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A First for Hendrick at Darlington

 

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 31, 2002)—After missing the first NASCAR Busch Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway earlier this year because of injuries suffered in a crash at Las Vegas, Ricky Hendrick will take his first crack at the famed South Carolina oval this season when he takes the green flag in the Gatorade 200 on Saturday.

“Darlington is a cool track and I really like it,” said Hendrick, driver of the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet. “I have raced there before in a Busch Series car and a NASCAR Craftsman Truck. That experience will definitely help us.

“We ran very well there last year in the inaugural Truck Series race before getting taken out by a lapped competitor. I think I have a good technique that works well there. We have always run well there—I just hope we can stay out of trouble and get a strong finish this time around.”

Originally opened in 1950, Darlington, NASCAR’s first “superspeedway,” was designed for speeds of slightly over 100 mph, not the 150-plus the Busch Series cars will run this weekend. With those speeds, it’s little wonder drivers leave some paint on the walls of the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.

“You aren’t really driving if you don’t stripe at Darlington,” said Hendrick. “I am sure I will hit there, but hopefully not hard enough to cause any damage. I scraped the wall a couple times at Indianapolis and St. Louis. It’s just part of racing.

“There are tracks where you just expect to do that and Darlington is one of them. Everyone hits the wall there and by the end of the race there is paint all over the track walls.”

With Hendrick injured and on the sidelines in March, Ron Hornaday steered the GMAC Chevy at Darlington, scoring a 15th-place finish. According to crew chief Lance McGrew, the experience gained will be a big asset when the team returns this time with Hendrick behind the wheel.

“We are bringing a good car,” said McGrew. “It’s the same car Ron drove and we were fast. That was the first race with Ron so we had a lot of adjusting going on.

“Ricky and Ron have totally different driving and communication styles. That week was difficult for the team with the shock of a new driver and Ricky being injured. Despite that, we had a good, fast race car and we are bringing all that back and Ricky, too.

“Ricky really likes that track so I think we will be very good.”

Hendrick and his No. 5 GMAC Financial Services team will take the green flag in the Gatorade 200 on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. EDT. The event will be telecast live on TNT and broadcast on MRN Radio.

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