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Rick Hendrick gives an update on Junior
Rick Hendrick talks about the status of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and says that Earnhardt visited his team this week.
Hendrick on Dale Jr.: 'We want him for a long time'
RELATED: Support for Dale Jr. LOUDON, N.H. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick said driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will undergo additional tests early next week as the popular driver works through concussion-like symptoms that sidelined him for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I'm not a doctor but he's running through a bunch of tests, going to have some more tests the first of the week and he's doing good," Hendrick told members of the media Sunday morning at NHMS. "He wants to be in the car. The doctor's going to tell him when it's OK for him to be back. I know he's anxious, and we want him back as soon as the doctor gives him clearance." Team officials announced July 14 that Earnhardt, winner of 26 Sprint Cup races, had not been cleared to race this weekend after visiting doctors for what he thought was a possible sinus infection. JR Motorsports driver Alex Bowman was tabbed to drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in Sunday’s race. "Dale is special to me, taking the driving part away," says Hendrick , who has fielded a car for Earnhardt since 2008. "I just want him to feel good when he gets back in the car. I don't want him to push himself. He's kind of an ironman, he doesn't want to let the team down, he doesn't want to let his fans down. But we need him for the long pull, and he wants to be in the car. "The best thing the doctors can do is go through all the protocol and do all the tests, and there's a bunch … to do. When they say 'You’re good to go,' he'll be back." Should Earnhardt not be cleared to return in time for next week's Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon will handle the driving duties. Gordon stepped away from full-time competition at the end of 2015 to join the NASCAR on FOX broadcast team as an analyst. He was on vacation with his family when Earnhardt’s condition was announced. "He thought I was kidding at first," Hendrick said of his conversation with his former driver. "He was on vacation and I asked him what he was doing next week. He said 'I'll be in Indy, that's one of my appearances I have to make.' And I said, 'Well, bring your driver's uniform. Just in case.' "He said, 'Are you kidding?' and I said 'No, I'm serious.' " "If Dale can't go, then Jeff is ready to step in." Hendrick said Gordon could fill in beyond next week's race if necessary, but added that "we're just taking it a week at a time." "Hopefully Dale is going to be back next week and it's not even something that we think is going to happen," he said. "But if it does … Jeff is a team player, he wants to support the organization and I'm sure he'll do whatever he has to do." READ MORE: Bowman keeps missing Junior's calls The latest incident marks the second time Earnhardt Jr. has missed races for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. In 2012 he missed two races late in the season after suffering two concussions in a six-week stretch. Hendrick said he didn't believe the latest incident raised a red flag and would possibly be something that could curtail his driver's racing career. "He and I talked about years beyond next year, around I guess Daytona," Hendrick said. "If there was something major, major wrong I think (the doctors) would have seen it already. "I'm very hopeful and he's very hopeful and I think the doctors want to err on the side of being sure. We want him for a long time. He loves the fans, he loves the sport, he loves to race and we love him in the organization. I'm proud of him." Earnhardt was 13th in points prior to missing Sunday's race. He is winless this season, meaning he would need a victory to possibly secure a spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The field of 16 will consist of this year's race winners and, if there aren't at least 16, additional positions to fill the field would be determined based on championship driver point standings. Hendrick said his organization has not requested a medical waiver from NASCAR. "I haven't even thought about a waiver or any of that right now," he said. Chase eligibility includes the requirement that drivers attempt to qualify for all points races prior to the start of the Chase. Such waivers have been provided by NASCAR in the past. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hendrick on Dale Jr. 'We want him for the long haul'
Rick Hendrick talks before the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway about Dale Earnhardt Jr. being out and the possibility of Jeff Gordon filling in for Earnhardt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson looks to cure cold spell at the Brickyard
