Joseph Riddick "Rick" Hendrick III (born July 12, 1949) is the current owner of the American NASCAR team, Hendrick Motorsports and founder of the Hendrick Automotive Group and Hendrick Marrow Program. Owner of the 24 car, he qualified his 4 cars yesterday:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by the winning car owner, Mr. Rick Hendrick. Mr. Hendrick, congratulations on a great victory today and even more so, all four of your teams advancing to the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it was a great day. Kasey made it a pretty long day. We were watching the monitor there at the end of the race hoping that we didn't have a caution and Jeff could win it and Kasey could get in. I didn't know exactly how close this thing was going to be until I watched the monitor, but it was a good day. All our cars ran well. Kasey had a really good car, but Jeff just did a fantastic job and was there all day, so good to get that win.
Q. Kasey at one point was running four laps down, and if a caution it come out at that point it probably would have ended his season. What was your level of nervousness during the race watching him struggle, and did you feel at any point like maybe this was the end of the road for him?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, his car was so good, he was up, I think, sixth or seventh, and we pitted and then he felt something, and it was a loose wheel. The left rear was loose. When he had to pit under green, I just thought we were done because -- just no way to make up -- didn't think we could make up two laps, and then we did a wave-around and it worked out. And then I thought we were okay, and then we were like even or one point behind. I really had written it off about two thirds of the race. I thought we were just not going to get a break to get back in it.
Q. Kind of along those lines, were you watching more what was going on with Kasey than Jeff, and who do you feel like is kind of the bigger winner out of today?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Kasey escaped a bullet, and it was like -- but Jeff got a win and I think made a statement, and he's been good everywhere. So I think having Jeff win the race and carrying that momentum into the Chase as a real contender with four wins this year, I thought that was pretty special. When you have four cars and you want them to make that round -- if Kasey had been a car that was just 20th or 21st and got lapped, it wouldn't have been as tough as it was for him to have one of the faster cars in the first segment and then get eliminated with a wheel, loose wheel. It was a roller coaster of emotions, but winning a race is special. At least we now get to go to zero and take all four to Kansas.
Q. Rick, you mentioned, you kidded Jeff that he's discovered the Fountain of Youth. What are the keys to his resurgence this season in your mind?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think Alan Gustafson is one of the smartest crew chiefs I think in the garage, but this new rule package, it's a little bit tighter race car. I think it's helped the 5. It's helped Dale and Jeff, and I think Jimmie and Kasey, it's gone a little bit the other way for them. As soon as we showed up with this package, Jeff has been solid. Jimmie is getting closer and closer, but he'll admit he likes a loose race car, and this rules package is a tighter race car. That's the difference. I think when Jeff Gordon can see 10 laps to go, I'll put money on him anywhere, and he's a smarter race car driver I think than he was when he was in his late 20s, and he uses his head and he's got all the talent in the world, and Alan has given him some super race cars. Alan leaves nothing undone in every area of that team, and I think Jeff has really just stepped it up. It's a combination of a lot of things, but I've never seen -- I can remember back when he was winning 10 or 12 races a year, he didn't get out of the car and jump on the roof and have as much fun in victory lane as he is right now. He's really enjoying himself.
Q. Everybody has talked about the next three races with Kansas kind of having a lot of wrecks in recent years, then obviously Talladega. How are you going to handle watching them?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I might not watch Talladega. I might go to the next two and let them tell me when it's over. That one will be -- I think everybody that's in the next round is going to try to get as many points as they can before we go to Talladega because that's going to be a tough race. I think Charlotte and Kansas will be okay. You'll probably have some problems but nothing like what we were facing going to Talladega. Actually I think I'm getting inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame that Sunday anyway, so I'll let them tell me when it's over.
Q. A little bit off topic, but we recently celebrated 25 years since Tim Richmond passed away. If you can pick out like one favorite memory of him, what would that be?
RICK HENDRICK: I think the one I'll never forget is Tim at Pocono. He and Dale Earnhardt Sr. used to play with each other a lot, and he keyed the radio, and he said, hey, Rick, are you listening, and I said, yeah, and he said, watch this. He goes into Turn 3 and he's leading the race, and he slides up the track, and Dale comes by him, and then he catches Dale about the flag stand and just lifts him up, his rear end off the ground, and I thought, man, you're messing with a snake. So many Tim Richmond stories, but that guy just had so much talent. I've seen him make up laps at Pocono and would love to have seen him be around to see how many races and championships he could have won.
Q. Now that you've gone through the first round these three races, kind of seen how things have played out with this new format, how different is it from what it's been? How do you guys have to handle things, because obviously with the reset now it doesn't matter what you did. What's so different, and how are you having to adjust in how you plan and organize things with your group?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, I think the plan has just got to be to go out and try to win. Win and you're in, but if you can't win, you've got to accumulate as many points as you can, and you can't take a chance. I mean, you can't do anything outrageous to try to win because you could put yourself in a box with the points. So I think we're just going to have to -- I know, especially with Talladega being a wild card, we're going to try to get as many points -- try to win the race; that's goal one, because win and you're in. But then try to not take any chances if we're not winning to accumulate as many points as we can. This is really a -- this whole scenario, you saw it today, with a car that was in good shape, running in the top six or eight, have a loose wheel. If you have a speeding penalty, or like Kevin with a tire, if that had happened toward the end of the race, it can knock a great car out. I predict there will be one of the top guys, one of ours, one of Penske's, one of somebody's, that will have a problem like that and it'll cost them a chance to move on.
Q. You just kind of touched on this. I know it's just one race, but the fact that Jeff won today and won beating one of the Penske cars kind of on a heads-up battle towards the end of the race, does that bode well for the rest of the Chase do you think?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think so. You know, we run really well at Charlotte and we run well at Kansas. I think those two tracks we've won a lot of races, and our guys all run well there. I think today was good for us to see Jeff go out there and run them down. You know, it seems like all year, the Penske cars are better on the short run, our cars are better on the long run, and you're going to have to make adjustments if there's a restart and it's a short run. You know, it's going to be a battle. I think Kevin Harvick is -- he's seven poles, led a ton of laps. If he doesn't have any problem, he's been good everywhere. You know, it's going to be a real dogfight.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Hendrick, congratulations. Thank you.
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