Rick Hendrick was relieved when the news broke on Friday that Jeff Gordon would be added to the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup field.
After all the drama surrounding the finish of last weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway, the team owner of NASCAR’s juggernaut operation commended the sanctioning body for deciphering the madness.
“I think NASCAR, I think (Chairman) Brian France did a great job, he stepped up and he said I made the decision and this is the way it’s going to be,” Hendrick said. “It sounded like Bill (France Jr., Brian’s father and former NASCAR chief): ‘I’m going to make sure this doesn’t happen and this is the way we are going to race from here on.’
“I applaud NASCAR for what they have done. I think everybody in the garage, if we could go back and run Richmond over it would be a lot different.”
Although Hendrick is ready to “move on,” he acknowledged the past week has been exasperating. Hendrick believed Gordon was in the Chase field on Saturday night “until the monitor showed that he wasn’t.”
“And then I didn’t really learn a lot of the facts until I got back home,” Hendrick said.
NASCAR came under criticism for not resolving the issue before leaving the track last Saturday night. Hendrick says he didn’t bother questioning the officiating after the race ended. That strategy has not proved beneficial in the past.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never been to the hauler at the end of the race and had any decision reversed for jumping the start or whatever,” Hendrick said. “The race is the race and that is it. That is the way it’s been for 30-plus years. I was just disgusted and left. I didn’t hang around. I got out of there as soon as it was over because it wouldn’t have done any good.”
Still, Hendrick applauded NASCAR’s commitment to attempting to clarify its rules so the type of confusion that occurred at Richmond doesn’t happen again.
“They have to have a rule and live by the rules,” Hendrick said. “From what I’ve heard, Brian (France) is putting his foot down and we’re going to see a lot tighter reins on what’s going on on the track. And I think if we can fix the restart deal now, and I’d love to see timing lines like we have on pit road. What’s wrong with running the pit road speed, a light comes on, the leader goes, and everybody runs instead of running all over each other? So, we’ll see what happens there.”
In the drivers’ meeting at Chicagoland on Sunday morning, NASCAR announced that moving forward with restarts, the leader will control the start through the restart zone but the second car will not be penalized at the start-finish line. Competitors will have to remain double-file through the line in order to, as NASCAR President Mike Helton said, “avoid mass chaos.”
Following “an up-and-down week,” Hendrick is just “ready to focus on the Chase.”
“The Chase is a great deal,” Hendrick said. “It’s great for the fans. But man, it’s a nail-biting time for teams and drivers.”