RELATED: Johnson through the years " See all the winners at the Brickyard SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson looked comfortable and calm taking questions from the media Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion's No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet was fastest in the day's opening practice here and seventh quickest in final practice. The historically tough 2.5-mile track has been a positive outlet for Johnson. His success at Indianapolis – four wins – is undeniable, but it is also sporadic. And overdue. Johnson won three times at Indy in four years between 2006-2009 – a mark both unmatched and highly impressive. He added a fourth victory in 2012 and then nearly a fifth in 2013 when he finished runner-up. Only Jeff Gordon (five wins) has won more here. The flip side of the success is that three times Johnson has finished 36th or worse. He was 14th and 15th in his last two races at Indy. And his need to add another win here in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is as much about turning his season around in pursuit of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title as it is attaining Indianapolis-specific glory. "We love big events, that's one thing about Hendrick Motorsports,’" Johnson allowed, smiling. "We look at the 500 and the 400 and all big races as an opportunity; and are excited for it." Johnson was the first driver in 2016 to collect multiple trophies winning the second week of the season at Atlanta and then again three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But in the last 10 races, he's crashed out three times and had only a single top-10 finish – a third-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . In fact, four of his finishes in this stretch have been 25th or worse. Before a 12th- place finish from the pole position at New Hampshire last week, Johnson uncharacteristically crashed out in back-to-back races with a 35th- place showing at Daytona and 32nd at Kentucky. He's currently eighth in the points standings, however, he is fourth on the Chase Grid because of his multiple wins. "I guess last week is kind of a good example of some of the difficulties we've had," Johnson said of New Hampshire. "We had competitive cars all running in the top 11 and in one corner we lose two of them. "It's been tough, but I think we have a good foundation to build from. We have respectable finishes in our cars, but nobody wants to be a decent finisher or a respectable finisher. We all want to dominate. And, we're working real hard on all fronts; from our engine shop, chassis shop, aero, teams, pit stops, and all of it." Contrary to what other teams may be experiencing, Johnson said it's not that his team isn't trying hard enough to return to form. It may be they are trying too hard. "And that's the problem," Johnson said. "I've been at 110 percent and you make too many mistakes there. And I think our team has, too. So, that's one thing we have recognized and we're going to really try to dial back and make sure that we run where we should. "If we have a fifth place car that week, let's be sure that we at least finish fifth. Maybe there's some opportunities to give us a chance to win, but stop making mistakes. And, I've got to do that, first and foremost." Johnson said he was even open to having the team’s "new driver" Jeff Gordon give feedback on the cars since Gordon – who retired last year – is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono while Earnhardt continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. "We're months in, and I feel like all the drivers have expressed where we could be stronger and what we might need, but a fresh set of eyes and I guess it is kind of biased, but versus the four drivers in unbiased evaluation of the car and where we stack-up and how the engine feels compared to others," Johnson said of possibly getting Gordon's opinion. "And Jeff has had a unique opportunity to see the sport from a totally different angle; and certainly watching cars and I know he's formed some opinions watching other race cars and where the Toyotas might beat us. So, to be able to sit in the car and look for those opportunities and moments, I think will be helpful for us, for sure." The recent struggles are certainly an unfamiliar position for team owner Rick Hendrick , who was just selected for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He's grown much more accustomed to winning championships or at the very least challenging for titles. Recently his team has been challenging simply to finish a race. But righting the course is something everyone expects. And the trick is doing it sooner than later. "It seems like when it rains, it pours," Hendrick said. "I think at Daytona we wrecked three or four cars. And then we went to Kentucky and wrecked again. We were in good shape in New Hampshire, but wrecked again. I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever. You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements. "I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend. But, you never like having a curveball. This is kind of one of the toughest things you have to go through as one of your star drivers can't drive. And so, the encouraging news is that everybody just stepped up and is working harder. "We're determined to work in every area from the engine to the chassis and aero and everything. And the teams are excited. It's kind of our 'refuse to lose' belief. But we didn't need this, for sure. We didn't need the wrecks we've gone through. Our place looks like a salvage yard where all of the cars have been tore up. But that just makes us dig harder." And Johnson appears ready to lead the charge. "We're all highly inspired to get back on top of the mountain, that is where we feel we should be at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We've just got to clean it up on all fronts. Hopefully we have it all together here and can win."
