Partnership Paying Dividends for Hendrick and Vickers
- Apr 21, 2003
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 21, 2003) – In recent years, the trend for many NASCAR team owners has been to hire young drivers with the hope of developing them as a cornerstone of their organization and the chance that they may turn out to be the sport’s next big superstar.
In December, Hendrick Motorsports took things one step further when they named 19-year-old Brian Vickers as driver of the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series after Ricky Hendrick retired as the driver prior to the end of the 2002 season.
While he may have elected to hang up his helmet, Hendrick decided to follow the road his father, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, has paved in the sport.
At 23, Ricky Hendrick is now owner of the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services team. Together, he and Vickers are the youngest driver-owner combination in NASCAR. So far, things seem to be paying off early for the two of them. After all, it’s the younger Hendrick who is responsible for handpicking Vickers.
“I knew Brian from when I raced against him in the Busch Series,” Hendrick said. “I saw Brian’s potential last year in Atlanta when, after never having made a lap at the track before, he went out for practice and was the fastest car in the session. After starting deep in the field, he was involved in an accident early in the race and recovered to have a solid run.
“The more I talked with Brian, the more I felt like he was going to be one of the next up-and-coming drivers in the sport and that he would fit in well at Hendrick Motorsports.”
In just his second start for Hendrick Motorsports, Vickers finished eighth at North Carolina Speedway and quickly followed that up with a 13th-place finish at Las Vegas. While Vickers is still getting adjusted to his new environment and working to develop the lines of communication with his crew members, he believes having Hendrick as a car owner has been extremely valuable.
“Ricky and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,” Vickers said. “It’s probably because we’re so close in age, but more than anything he understands and can relate to what I’m going through, and will go through as a driver because he’s been there and done it.”
While busy in other areas of business, Hendrick attends many of the events and tries to provide Vickers with pointers throughout practices and during the race.
“Sometimes I feel like I talk too much on the radio,” Hendrick said. “I enjoy trying to help Brian and I feel like there are some situations when I can shed some light on things. The tough part is that I don’t want things to come across like I am telling him what to do. He’s a talented race car driver and is capable of making smart decisions.”
Hendrick’s on-track knowledge may be beneficial, but it’s his overall grasp of everything team-related that Vickers appreciates.
“I definitely listen to him when he talks,” Vickers said. “He’s been with the guys on this team for four years now—knows their personalities, how they operate and provides me with input that you wouldn’t normally expect to hear from a car owner.”
While he may miss driving, Hendrick still enjoys the thrill, just in a different way.
“To watch everything evolve makes me happy,” Hendrick said. “Things are developing like I hoped they would, but now it’s becoming reality. Right now, it’s going well and everyone is doing an awesome job of making me look good.”
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- Apr 15, 2004