versus a week or two before (race weekend) for Winner's Circle. So a lot of good conversation came up and I thought it was real healthy. NASCAR has been really meeting and talking about listening to what the owners and drivers have to say. I think it has been a really good exercise. Everybody's working together and trying to make our sport better. So I have been real encouraged by that."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports