Continued from part 1 Q: Jeff, when you guys left for the track, did Rick have any final words of advice or encouragement for you as you left? JEFF GORDON: I think there's going to be a statement there, but I think that only thing that he...
Continued from part 1
Q: Jeff, when you guys left for the track, did Rick have any final words of advice or encouragement for you as you left?
JEFF GORDON: I think there's going to be a statement there, but I think that only thing that he said to me he just wanted everybody to know how appreciative he was for the thoughts, many, many phone calls. In amazing fashion he was concerned with people that maybe he hadn't called back or talked to that had called to check on him. That says it all in my opinion."
Q: Those of us that went to the memorial service couldn't help but leave and remembered what the minister said: "Watch this man. Watch Rick Hendrick, how he's going to handle this," because in a sense he sort of said why that happened to him. But bad things happen and good things happen, do you guys feel like he can handle that, you know, that pressure of everybody in the world watching how he handles it, and does that reflect also on you guys because such a sufficient time?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In a weird way but not weird way or roundabout way, but I think everybody knows Rick, knows the family and if you know John Hendrick's family and Scott's family and Dick and Liz, I mean if you know everybody involved, Diane, you go down the list of names, everybody involved is very strong and they are going to try to pull together and work as hard as they can.
Rick is somebody that we all look up to and I don't know how it's all going, how everybody can come together and pull out any different -- only day by day in trying to work through it, and Rick is amazing, Linda (Hendrick) is amazing, I mean, everybody involved.
"If you had a chance to watch and be a part of the service yesterday, you saw a lot of amazing people with a lot of strength and courage. I just think that there may be a lot of eyes on and -- I know that everybody, including everybody up on this panel, that there's a lot of eyes on us. That's why we wanted to be here today to make some statement and then ask for the respect for everyone to let this panel, Rick Hendrick, everybody involved, let us try to deal with this stuff and let us go back to racing and let everybody try to heal up. But everybody is strong and amazing. We all know there are a lot of eyes on us. We're just going to work through it all. Everybody is."
Q: Pursuant to that same subject without trying to pry into any private conversations, I would like to ask especially Jeff, Terry and Jimmie, for your assessment. Is Rick already back in charge and at the helm even for this situation? And can you already see signs of what everybody predicted, that Rick would turn this around and make something positive and make a triumph out of this? Can you already see signs of that in him?
JEFF GORDON: We would never even ask that of him at this time. Nobody is even thinking about that. What we're thinking about is what we can do for these individuals, these family members to get through probably the toughest time that they will ever have in their entire lives, and the last thing on our minds is when is Rick going to be back. And because of the family that we talked about, the organization, there's been so many people that stepped up without even having to be told to step up, just stepped up and that's how we're all treating it, is that we have got to step up and we have got to do our jobs and do them well. And you know, that's what we're going to do."
Q: I probably didn't ask it right. I guess, I am trying to ask, this whole tragedy, this whole catastrophe, is he still at the helm, steering specifically through that, the catastrophe itself, or are there others that are kind of -- is he at the helm of this while the family deals with all of this?
THE MODERATOR: I think this is a private time for the Hendrick family, and the question is probably not appropriate for this panel at this time."
Q: Talk a little bit about your memories of Ricky and specifically about what you saw of his decision to step out of racing and take more of a leadership role?
JEFF GORDON: I think a lot of us want to answer a lot of questions, but you know, there are just so many thoughts and things that are going through our minds that, you know, we have either had among one another or had with our friends or had with family, and you know, just choosing to keep a lot of those thoughts, even though there are many, many memories and things that are on all of our minds, that there's a reason why we're silent is because we choose to keep those private."
Q: NASCAR is a family-oriented sport. Thousands of those fans admire you and they are young. To any of the youngsters, collectively, is there a message that you can send to them?
TERRY LABONTE: I think we just got to thank all the fans and everybody in our sport for all their support. For all the family, it's been a very difficult week for everybody in our sport, Hendrick Motor Sports, especially, and just to thank them for all their support that they have given us and phone calls, e-mails and the flowers and things. It means a lot. It's going to help everybody get through this. We're going to get through it. It's not going to be easy. It's going to take a little while. This team is going to be stronger than it's ever been.
We've got great people, I don't think I have ever seen anything that's going to pull this team together any closer than it can get than this. It's going to be, I think, our way of being determined, to make it through this is to work together, try to get Hendrick Motor Sports another championship and Rick Hendrick another Championship and do it around all those people that we have lost, because if we didn't do that they would be mad at us. We have got to work as hard as we can to get through this and do the best we can.
The biggest thing is to thank all the fans and all the people in our sport, thank them for all their support that they have given us through this difficult time."
