The problem was that each of the Hendricks had his eye on a different young driver. Ricky had taken notice of Brian Vickers while competing against him during the '02 season, and he wanted to bring Vickers to the organization. Rick had another driver in mind, so Ricky was faced with the challenge of convincing his father that the then 19-year-old Vickers was the one for the job.
The process became a defining event for Ricky Hendrick, team owner.
"It was tough," Ricky recalls of his attempts to convince his father. "I thought Brian had the talent to get the job done and that he had the whole package for the organization. If you look at my stats and look at his stats, there was no comparison. My father already had somebody else on his mind and was getting pretty close to the contract.
"He and I had a conversation and I pretty much told him that these were my cars and my deal, and if he wanted me to be a part of it then this was what I wanted to do. If not, and you want to choose your own driver, then you can go ahead, but it'll be your deal. And either I was going to get written out of the will and written out of my job, or he was going to go with it. And he went with it."
Ricky's assessment of Vickers proved accurate, as the Thomasville, North Carolina, native grabbed three wins and the Busch Series title last season.
When Vickers moved up to the Nextel Cup Series and the No. 25 Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports, 18-year-old Kyle Busch was tabbed as the driver for the No. 5 Busch ride. This time Ricky and his father were in agreement on the selection of a driver, as the elder Hendrick had been instrumental in bringing Busch to the organization. Meanwhile, Ricky-who has proven his ability to judge talent and make decisions-is looking to repeat as a championship team owner.
"By having two young drivers like Brian and Kyle in the mix, we're just preparing for the future," says Ricky. "The two of them are going to have great careers, and I'm looking forward to watching them develop and evolve."
The same can be said of a young team owner at Hendrick Motorsports.-Larry Cothren