Hendrick Fights Through Bristol Problems
- Aug 28, 2002
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 28, 2002)—Ricky Hendrick came into the Food City 250 prepared for anything—anything but holding his breath for 250 laps on the ultra-fast Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
“I got a real workout tonight and a whole lot of experience,” said Hendrick, who steered his No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet Monte Carlo to a 29th-place finish in the event. “Just 32 laps into the race, there was a big wreck right in front of me. I don’t know how I drove through it, but I did and it was on from there.
“You don’t blink or breathe when you are driving at Bristol. Every caution was a break for air, but I was mostly just grateful to make it though each one. It was wild out there.”
Hendrick greatly improved his qualifying time over practice numbers, posting a lap of 122.458 mph and 15.670 seconds, good enough for a 13th-place start. Team GMAC was pleased to pick up two-tenths from the practice session.
“We seem to be getting back on track with our qualifying runs,” said Hendrick. “I am not thrilled with 13th place. I know I left a little out there on the race track, but we picked up time and that is good.
“Honestly, I think I just need to get a little more experience on this track. It’s my first time here and Bristol takes a lot to get used to.”
In addition to avoiding the beating and banging that is a staple at any Bristol race, Hendrick’s biggest problem was a fluid leak and a small fire that brought him into the pits repeatedly before going behind the wall for closer inspection.
“We got back out on the track, but I had to drive 70 laps without power steering,” said Hendrick. “That was like trying to keep 100 pounds on a weight machine from falling and it was like that on every turn. It was hard work.
“I thought they had to be kidding when they sent me back out on the track without power steering. They definitely weren’t kidding, but I was passing people out there and running the same times as the leaders. I could feel everything in the car. It was definitely a new experience for me and not a whole lot of fun.”
“The problem is still a little bit of a mystery, ” said crew chief Lance McGrew. “We had some sort of failure with the power steering system. It was spitting fluid out, but not enough to figure out where the problem was, but enough that we knew there was a definite problem. It took us too long to figure out what was wrong. We will go back to the shop and figure out exactly what happened.
“We are certainly disappointed, but we are bringing home a whole racecar from Bristol and that is something to be proud of.”
Despite the problem, Hendrick was running at the finish and earned $16,280 in prize money. He remains 26th in the 2002 Busch Series championship race.
Hendrick and his No. 5 GMAC Financial Services team will take the green flag in the South Carolina 200 on Saturday, August 31 at 1 p.m. EDT. The event will be telecast live on TNT and broadcast on MRN Radio.