Q: Rick Hendrick is an extreme graceful, resolute individual. We all see a lot of those characteristics in you. Could you be speak quickly about how he's maybe molded you guys, maybe some lessons he's taught you that you might not have known before?
JEFF GORDON: I guess I have been there the longest. At least as a driver, there are some others that have been here quite a while. Terry came a year after me. From the first day that I met Rick and sat down in his office, he asked me to come drive for him. And I think everybody who has ever met Rick has felt the same way and has the same stories about the way he -- just the message he sends to you. He's just, you know, he's just one of those guys you want to be. He just holds himself so well. He's professional, yet personable. He's humble. It's just a lovable guy who loves his family, loves his friends, and has had extreme success, and yet can sit down with you and talk about things. I think that's kind of the person we all want to be. He's certainly been somebody that I have looked up to for a long time."
THE MODERATOR: Assembled media wanted to offer their condolences to you, the competitors, who were most closely affected by this tragedy.
Before we conclude, I'd like to ask if any of the members of the panel have a remembrance or thoughts they would like to share.
CHAD KNAUS: I'd just like to say that response we have got from everybody out there, not only in the racing community, but outside of that, the flower arrangements and phone calls and the cards, just the wishes that have shown up has been phenomenal. All those people in that airplane were very, very special to me. It was very difficult and a tough thing to do on Monday morning when you walked into Hendrick Motor Sports. It was something we didn't know how to address, handle or even begin to approach, and it was very difficult. I think if you would have walked in there you would have seen a ghost town with a bunch of people there.
I think what, we were talking about, Mr. Hendrick, I think one of things that we learned from Rick and Randy, John, and those guys is that we have got to keep going. Everybody realized that I think Monday night and they came in on Tuesday, those guys put their head down, they got to work, they were getting ready to go to Atlanta.
I have to say thanks to everybody at Hendricks Motor Sports because if you guys didn't put your heads down and get to work, I don't know if I could have made it through the week the way that I needed to be able to and come here."
ROBBIE LOOMIS: I want to thank Ken Howes He has been through an extremely tough week, and has done an extremely great job, and everybody at Hendricks, Pat Perkins, the whole media department, everyone. But the one thing I took out of it, I learned a little bit after Adam, and this has brought it out to the forefront, take time to think about those people you love, how you appreciate them and thank them while you can. We go on, especially when we're young, we think life goes on forever. Take those moments to be appreciative of those around us, the things they do and the deep love that they have."
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Once again I am thankful and I think it shows what our racing community is about when it doesn't matter what teams, drivers, you know, everybody comes together and it doesn't matter. Throughout this garage area everybody has pulled together to try to work through this and we appreciate everything from everyone. I also want to thank NASCAR for handling things the way they did last weekend. I know it may have seemed confusing at times. It definitely was from my standpoint. But could not have been handled in a better way. I just want to thank NASCAR for all of that. Ken Howes for having the responsibility to gather us up, walk us through it. He lost some very close friends and to have the composure that he did to walk us through that, was pretty amazing, and amazing people do amazing things in times like this. I think that's what sticks out in my mind the most.
Finally just my heart goes out to the families like I mentioned before. It hurts so bad just being a friend of all these people. I can only imagine being a family member. Our hearts are with all of you and we appreciate everything, thank you."
JEFF GORDON: I definitely want to make sure that I mention, I think if you want to do something for these families, for these friends, if you want to send a message out, you can wear these blue bands that says "life is a team sport." There's nothing I know that means to the Hendrick family than the Hendrick Marrow Program, and I don't know exactly how to get the information on these. I am sure that they may have that, but they cared so much about others and even in a time like this, they are thinking about others and this is a way to give back something that's very meaningful to them, if you want to do something like that.
But I do again want to say thanks to everybody out there who has made phone calls, who sent flowers, who have been so, so supportive of this tragedy. This whole sport, it's amazing how when something tragic happens how they come together as a family, and at Hendrick Motor Sports, we're certainly all about family and it's been amazing to be treated like that among everybody in this entire sport from the fans, NASCAR, sponsors, other teams that are out here, and I know everyone wants to say "thank you" for the way that that has been handled and the family and friends and the support that everybody has given."
THE MODERATOR: There will be information on the Hendrick Marrow Foundation at the Hendrick Motor Sports Web site.
The common thread through all these few days has been the overwhelming sense of giving, helping, protecting, especially strength through faith. Those who have lost, and those who are closest to them.
Rick Hendrick, his family and Hendrick Motorsports asked me to pass along their thoughts, thanks for your hopes and prayers and strength and your faith. Thank you very much for joining us.