Transcript: Rick Hendrick – Talladega Superspeedway

THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with our post race interviews. We’re joined by our race-winning team owner, Mr. Rick Hendrick.

Just a comment on Chase’s season this year, his fifth win, talk about that team.

RICK HENDRICK: We had a lot of momentum going, then we had the tire failure. We just kind of hit a bump. So this is good momentum to have the points now to go into the Roval where he’s really good, get into the Round of 8 and move on.

This is great momentum for him. This race means a lot to Chase. It was great to see the fans excited. Boy, it was a heck of a race.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. There’s been a lot of talk this week about safety, possible solutions. Ultimately it is going to cost money. As a team owner, are you comfortable having to spend more money on this aspect of the Next Gen car, something you’ve already invested a lot in?

RICK HENDRICK: Absolutely. I mean, for sure. Our drivers are so important, we don’t want ’em hurt. So if it meant buying all new clips Monday morning, I’d do it. I’d be happy to do it. We want ’em safe. Be it like Alex, Kurt Busch, that’s hard. So I’m all for whatever it takes.

I think the teams could fix it. If NASCAR wants to do it, I think everybody working together, we could do it in a hurry, test it, have it on the cars a-sap.

Q. The drivers have had communications with NASCAR about safety. From a team owner’s perspective, have you had that conversation with NASCAR?

RICK HENDRICK: Yes. They said they’re working on it.

Q. This must have been a weird week with Alex’s injury. Did you have any idea anything was wrong prior to Thursday?

RICK HENDRICK: No. After the race, he said he didn’t feel good. But it was Monday morning. I didn’t know anything because he stayed in the car. Then Monday morning he didn’t feel well. They started working with him Tuesday. Wednesday was good. He felt much better. Then Thursday he backed up, he didn’t feel good, so he went to see the doctor.

I think hopefully he’ll be back next week. I think he will. He’s feeling good today and yesterday. I guess he’ll go back and get evaluated here midweek.

Q. Did his concussion amplify the urgency in your message to NASCAR?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, absolutely. These guys are stars. You spend a lot of money, like, bringing them along over the years. Then to have ’em hurt, you have sponsors and everything involved, they’re in the Playoffs, they get knocked out of the Playoffs.

It’s not about the Playoffs, it’s about safety, having a guy that wants to be able to race again. We have done really well in the last 10, 15 years with safety in so many ways: the seats, the headrest, everything.

This car, from the rear impact, it’s just like you’re sitting on a piece of steel. I watched a video of Alex’s hit. Those guys usually try to lean a little bit forward if they think they’re going to have an impact, then the whiplash back.

We need to fix it as soon as we can.

Q. Yesterday Chase took a very strong stance. He said NASCAR is taking a step backward in safety. That’s unlike him to offer an opinion on controversial topics. Are you surprised he did that?

RICK HENDRICK: No. I think these guys are concerned. He sees a teammate hurt. He saw Kurt hurt. He’s a young guy with a career ahead of him. Nobody wants to do something that they could fix and eliminate it.

I think this has been on Chase’s mind. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everybody knows he’s just not popping off, that he’s concerned.

Q. William would be above the cut line without his penalty. How confident are you that you might be able to get those points back for him before the Roval? Where do you see his chances of advancing?

RICK HENDRICK: William is a good little road racer. He’s a really good plate racer. 25 points in the Playoffs is a ton. I mean, in regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.

That’s like saying you’re going to tell everybody who won the race next week. That’s a little strange. I think it was excessive. We’ll just see what happens.

THE MODERATOR: Rick, congratulations again. Thank you.