Gordon gets comfortable, keeps expectations 'realistic'
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon was all smiles walking on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's pit road following qualifying for Sunday's Brickyard 400. The crowd cheered its approval of his 21st-place qualifying effort. Mostly they were happy for the opportunity to see the four-time NASCAR champion at work again. Gordon advanced to the second round of qualifying driving Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet. And the five-time Indy winner will start his final race here from the 11th row filling in for Earnhardt, who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon, 44, who was asked by team owner Rick Hendrick to come out of retirement and take the wheel for Earnhardt at Indy and at Pocono Raceway next week. "I feel like today I am much calmer than I was yesterday," Gordon said. "Usually my heart's beating more for qualifying than for practice, but that wasn't the case today. "So today, I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car and I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic and trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as around other cars." Gordon hasn't driven a Sprint Cup Series car since retiring at the end of the 2015 season and only had a pair of practice sessions Friday to prepare for qualifying and the race. The team used his old seat and steering wheel in the car and Gordon only arrived from a family vacation in France mid-week. "For the most part, all the work is done," Gordon said. "We did our practice yesterday, we did our de-brief with drivers and crew chiefs last night and we qualified today. "Every time we're on track we're gathering information and learning. We'll continue to talk about it, but that's about all we can do moving forward. Those guys will be working hard on pit strategy for the race. But for the most part, the work is done for me other than thinking of some things I could tell Greg. "The work all begins when the green flag drops." While this will be the first time in Gordon's celebrated career he won't be steering the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick , there was an unmistakable sense of excitement about the weekend's opportunity. In what was originally his final Indy start -- last year -- Gordon scored his worst-ever finish of 42nd. In a sense, this time filling in for his good friend and former teammate Earnhardt also affords him the chance to improve that career note, too. "My expectations are very realistic," Gordon said. "I'm approaching this the same way I've approached any race I've ever been in. I drive the car into the corner and the car gives me feedback and if it feels good, I drive it harder. If it doesn't feel good I find a way to manage it until we can make adjustments. "My goal is to make the car go as fast as it can go. Each time on track I feel like I'm getting better. This is a steep learning curve, to be off the track this long and then just jump in here. But luckily, I have a great race car and a great race team that's going to help me get through it." </p>
Stewart talks special moment with Gordon post-Indy
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " See the moment SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- With the field lined up for the first of what turned out to be two overtime restarts Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart clicked his radio and made a request. "Tell (the 88) after this is over let's go around the track one more time together," Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the organization's No. 14 Chevrolet, said. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and twice a winner of the The Combat Wounded Coalition 400, wanted to slow down instead of go fast, and soak in the moment with a familiar foe and friend, regardless of how his final race at IMS ended. Jeff Gordon , driving the Hendrick Motorsports entry in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was more than willing to oblige. Hours earlier, Gordon had paid tribute to Stewart, acknowledging him and what he has meant to NASCAR during the morning drivers' meeting. RELATED: Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. " WATCH: Gordon climbs in No. 88 So before race winner Kyle Busch made it to Victory Lane, prior to he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates gathering to kiss the bricks on the finish line, Stewart and Gordon, two old warhorses with a combined seven championships and 142 Sprint Cup Series wins between them, slowly circled the 2.5-mile track one final time to the cheers of the fans and many of those still on pit road. MORE: Relive 'Smoke's' 49 career victories Afterward, Gordon climbed from his car and approached Stewart; the two hugged on pit road amid a throng of reporters. "I can say that just ranks in the top-three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series," said Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup racing at season's end. "To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis, I don't know. I don't even have the words for it. That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life." For the record, Stewart finished 11th in his final Sprint Cup start at the famed Brickyard. It was a hard-fought 11th with the 45-year-old rallying from a lap down after running strong in the first half of the 170-lap race. Gordon, scheduled to make at least one more start next week at Pocono's Pennsylvania 400 in relief of Earnhardt Jr., rallied, too, to finish 13th. "Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years," he said. "But he and I have become really good friends. ... I'm just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race (at Indy)." Stewart ran as high as second early, moving up from his No. 3 starting position in spite of a slow takeoff when the race went green. