Daytona Or Bust For Hedrick
December 13, 2000 | 10:43 A.M. EST
In fact, he’s wanting to get his No. 41 team back on its feet and running in time for the 2001 Daytona 500 in February.
But Hedrick says he knows it’s going to take a lot of work for that to happen. The first order of business is to get a sponsor, which will allow him to return to a full shop of employees, who in turn, will be able to get his cars ready for the season opener.
Hedrick says he won’t spend money out of his own pocket to do so, and he’s currently in negotiations with several potential sponsors in hopes of signing at least one to return to racing.
“I’m not going without a sponsor,” Hedrick says. “I’ve already been there and done that.”
This past season, Hedrick began the year with a sponsor, a veteran driver and 30 employees for his No. 41 Chevrolet team. When Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q abandoned Hedrick just after the season began, driver Rick Mast consequently left and Hedrick was forced to let most of his employees go.
Mast moved on to A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 Conseco Pontiac team, where he replaced the struggling Mike Bliss. He’s since left that ride, and is expected to be named driver of Jim Smith’s No. 7 team this week.
With all of that behind him, Hedrick has a number of variables to deal with in order to return to his stake in the Winston Cup garage, where his team once had a fairly prominent place. Hedrick’s team and driver, Ricky Craven, claimed Winston Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 1995.
Hedrick said he’s not even sure what manufacturer he’ll hook up with, assuming he gets enough money to run the team.
“We don’t have a deal with either Pontiac or Chevrolet, but you can look and see that a lot of Pontiac teams are switching to Dodge,” Hedrick explains. “So I’d say we might consider going to Pontiac.”
Hedrick remains bitter towards the sponsor that left his team to fall by the wayside early on in 2000.
“It's tough to have been a victim, and still muster up enough excitement and confidence to keep the rest of the organization hyped up,” Hedrick says. “It was frustrating to have expectations and contracts, and those were not met. The sponsor’s expectations were miscalculated, so the money that was supposed to have been in the contract was not there.
“Once it was became evident to me that there wasn’t going to be any money, I saw very little reason to try and subsidize it myself because that takes a lot of money for the course of the season to be competitive. So we just pulled back and hunkered down on the sidelines.”
Right now, according to Hedrick, the only thing stopping his Winston Cup return is a sponsor who will provide the needed dollars to make his team competitive once again.
“It’s like wanting to go to the grocery store to buy all the best things,” Hedrick says. "As soon as I get the money in hand I’m going to go, because I can’t charge my food at the grocery store. And it’s hard to get a good driver – or any driver for that matter – without a sponsor in hand. If I hadn’t gone through what I went through last year, I might be foolish enough to try and go ahead racing and wait on a sponsor to come.
“We’re anticipating an announcement in the next two weeks. Hopefully in a week or so I’ll be able to be more specific with details as opposed to expectations.”
Hedrick says he could make one promise concerning the Daytona 500 – if his team is there, it will be on somebody else’s dime.
“I’m not going to do that. It’s not fair to the driver and it’s not fair to me,” Hedrick says. “So when I get a deal in hand and know the money is going to be there, I’ll go out and look for whatever driver I can find that fits the needs of the sponsor and this team.”
So does Hedrick feel comfortable he’ll be in Daytona as a Winston Cup team owner?
“Absolutely,” says Hedrick, who is also part owner of a minor-league baseball team in North Carolina. “Expect it, because it’s going to happen. I’m a victim, not a quitter.”
If he is to be there, Hedrick concedes, he’s got a lot of work to do.
“I’m always thinking that if somebody gives me a bag of horse manure, the next day the pony is going to show up too,” Hedrick says with a laugh. “We’ve got a total revamping job to do here.”