BUSCH: Rockingham II: David Green - NASCAR spotlight

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 29, 2002) -- David Green was by no means bitter but he was somewhat puzzled. Most of the time this season, he was on the outside looking in. As a former NASCAR Busch Series champion, it was hard for Green to do more ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 29, 2002) -- David Green was by no means bitter but he was somewhat puzzled. Most of the time this season, he was on the outside looking in.

As a former NASCAR Busch Series champion, it was hard for Green to do more watching than racing. He envisioned himself as a welcomed addition to the NASCAR Busch competitive mix. Thankfully for Green, so did Rick Hendrick.

That meeting of the minds has produced one of the most intriguing NASCAR Busch affiliations in years. Green is driving Hendrick's No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet for the balance of this season, a deal that began earlier this month at Lowe's Motor Speedway after Hendrick's son Ricky announced his retirement from competition, citing lingering effects of an early-season injury. Green has since posted three consecutive top-15 finishes.

Green hopes for similar success in the season's remaining three races -- starting with Saturday's Sam's Club 200 at North Carolina Speedway -- as he seeks to land the No. 5 ride fulltime for 2003.

If Green is in the car next season, it appears he and Randy LaJoie (No. 7 Kleenex Chevrolet) will be the only former NASCAR Busch Series champions competing in the series fulltime. Green won the title in 1994, LaJoie in 1996 and '97

"Now I have the opportunity of a lifetime," Green said, adding that being out of a regular ride this season was "very frustrating ... except for a [few races], things had really gone south. It was like I was invisible [in the garage]."

There was no missing Green, 44, at Lowe's. In his first outing in the No. 5, he finished fifth -- the car's best finish of the year. The next week at Memphis he finished ninth. Last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway he had a 14th-place effort, in what was his 250th career NASCAR Busch Series start.

"I wasn't thinking about the 250th start at all, at the beginning of the race," Green said. "I was thinking about racing. The most important start this season came for me on the 248th [start, at Lowe's]. That's when I climbed into the No. 5."

Green is one of three Green brothers racing in NASCAR. Jeff Green drives fulltime in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and has a limited NASCAR Busch schedule, in the No. 21 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet; Mark Green has started 18 races in the No. 38 Great Clips Ford. As one can imagine, inevitable sibling rivalry made Green's struggles this season even harder to take.

"Yeah," he said, "it got to me. Me and my brothers are real competitive."

Green said Hendrick has given him some immediate, invaluable support.

"This is what I like about the whole situation: He said, 'You go drive the car.' There was no kind of audition. I feel comfortable in this situation."

Here's an abridged version of Green's season before replacing Ricky Hendrick: When he wasn't a spotter for various drivers, or coaching series rookie Brian Vickers and Ricky, he drove six races, including the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. His best finish was 14th in Lowe's spring race.

This season has been nothing like 1994, when Green clinched the NASCAR Busch championship in the season finale - at Rockingham. Needing a finish of 22nd or better, Green started on the pole and finished 11th.

"It was such an exciting day," he recalled.

The excitement is back. Green, a former champion, is racing for a championship organization. Hendrick drivers have won a total of 103 races in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and five championships (Jeff Gordon four, Terry Labonte one). In the NASCAR Busch Series, Hendrick drivers have 11 wins. Green wants to add to that total, and give Hendrick his first championship in America's No. 2 motorsports series.

There's one more motivational tidbit that goes back to the sibling thing. David Green and Jeff Green (the 2000 series champion) each have won the NASCAR Busch Series title one time.

"Now, I want to get one ahead of him," David said.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Jeff Green , Mark Green , David Green , Brian Vickers