DARLINGTON, SC. (May 6, 2001) - Ricky Hendrick would like nothing better than to score his first-ever NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Darlington Raceway. After all, it's one thing to win any race, it's another thing to win at the...
DARLINGTON, SC. (May 6, 2001) - Ricky Hendrick would like nothing better than to score his first-ever NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Darlington Raceway. After all, it's one thing to win any race, it's another thing to win at the track "Too Tough To Tame."
"Darlington is a great addition to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule," said Hendrick, driver of the No. 17 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet. "We didn't do very well last year when I raced here in the NASCAR Busch Series and I'm really looking forward to coming back with our Team GMAC truck. I feel like we have grown a lot as a team since we were here last year and I have much more experience as a driver. This will be entirely different. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but it's going to be fun. It would be a great place for out first win."
Hendrick has had more than his share of success this year scoring five Top-10 finishes in five events this season. The strong early season runs, including a productive Darlington test with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jack Sprague, have positioned the 21-year-old driver as one of the favorites heading into the inaugural NCTS event at the 1.366-mile track.
"Darlington is fast," stated Hendrick. "Things happen so quickly. When Jack and I tested there last December it was the first time both teams worked together, so we were testing a lot more than just Darlington. It was a very successful test on all levels. Neither one of us ever striped the wall and both teams got along great. Getting along well was the most important part of the test and really set the tone for this season. Based on the test, we all got psyched to go racing."
Hendrick also knows he'll have to be "psyched up" to keep his red, white and blue GMAC Silverado under him for the full distance at Darlington. One of the most physically and mentally demanding tracks in all of NASCAR racing, the "Lady In Black" is sure to claim it's share of competitors in the Darlington 200.
"Darlington is really tough on drivers and tires," Hendrick said. "The track just eats tires. We know we will add to the 'Darlington Stripe' during the race. You're not really driving if you don't. The track just wears the tires down and you loose all the grip and you just slide up the track and scrape the wall. There is really no way around it. Even with fresh tires you are running a foot away from the wall at best. It gets really hot in there too. I've been training and working up my endurance. I know I'm going to need it there."
Hendrick, who leads the race for NCTS Raybestos Rookie of the Year Honors, knows a top finish will keep him atop the rookie chase. More importantly, a solid finish or a victory will keep Hendrick in the thick of the season title chase, something the young driver keeps clearly in the forefront of his thinking.
"We've done so well this season with Top-10 finishes and we want to keep that going at Darlington," said Hendrick. "Team GMAC knows it is important to keep the big picture in mind. The season still has 19 races left. We have to be smart because we are also fourth in the championship points chase. That's where patience and coolness pays off. We want to stay in the hunt for the championship and be in a position late in the season where we have a shot to win it."
The green flag will fall on the Darlington 200 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Saturday, May 12. The race will be telecast live on ESPN and broadcast worldwide on MRN radio.