BAKERSFIELD, CA. (March 9, 2001) - Ricky Hendrick has never competed at Mesa Marin Raceway, but he arrives on a hot streak posting a pair of Top-5 finishes in the first two races of the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. Those ...
BAKERSFIELD, CA. (March 9, 2001) - Ricky Hendrick has never competed at Mesa Marin Raceway, but he arrives on a hot streak posting a pair of Top-5 finishes in the first two races of the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. Those finishes, along with Hendrick's racing experience on comparable half-mile ovals, has the driver of the GMAC Financial Services No. 17 Chevrolet Silverado looking forward to the Orchard Supply Hardware 250 March 17.
"I can't wait to get to Bakersfield," said Hendrick, "I grew up racing on short tracks, so I hope it will feel familiar. Obviously, the Trucks are nothing like what I'm used to racing on short ovals, but I learned to hang on tight among other things while driving go-karts and stock cars. I don't think I will be at too big a disadvantage."
Technically, Hendrick is a rookie driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season. It's his first full season in the GMAC Chevy after posting four Top-10 finishes in just six NCTS events a year ago. This season, the 20-year-old Charlotte, NC native came roaring out of the box qualifying and finishing second in the season-opening NCTS event at Daytona International Speedway before rolling to a fifth-place effort in the most recent NCTS event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Team GMAC has got to keep this streak going," Hendrick said. "We are off to such a great start. The guys work so hard to get the right set up and it's my job to race smart and stay out of trouble. There will be a lot of beating and banging in the Bakersfield race. Tempers flare and I know I will have to be patient. We take it one race at a time."
Hendrick is not alone. Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jack Sprague in the No. 24 Netzero Chevrolet Silverado, has an impressive history at Bakersfield. The 1997 and 1999 Truck Series champion is a resource the young driver will use to his fullest advantage for the Mesa Marin event as well as throughout the rest of the season.
"There are so many variables in racing," Hendrick stated. "When something goes well, it's because of a lot of input and a lot of heads coming together." At Hendrick Motorsports, the two truck teams share expertise and experience, and the same goes for the two drivers. "Jack has so much experience - he's like the father of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He has the wisdom of what to do and what not to do on the track. He is going to be an invaluable resource all year long."
Heading into the heart of the 2001 Craftsman Truck Series campaign, Hendrick knows he'll have to run well at places like the tight, half-mile Mesa Marin oval if he's going to have a shot at Rookie of the Year honors and a top finish in the championship standings. Hendrick sits at the head of the Rookie class and in second in the Championship Points race, just five markers away from the top spot.
"I'm not even thinking about the rookie deal or the championship chase right now," said Hendrick. "I'm just focused on doing well at Bakersfield. If we can run well every week, that other stuff will take care of itself."
The green flag will fall on the OSH 250 at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17. The race will be telecast on ESPN2.