Rick Hendrick To Return on January First

John Hendrick looks ahead to return of his brother By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (Nov. 10, 1998) On Jan. 1, Rick Hendrick will be able to return to Hendrick Motorsports, going back to the life he so dearly loves. That doesn't mean...

John Hendrick looks ahead to return of his brother By Shawn A. Akers

HARRISBURG, N.C. (Nov. 10, 1998) On Jan. 1, Rick Hendrick will be able to return to Hendrick Motorsports, going back to the life he so dearly loves.

That doesn't mean there won't be a place for his brother, John, who in Rick's absence this season helped Hendrick Motorsports to an unprecedented fourth-consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup championship. John Hendrick said his role remains the same next season as the president of Hendrick Motorsports, as Rick resumes his role of CEO after a year away from his duties due to health and legal reasons.

A double dose of Hendricks? That means a double dose of trouble for the rest of the teams in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

"I'll be doing basically the same things I was this year, but having Rick back at the helm, I couldn't be any happier," John Hendrick said. "December 31st will be the last day he'll have to be away, and then he'll be able to come back on site at Hendrick Motorsports and do anything he wants to do.

"We've got some exciting things going on with an additional 20,000-square foot building going up, another office building for Rick. He spends a great deal of time with motorsports, and it's his livelihood. It was very difficult for him to sit in the background this year. But he's happy about the way the team responded without him."

The team indeed responded, with Jeff Gordon winning his second straight NASCAR Winston Cup title and third in the last four years. With Terry Labonte's 1996 championship, Hendrick Motorsports has ruled the roost in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since 1995.

This year was a period of adjustment for John Hendrick, who wasn't so sure that he'd be able to handle things in the motorsports industry when Rick asked him to take over the operations for a year while he was out.

Things turned out well for John and Hendrick Motorsports, as Jeff Gordon will step on stage in New York next month to be honored as the 1998 Winston Cup champion.

Rick Hendrick is still recovering from leukemia. John Hendrick said he is not in complete remission, but that he is very close to it.

"He had another updated test in December, and every test he has done recently has been better," John said of Rick. "The downside is that the treatments he is taking tires him out frequently and it makes him sick.

"The thing is, when he does come back, he wants to be around it and go to all off the races. I'm worried about him overdoing it, so we're going to gauge his progress. The doctors told him that his treatment would go on for one more year, and part of it for the rest of his life. He's getting his strength back now. That schedule (34 races next year) is awfully hectic and it wears on you. I've got a new admiration for the guys who do it week in and week out. Rick has always overdone things, and I'm concerned that in his condition if he does that something might happen. Again, like I said, we'll gauge that and keep an eye on him."

John said there won't be any turnover whatsoever with the No. 24 DuPont Refinishes team, with Gordon behind the wheel, as far as the crew is concerned. There will be minor changes with the No. 5 Kellogg's team for next year, including the addition of a new No. 2 man behind crew chief Andy Graves.

The main concern at Hendrick Motorsports is getting the Budweiser team, which will switch back to its original number after a year with the number 50, to up to the level where it can be in contention to win races and shoot for the top-10 in the points.

"We're already working on our gameplan for next year," John Hendrick said. "We'll keep most of our people in place. We're not happy with the way that (Budweiser) team has run. We've had a new crew chief and four drivers this year, but we're not making excuses, we just have to run better. And that's what we're going to work hard on.

"We also are going to keep striving and try and get that fifth straight championship. I was really excited that we won one this year. Even with everything else, I would have considered it a personal failure had we not won it with me running things. I just didn't want that to happen."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte
Teams Hendrick Motorsports