Martinsville: Hendrick Motorsport press conference

Martinsville Speedway is the site of Hendrick Motorsport's first-ever Cup Series victory and has scored a total of 10 wins at the track. On April 29, 1984, Geoffrey Bodine started sixth and won in the ...

Martinsville Speedway is the site of Hendrick Motorsport's first-ever Cup Series victory and has scored a total of 10 wins at the track. On April 29, 1984, Geoffrey Bodine started sixth and won in the #5 All-Star Racing Chevrolet. Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 20th year anniversary in Cup Series competition and has scored a remarkable 118 wins and won 5 championships.

Rick Hendrick set the benchmark as a multi-car team owner and has been to victory lane with many great drivers of the sport including Bodine, Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond, Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon.


THOUGHTS ON DRIVING A PARADE LAP IN THE #5 HE TOOK TO VICTORY LANE - "I might take more than one lap-I want to race today. I told Rick I might run the car until it runs out of gas! First, I want to apologize to my fans and team for not making the truck race-we will go back and figure out what happened so we won't repeat that mistake.

This is special day-20 years ago we won here for Rick (Hendrick) -seems like yesterday to me-today is my birthday (laughs) I am only 35-whoops 25. I won his (Hendrick) first race. Seems like my birthday always falls around this Martinsville race. We had a party the night before the race with some fans and my family and Harry Hyde was out there, he was the crew chief. Hyde was instrumental in getting me to Hendrick Motorsports back in 1984. He came to me about car dealer guy, Rick Hendrick from Charlotte who wanted to put a team together. He told me this guy is great, he is straight up, he will tell you something but he will give you more. He is that kind of quality person, he is honest and a nice guy. I agreed to drive for Rick (Hendrick) because of Harry Hyde. I have told Rick this before, I am not trying to embarrass him or anything.

Harry (Hyde) has the record for wins and other things and I really felt like if I could get with someone like that, I could get to victory lane.

It was only our 8th race together as a team at Hendrick Motorsports and we came here to Martinsville and qualified 6th, and won the race.

At that party the night before, Hyde was if they could win on Sunday and Hyde said he didn't think Bodine was ready for that, we are pretty good out there but I don't believe we can win (imitating gruff voice of Harry Hyde). I really believe that deep inside Harry didn't think we could win, I really do. He had confidence in what the car could do and in the setup. He was coaching me the whole race. I think he was covering in case something went wrong. We did go out and win.

At the Hendrick Motorsports party for the 50th win, I got up at the party and told everyone if I hadn't won that race at Martinsville, they all wouldn't have a job now. Our original agreement was only for about 15 races, not a full schedule but once we won, it changed everything for us."


ON FEELINGS OF 20 YEARS IN SPORT - "I grew up not far from here, South Hill VA. That day in 1984 was pivotal race for us. I know exactly how some of these guys feel who have an unsponsored car. We showed up here without a sponsor except for a small associate deal, All-Star racing and City Chevrolet on the back which was my dealership in Charlotte. We were running the deal out of our pocket and needed to have some success so we could attract a sponsor.

I told (Jeff) Gordon the other day he probably wouldn't be driving for me if Bodine hadn't won that race in Martinsville for me. It has been a great run for us. I remember going to Daytona seeing Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson, and the Wood Brothers, feeling very intimidated. I was the youngest guy on pit road, now I am the oldest guy on pit road so I guess we have been here awhile. It's been a great run.

We have the car that my dad built and put it back together and that means a lot to me. I think back to Harry telling me 'I just want to race. If you pay me $500 a week that's fine.' You look at what it costs to race and what crew chiefs make and we had 5 employees and 5,000 square feet of rented space and today we have 450 employees and almost 650,000 square feet of space. A lot has happened in the last 20 years and it's been a lot of fun."

ON WHAT HE HAS BROUGHT TO THE EQUATION - "I bring the ability to put the right people together. It's all about the people and the chemistry. Most every everyone has good equipment, the difference is the people and the chemistry. If you get a bad seed in there you have to get them out right away to make sure you have a team who is all working with the same philosophy."

DID YOU HAVE ANY INKLING IT WOULD GROW INTO THIS KIND OF DYNASTY? "Max Muhleman (Muhleman Marketing and long time friend) called me and said 'How would you like to have a Winston Cup team with Kenny Rogers and Richard Petty as the driver?' That sounded like a great deal but the deal fell apart. So here I was a redneck car dealer with no sponsor and getting ready to hire a Yankee driver (Bodine). I never had an idea that it would get up like this. The first car we built we airbrushed the number on it and it was really fun. At the press conference Harry Hyde said 'what the hell are doing painting the car like that?' Dale Earnhardt tested that car and I actually drove it. The first picture I have in one of those cars and it's at the dealership. My dad's in the hospital and we took some old tapes and watched Jeff win, Riverside and a lot of those old races. I asked Elliott Sadler what were you doing 20 years ago and he said 'I was 9 years old sitting in turn four.' It's just amazing that different things happen to fall into place. When you get a sponsor you think Harry Hyde, Jeff Bodine, Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip and all these people that make this thing what it is. Robert G (Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s grandfather) used to sit on the pit wall up and go to sleep during the race. We ask him 'When do we pit?' He says 'When the leaders do.' I tell him we're leading and he says 'Then I don't know.'

ON IF HE EVER WANTED TO GIVE UP DURING THE HARD TIMES - "My first year we won 3 poles and 3 races and that was very unusual. I was trying to find sponsors and we picked up Folgers and here was Tim Richmond, a guy everybody thought was going to wreck cars. In '86 Tim and Geoff won 16 poles and Tim won 8 races and finished 3rd in the points. I remember Childress coming over to me and said well you guys will be the team to beat next year for the championship. Then this Tim Richmond thing happened and you kind of get knocked back and then you start over again with Darrell (Waltrip) that was supposed to be a dream team. It was anything but a dream team but we won races. I guess we were so far into it, it's all I've ever done. Racing got me into the automobile business. I used to come up here with my dad on Saturday night and that was something that I love to do. Once you get in you don't want to quit."

ON THE CURRENT STATE OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS - "We're building for the future. We feel good about this year. We had a little bit of a slow start but Jeff (Gordon) is in good shape. Jimmie (Johnson) has won already. Brian (Vickers) is coming. We got a young guy and you expect to have a rough road until you get half way through the season and you start seeing some things. Terry (Labonte) has done a good job for us for a long time and won Darlington last year. We got Kyle Busch in the Busch Series who is in contention for the championship. He's been in the top three or four the last few races and he's only 18 years old. It was happy day when Ricky climbed out of the car and started helping me run two of the teams and spotting on Sunday. He understands the business. We've got a lot of payments to make so we may be here another 30 years, Ricky or somebody will be."

ON VICTORY LANE AFTER THEIR FIRST WIN - " I was in church in Greensboro with my family. It was a commitment I made to my wife. My dad was there in the stands with family and friends from South Hill, Virgina. I actually went to a pay phone , this was how long ago it was - we didn't have cell phones in 1984, and called my mom who was watching on TV. I asked her how we ended up. She said 'you don't know? We won.' I just couldn't believe it. I went to Geoff's house to celebrate. They told me to I should go to church more often."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Terry Labonte , Geoffrey Bodine , Richard Petty , Junior Johnson , Elliott Sadler , Tim Richmond , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports