RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, VISITED WITH THE MEDIA AFTER PRESENTING $213,000 TO THE AMERICAN RED CROSS: CAN YOU SUM-UP THE 2005 SEASON? "Well, we won 10 races. And we won four of the nine Chase races. I don't know where we're...
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, VISITED WITH THE MEDIA AFTER PRESENTING $213,000 TO THE AMERICAN RED CROSS:
CAN YOU SUM-UP THE 2005 SEASON?
"Well, we won 10 races. And we won four of the nine Chase races. I don't know where we're going to be in the points. But to see the young guys run like they've run this year -- Kyle (Busch) and Brian (Vickers) -- has been great. With Jeff (Gordon) we had the bottom fall out mid-year, but now we've got the momentum back. Jimmie (Johnson) has had another good year. Anytime you can win 10 races and the Daytona 500 is one of them, it's not a bad year. We'd like to be better. Hat's off to Jack (Roush) in the Chase. Tony (Stewart) has been on fire all year. If you take Tony out of the equation, we've had a real good year. Races are hard to win in this sport. If you told me I could win 10 races every year for the next five years or so, I'd take it and be real happy."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN NASCAR SAID THE CAP WOULD BE FOUR TEAMS, BUT THAT THEY WOULD GRANDFATHER AND LET YOU RUN TERRY LABONTE NEXT YEAR?
"Personally, I think Jack (Roush) should be able to run five. He's built his organization. I remember people telling me I'd never win a championship running multiple teams. I would have like to have seen Jack grandfathered in forever with five. With four, I think they did me a favor to protect me from myself. It's good for the sport -- moving now before people have six or seven teams."
IS THERE ANY DOUBT IN YOUR MIND THAT TEAM OWNERS LIKE YOURSELF WOULD JUST KEEP GETTING BIGGER?
"I don't think so. We've found a combination with pairing them up is the way to go. If you're running like Jack has this year with all five of them in the top 10, you're in good shape. But if you've got two that are doing well and two that are struggling, and you add another team, you've got sponsors that are going to tell you to fix your (current) deal before you start another deal. So I think it was going to take care of itself. It could screw up about as many people as it could help by adding teams. So, we had decided four was the number with Terry running part time. You've got to have room for a rookie if you're going to run seven races. It sound like they're going to let you do that. I think it's a good move. But I really don't think you can keep seven sponsors happy and seven drivers happy. Jack's deal is an unbelievable feat for him to have five cars run that good and that equal."
DOES IT REALLY MAKE IT THAT MUCH EASIER FOR A NEW GUY TO COME IN AND START A TEAM? IT'S STILL HARD AS HECK:
"Well, it is. I don't care whether you've got two teams or three teams. You've got to have talent. You've got to have human capital. That's the most important asset in a race team. Just because you have a bunch of stars doesn't mean they'll work together. You've got to have the whole deal. If you look back at our track record with Joe Gibbs and guys we brought into the sport -- Felix and then Ganassi, and getting people started like Gene Haas.. I think it takes guys like Roush and Gibbs. We were going to do the Hall of Fame Racing, but I felt like it was going to distract. So we called J.D. (Gibbs) and they did the deal with Hall of Fame. And that's the kind of support those kind of guys need because you're not going to find a sponsor who is going to go cold turkey with somebody who doesn't have a race team. They've got to be supported by some organization whether it be Childress or Gibbs or Yates or us or somebody. I think that's the way it's going to work in the future."
ON THE SEASON TONY STEWART HAS HAD RELATIVE TO THE NO. 48 TEAM:
"Tony has had an unbelievable season. He's been on track since Michigan. We've had a great year and I'm real proud of the No. 48 team. For three years in a row we've been in the fight. That's all you can ask a team to do is to be competitive and be there. But Tony has had a super year. They struggled a little bit early, but since Michigan he's been there every single week -- racing and leading laps -- and that's what you've got to do."
HOW NERVE-RACKING IS IT WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING DEFENSE INSTEAD OF OFFENSE?
"It puts your stomach in a knot to sit on the box like last year. At one point in the race, you're first and second. At another point, you're seventh and eighth. If I had my wish, guys who win races would get more points than the guys running second and third. It would pay you to go out there and race to win. But you can't argue with the success and the exposure. The fans love it and TV loves it."
ARE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE?
"To be honest, this year I've just taken it like -- don't get excited about it because there are too many variables and too many things can happen. This format, to me, has taken a little of the bloom out of the championship deal. Not that it's any less important, but if you have a good lead going into the last 10 races you've got to start playing defense and you've got to be there. But with this new deal, you can cut a tire or somebody can wreck in front of you and it's all up in smoke. We're just taking it like another race. If we happen to be there at the end, it would be great. We're not doing anything any different because you really can't."
HOW HAS THE NO. 24 TEAM PROGRESSED?
"Stevie (Latarte, crew chief) was going to be promoted back when Alan (Gustafson) and Lance (McGrew) were promoted. And he made the decision that he was going to wait for Jeff (Gordon). Our plan was and has been for about a year, is that when he would take over that Robbie (Loomis) would move up in the organization. I'm happy for Robbie and Petty, but I'm disappointed he's not going to be with our organization. But that's been the game plan. Being able to make the move early and watch it work, I'm real proud of him. He's done a great job."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT JACK ROUSH THAT MAKES HIM SO SUCCESSFUL?
"If I knew, I'd probably be doing it. I think Jack has just put a good team together and they've been real successful. We won four in a row and we didn't think we changed a lot. And then we struggled some. You're never going to be on top of the mountain always. Repeating is always hard. You look at Tony Stewart and how good that team is. That's the same crowd that won the championship in 2002. Jeff and Robbie won it. And Chad and Jimmie have been there every week. All you can do is show up and be competitive and hope that you're on top of your game. In our organization, I can see the two young guys getting stronger with Jimmie maintaining his strength and now we've got Jeff's deal back. So I look for all four of our guys to be running for the Chase next year. I couldn't say that this year. With Jack (Roush), he's got a good foundation. He's been racing a long time. When Mark (Martin) retires, can he bring in a young guy and right out of the gate be in the Chase like Carl Edwards? I don't know."
HAVING TEAM OWNERS OF YOUR STATURE AND ROUSH'S STATURE REASONS WHY YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO HAVE SUCH SUCCESS AT THIS LEVEL?
"If you've been doing it a long time and you've had good people around you.. You know we lost a lot of our key people last year (in the plane crash). But I'm real proud of our group for rallying. We were deep in depth and they've stepped up. You kind of have a template in place over the years and you might change the names and people, but having guys who have worked together for 10 or 15 years sure helps. You can go out and get stars, but can they work together? That's the key to being a successful organization."
SONNY HUTCHINS IS IN A COMA..WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"Oh, I didn't know that. When I was growing up, I used to watch Sonny race. I'll never forget winning the race in Richmond one day and I went to his suite. He said, 'You don't know me, but I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Sonny Hutchins.' I said, 'I know you. You're my hero. I used to watch you in the stands at South Boston.' Guys like Sonny Hutchins and Ray Hendrick and all those guys are the ones who put the bug in me to get into this stuff."
WHAT MADE HIM SUCH A GREAT DRIVER?
"He was fearless. He wore glasses thicker than a Coke bottle and I don't think he could see. But he was unbelievable to watch him run those Modified cars with all that power and actually spin the tires all the way down the straightaway. He was quite a talent."