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Hendrick Ready for Anything at Bristol

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 22, 2002)—Most drivers are intimidated by the high-speed bullring known as Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. This week, Ricky Hendrick will face the challenge of driving his first-ever NASCAR Busch Series race at the legendary high-banked oval when he steers the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevy into battle in the Food City 250.

“I have never run at Bristol, ” said Hendrick of the .533-mile concrete oval. “I know I am in for it, but I can’t wait to get there.

“Bristol is the kind of track you either love or hate. I like short track racing, so I hope to love it. It will be a night of beating and banging and we have done pretty well at those tracks this year.”

Historically, the events at Bristol produce some of the best racing on the NASCAR circuit. Tickets to the August “night races” are among the most coveted every year as the on-track action usually produces more than its share of close racing.

“There are always a lot of wrecks at Bristol and you definitely don’t want to be in them,” said Hendrick. “Whenever you put 43 cars on a half-mile track, there is going to be trouble. The high banking helps you pick up speed and wrecks happen fast.

“You might be able to make it through a wreck, but a lot of it is pure luck. One thing I know about Bristol—if you drive away with a full car and a good finish, it won’t be without a lot of close calls.”

Hendrick missed the March 2002 Busch Series stop at Bristol due to an injury suffered in a grinding wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier that month. Two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. filled the seat of the GMAC Chevy while Hendrick was on the mend from shoulder surgery. In all, Hendrick missed a total of six races before returning to the driver’s seat in May.

“It was very hard to sit on the sidelines,” said the 22-year-old Charlotte, N.C., native. “I did my best to be very active with the team the whole time I was out—I never missed a race, I just didn’t get to drive for six of them.

“I talked to Hornaday a lot and listened to the team. I only hope we learned a few things for this trip. I guess we’ll see when we unload on Thursday.”

Hendrick and his No. 5 GMAC Financial Services team will take the green flag in the Food City 250 on Friday, August 23 at 8 p.m. EDT. The event will be telecast live on TNT and broadcast on PRN Radio.

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