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the pit crew continued to make adjustments throughout the first half of the race, keeping Stewart inside the top 10, but at one point admitted to his driver, "We're just barely keeping up with the track." Stewart hit pit road at Lap 119 under green, and when the caution came out for an incident involving David Ragan , it appeared the move might work in the team’s favor -- others that hadn't pitted would come to pit road, allowing Stewart to gain track position. But a speeding penalty negated any advantage, and Stewart instead found himself in 31st and one lap down. By then, it was too late to change game plans, according to Bugarewicz. "Normally you would say yes when it's early in the race," he said. "When it's late in the race like that, your fate's almost ... you just have to race for the (free pass) and hope you get it like we did. That's all you've got. "Nobody was going to pit again if it stayed green because they're already in the last fuel window so at that point it was just ... banking on getting a caution and being the best car out of the cars that were a lap down to get the lucky dog, which is what we did. "We got fortunate with a few more cautions to let us line back up at the tail of the field and start picking them off." On Lap 140, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne ( Hendrick Motorsports) to be in positon for the free pass, and when the caution flag waved for debris moments later, he was back on the lead lap. Three more cautions unfolded before the finish, including one that involved Stewart, Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing) and Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports). WATCH: Big wreck claims multiple cars at Indy "That last one probably hurt us in one sense -- with the nose damage we had, the car was really tight," Bugarewicz said. "But ... we're not going to complain, we're just going to take what we've got and be happy for it." The finish moved Stewart up one spot, to 27th, in points. With a win earlier at California's Sonoma Raceway, he continues to improve his chances at earning a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But with Indy in his rearview, Stewart wasn't in a hurry to look too far down the road. "It was an awesome weekend," he said. "Everything went the way we wanted it to, we just came up short today. "I had fun all day and had fun all weekend. ... Everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible. It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it." MORE: 'Smoke' receives unique gift from Indy
Keselowski and Hendrick : What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick . A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick . And the JRM/ Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. " Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick ," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, " Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick , however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick , in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick ," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick ." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
Similarities undeniable in friends, competitors Childress, Hendrick
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have more in common than being long-time car owners in NASCAR. Both men have seen their teams win multiple championships. Both have fielded entries for some of NASCAR’s most talented drivers. And both are going into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2017. Their friendship has been built on respect for each other’s accomplishments as well as years of fierce competition. Sometimes, what has taken place on the track has tested the limits of that friendship. But it remains unchanged. "We’ve had some situations where we’ve had to go up to each other and say, 'You know, we’re not driving the cars,' " Hendrick said Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of the Coca-Cola 600 . Specifically, in 1988 when Dale Earnhardt, driving for Childress, and Geoff Bodine, driving for Hendrick , were embroiled in a feud that became so intense it resulted in all four being summoned to NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida, to meet with CEO Bill France. It was a rivalry that had been building for quite some time. It all came to a head here at CMS. "That was back when Dale and Geoff were wrecking each other, right here (at Charlotte), and it was costing us a lot of money," Hendrick said. It was the Coca-Cola 600 race weekend, and during the Saturday race, the Winn-Dixie 300, contact from Earnhardt sent Bodine spinning and into the wall. Afterward, Bodine made a trip to Earnhardt’s garage stall, drawing an imaginary "X" over the car. "That was his engine builder next to the car. I was just wishing him good luck for today," Bodine said during a pre-race television interview. In Sunday’s 600, contact between the pair sent Bodine’s No. 5 Chevrolet to the garage. This time, NASCAR officials penalized Earnhardt, holding the driver of the black No. 3 Chevrolet on pit road for five laps. The following week, both drivers and the two car owners were summoned to Daytona. The incident was recreated for the movie "Days of Thunder." "They made a movie about it," Hendrick recalled. "We got summoned to Daytona; Bill France brought us in a room … Dale, Geoff Bodine, Richard and myself. "I’m not going to use all the words he used but he said, 'There aren’t two monkeys that are going to mess up our show. … We can sit here and watch videos all day.' … but Richard and I had already agreed that we couldn’t control it; we tried to, but it was costing us a lot of money. "Mr. France said, 'We’re going to go have dinner.' Dale said, 'I’ve got some plans.' Mr. France said, 'There’s the phone, change your plans.' "Richard and I rode together; Dale and Bodine rode together and we never did have any more trouble." Childress, who won six premier series titles with Earnhardt at the helm of his cars, said such incidents weren’t exactly "great," but said it was a fun time in the series. "That wasn’t fun that night," Hendrick said. "That wasn’t any fun at all," replied Childress. "He (France) was serious. He definitely said 'I don’t care if one of you has to run on one side of the track and the other run on the other side, you better not do it again.' He was pretty serious. "But you look back on that … to be part of it and build the friendship we did … it was quite a trip." In addition to Childress and Hendrick , drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons, along with former car owner Raymond Parks, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2017.
