Hendrick: You don’t want a sponsor to feel like they got robbed
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with media and discussed NASCAR’s rulings following last weekend’s race at Richmond, Jeff Gordon making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, his thoughts on sponsors, pressures and expectations, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS WEEK?
“Well, it was probably one of the most, I don’t know, up-and-down weeks. I thought, as the race (at Richmond) ended Jeff (Gordon) was in the race until the monitor showed that he wasn’t. And then I didn’t really learn a lot of the facts until I got back home. And I applaud NASCAR for really looking at things and trying to make it right. I thought he deserved to be in the race and I’m glad he’s in the Chase. So, I think it’s all worked out now and we kind of move on and I’m really ready to focus on the Chase now that we’ve got all four cars in it and hopefully we’ll have a good day here today.”
FROM A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES HAVING JEFF GORDON IN THE CHASE MEAN TO YOUR BOTTOM LINE?
“Well, it makes all the sponsors happy. And you know, it’s something you shoot for the whole year. And being in the Chase, that was one of the things that we worked for. We did it last year. We had all four in and we wanted to do it this year. And of course, AARP was calling me all week like they were very disappointed and upset. And I happened to be with them Thursday night here, when they were packing meals, and they were happy to find out Friday, I guess it was, that he was in the Chase. Everybody is happy now. It’s important to the sponsors. I mean you know, the teams have bonuses and you know it’s a shot at the championship. Everything has happened during the year with all your bad luck and whatever and it’s down to 10 races. The guy that runs good and has good luck could win this thing; anybody can win it. It’s just a lot of excitement for the sponsors on the car.”
THESE ARE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR DECISIONS THAT NASCAR MADE THIS WEEK
“Oh, it’s huge. You don’t want a sponsor to feel like they got robbed and NASCAR’s in a tough spot. You can’t make everybody happy. They have to have a rule and live by the rules. And I think they did a good job. And I think they’re going to, from what I’ve heard, Brian (France) is putting his foot down and we’re going to see a lot tighter reigns on what’s going on on the track. And I think if we can fix the restart deal now, and I’d love to see timing lines like we have on pit road. What’s wrong with running the pit road speed, a light comes on, the leader goes, and everybody runs instead of running all over each other. So, we’ll see what happens there. But everybody has had an up-and-down week. I’m just ready to get on with the Chase and you know you have all the excitement and the nerves of the race in Richmond, and then you come away disappointed because you thought you were in. Literally, coming off the box, I thought we were in. And I heard the radio say you missed it by one or two (points) and I said, ‘How could that be?’ And I went back and it was just – The Chase is a great deal. It’s great for the fans. But man, it’s a nail-biting time for teams and drivers.”
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN THE MANIPULATION?
“Yes. And, but you know, I think maybe that’s something that’s going to do us all a lot of good. The sport will move on and learn from it and go out and race and show the fans a heck of a good time and get what they pay to see. These guys drive their hearts out every week. I’ve been doing this over 30 years now and it’s the most competitive I’ve ever seen. I’ve raced when you could clinch a championship with three or four races to go, and that wasn’t any fun for people watching. It was fun for the guy; as a car owner it was fun. It took a lot of pressure off. But this is what has made it exciting and everybody’s got a tremendous amount of pressure to perform. And now it’s going to be interesting to see how these guys race today and the next 10 races because they’ve got to be a little bit cautious but you’ve got to be really fast. And I think the fans are going to see some extremely hard racing. And I think it’s going to come down to somebody making mistakes and other guys not making mistakes. We’ll see.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL THAT NASCAR TOOK SUCH AN UNPRECEDENTED ACTION IN RESTORING JEFF (GORDON) TO THE CHASE?
“Well you know I didn’t have to make that decision, but I sure felt like it was obvious that he got taken out by a manipulation instead of getting beat. I think the world knew it and they had to do what they did.”
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT YOU GUYS GOT DRAGGED INTO IT WHERE ALLEGATIONS MAYBE YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN UP TO SOMETHING OR THE NO. 48 AND NO. 24 MAYBE HAD HELPED EACH OTHER. WERE YOU ANGRY AT THAT? DID YOU MAYBE HAVE WORDS WITH MICHAEL (WALTRIP)?
“Well it was kind of stupid if you saw that Jeff (Gordon) was running top seven, he pits and the caution comes out. It hurt Jeff. How can anybody say it helped Jeff? We burned the alternator up on the car that is what we were talking about voltage.
“I think people were just stabbing at things to get the pressure off of them maybe. I didn’t really hear what anybody said. When you have that kind of trouble and when that happened I was thinking our caution has cost Jeff the deal. That is what I was thinking. Then for somebody to turn around and say that was somehow timed or whatever that was a miserable night for the No. 48 and we were changing batteries. The alternator was burnt up on the car, so that hurt all of our teams that caution did. You know I’m just ready to end it. I’m glad that Jeff is in the Chase.
“I think NASCAR, I think Brian France did a great job, he stepped up and he said I made the decision and this is the way it’s going to be. It sounded like Bill. I’m going to make sure this doesn’t happen and this is the way we are going to race from here on. I applaud NASCAR for what they have done. I think everybody in the garage if we could go back and run Richmond over it would be a lot different.”
DID YOU GET ANY CALLS OR DO ANYTHING TO TRY TO HELP JEFF’S CAUSE WHEN YOU GOT WIND THAT MAYBE SOMETHING MIGHT HAVE BEEN UP LAST SATURDAY?
“Well, you know you talk to everybody. I was just like all the fans. I was texting and emailing and saying ‘how could this be’. Really nobody was responding so I didn’t have any idea what would happen. I thought it was just 50/50, either they were or they weren’t. I thought all of you folks in the media did a great job of breaking it down. You were the ones that had it on TV and I saw and read and listened to all of the information. I think they did a good job of waiting and dissecting everything. And then before they pulled the trigger they knew what they were doing and knew what they were looking at. It was such a mess Saturday night in Richmond; everybody was going home confused because you just didn’t know what happened. I had no idea anything happened other than the No. 15 spun. That is all I knew when I left the track.”
WE DON’T HAVE CHALLENGES LIKE THEY DO IN THE NFL. THE TEAM OWNERS OR DRIVERS OR CREW CHIEF OR WHOEVER CAN GO TO THE HAULER TO SHOW THEIR DISPLEASURE. WHY WASN’T THERE MORE OF THAT THAT TRANSPIRED ON SATURDAY NIGHT? WHY DID WE HAVE A HANGOVER ALL THE WAY UNTIL MONDAY OR EVEN FRIDAY IN YOUR PLACE?
“I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never been to the hauler at the end of the race and had any decision reversed for jumping the start or whatever. The race is the race and that is it. That is the way it’s been for 30 plus years. I was just disgusted and left. I didn’t hang around. I got out of there as soon as it was over because it wouldn’t have done any good.”