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"Veteran" Hendrick Ready for First Chicagoland Run

 

  • Jul 12, 2002

JOLIET, Ill. (July 12, 2002)—Despite the fact the Hills Brothers Coffee 300 will be Ricky Hendrick’s first-ever appearance at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., the young driver is bringing a potent No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet Monte Carlo and a lot of confidence to the event after a solid test at the track last month.

“We came here and tested in June because we had absolutely no idea what to expect,” said Hendrick. “We were at the other track in Chicago last year when I raced in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but Chicagoland Speedway is a totally different animal.

“There are some bumps in turns three and four that definitely get your attention. It is a beautiful facility and we can’t wait to race there. We had a great test and I think we learned some things at the two-day test that should really help us on race day.”

Last year, Hendrick and Team GMAC competed in the truck series on a full-time basis with a few Busch Series events sprinkled in for good measure. An NCTS win in Kansas and a sixth-place finish in the truck standings spiced the campaign and led to the jump to Busch Series competition this season for the Charlotte, N.C., native.

“Technically I am not a rookie, but we will be running the ‘rookie stripe’ at the race in Chicago this season,” said Hendrick. “I had run 16 NBS races prior to the season opener in Daytona this year, so I am not eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.

“Just to be cautious, NASCAR has asked me to run the rookie stripe at any track that I have never raced a Busch car, so some races I have it and some races I won’t. Chicago will be one of those races where I run it.”

Hendrick and Team GMAC made their first trip to Chicago last year, competing in the Sears Craftsman 175 at Chicago Motorsports Park, starting ninth and finishing 11th. The ancient, one-mile flat track differs greatly from the new, state-of-the-art 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, just as Chicago differs from Hendrick’s hometown of Charlotte.

“That was the first time I had ever been to Chicago,” said Hendrick. “We were here for the truck race and I went downtown. Everyone hears about Chicago. It’s a big city with great sports teams, but you just have no idea how cool it is until you actually see it.

“The city is great and I have never seen anything like Lake Michigan in my life. I would love to take a speedboat out on that thing. It looks like an ocean.”

Hendrick and Team GMAC will take the green flag at the Chicagoland Speedway for the Hills Brothers Coffee 300 on Saturday, July 13 at 3:30 p.m. EDT. The event will be telecast live on NBC and broadcast as it happens on MRN Radio affiliates.

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