Car owners Childress, Hendrick , Parks chosen for Hall of Fame
RELATED: See the induction ceremony in photos CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three team owners accounting for 18 premier series titles and 349 victories in NASCAR's top series headline the NASCAR Hall of Fame's class of 2017. Raymond Parks, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick were named, along with drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons, Wednesday. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France made the announcement in the Hall of Fame's Great Hall. Parks, Childress, Hendrick and Parsons have been among the nominees on all eight previous Hall of Fame ballots. Martin was nominated for the first time this past year. "That's a load off my mind; I feel relieved, totally," Vi Parks, widow of Raymond Parks, said afterward. "It was a long time coming and I just wish he were here to appreciate it. It's just a great feeling. NASCAR meant so much to Raymond. He loved racing, he loved to be with the people; he always went as long as his health would allow him to go." Parks, who passed away in 2010, became the first championship-winning team owner in 1949 when his driver, Red Byron, won what was then known as the Strictly Stock division. A successful Atlanta businessman who was responsible for helping NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. move forward with the formation of the sanctioning body, Parks and Byron marched to NASCAR's first Modified title as well. Childress won six premier series titles with driver Dale Earnhardt, a member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class inducted in 2010. His Richard Childress Racing organization, located in Welcome, N.C., has earned championships in NASCAR's XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series as well. "I really didn't expect to get in because I was told the only way you're going to get in is to retire or be deceased," Childress said via telephone Wednesday evening. "I sure like the first one better … I haven't gotten plans to retire yet either. "Just to be in there with the class that I'm in, it's unbelievable." Often during speaking engagements, Childress said he would tell the crowd, "Only in America could a kid with a $20 race car and a dream be here speaking to a group like this today," a reference to his humble beginnings as a young racer. "Now I can say only in America could a kid with a dream be in the NACAR Hall of Fame," he said. Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won 11 premier series titles and 242 races. And the team owner said he has no plans for slowing down. "You get tired to the point your body is telling you that you need to slow down," Hendrick said, "but all the people that have worked there that are working there now … you want to keep it going; you want to see it continue. "It's kind of like when you build something and the momentum is there and you want to keep it going. When you sign a young guy like Chase Elliott , you (are) kind of committed to keep it rolling. You want to see Jimmie (Johnson) win his seventh (championship); you want to see Chase win his first, (Dale) Earnhardt (Jr.) win one, Kasey (Kahne) … . "I'd love to see the 250 wins and maybe end up with another Cup championship or two. You know I'm super competitive; I don't want to just go show up, I want to be competitive. "We've accomplished so much. I'm very appreciative of where we are but the competitive side in me and with the team we have we want more. You just have to go dig every day." In addition to the five Hall of Fame inductees, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles was selected as the recipient of the 2017 Landmark Award for Outstanding Achievement in NASCAR.
Hendrick employees receive Gordon commemorative rings
Photos courtesy of Jeff Gordon 's Twitter account, @JeffGordonWeb RELATED: Photos of Gordon through the years Christmas arrived in April at Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday, and it was worth the wait. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was on hand with team owner Rick Hendrick to distribute some pretty slick hardware. Celebrating Gordon's career in style, Hendrick and the NASCAR on FOX broadcaster gave out more than 600 rings commemorating the driver of the No. 24's legendary career. Gordon tweeted about the special gathering. Handing out career commemorating rings to everyone @TeamHendrick . Thankful to be part of this organization. #TeamJG pic.twitter.com/VkFJG3UhiX — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) April 26, 2016