"Life is short. Play hard. Put me in, coach." -- Ricky Hendrick
It is an honor to pay tribute to the late Ricky Hendrick as part of the CARS Tour Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway on July 31. The familiar red and white #81 Late Model will become the #7 Quaker State Chevrolet in the same style that Ricky drove to 4 victories at Concord Speedway in 1998-1999.
"It's going to be emotional to see that paint scheme on track again," said Michael Myrick, who was a part of the Late Model team for his cousin Ricky. "It'll feel very familiar, almost like reuniting with someone you loved and shared a lot of really wonderful times with. Seeing it will bring all those great times and places back just like being with an old friend."
Ricky began his racing career in go-karts and Legends cars, but it was in Late Models where he showed the ability to race at a higher level. "Those 1998 wins were the turning point for Ricky's career," Myrick said. "He gained a higher level of confidence racing against some of the best Late Model drivers in the country, and you could tell things just started to click for him after the first win."
In 2000, Ricky moved up to drive a limited schedule in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series for a team owned by Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham. In 2001, he raced full-time in the NASCAR Truck Series for Hendrick Motorsports where he scored 19 top-10 finishes in 24 races. The highlight of his season was a win on July 7, 2001 at Kansas Speedway where he celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.
After becoming a full-time driver in the Busch Grand National Series for Hendrick Motorsports in 2002, Ricky sustained a serious shoulder injury in a March crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Following surgery, he missed eight weeks of action before returning in May. However, after suffering lingering effects from the injury, he made the difficult decision to permanently leave the driver's seat in October 2002.
He became an executive with the racing organization founded by his father, Rick Hendrick, and was instrumental in recruiting Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Brian Vickers to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. On October 24, 2004, Ricky was tragically killed in a plane crash along with nine other members of the Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR community en route to a race at Martinsville Speedway. He was just 24 years old.
His future as an executive with Hendrick Motorsports was bright. But his future as a soon-to-be husband and father was even brighter. "Ricky was a spectacular person with such a kind and calm soul," Myrick said. "It's so heartwarming to see him remembered. His racing accomplishments out of the car would've been tremendous, but because he died before he really got started with his future plans, there will always be a sense of longing and loss. We all miss him so much."
Form changes; spirit remains. One final chapter.
● Event: CARS Tour Late Model (138 laps / 50 miles)
● Date/Time: July 31. Green flag: Approx 9:00 pm/et
● Location: Hickory Motor Speedway. Hickory, N.C.
● Layout: .363-mile oval
● Banking: 14 degrees (turn 1 and 2), 12 degrees (turns 3 and 4), 8 degrees (straightaways)
The green and white #7 Quaker State Chevrolet will pay tribute to the late Ricky Hendrick and his 1998 Late Model season.
HICKORY LEARNING CURVE:
The Quaker State team struggled at Hickory in 2019 with finishes of 12th and 24th while adjusting to the tight confines of the 1/3-mile bullring. However, last year the team captured their first CARS Tour pole position in the August race at Hickory, and posted a solid 3rd place finish. Earlier this season at Hickory, a mid-pack qualifying effort hindered their efforts, but the team rallied for a 7th place finish.
If you'll be attending the Throwback race at Hickory, be sure to stop by the #7 Quaker State Chevrolet during the pre-race Fan Fest. We'll have hero cards spanning Ricky's career in Late Models, NASCAR Truck, and NASCAR Busch Series competition. Be sure to take one and learn more about the person we're grateful to honor.
THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS:
Quaker State, Convenience Tire and Auto, Solid Rock Carriers, Absolutely Amish Structures, and BDL Motorsports.
Friday, July 30
Practice: 2:30-3:30 pm, 4:30-5:00 pm, 5:30-6:00 pm
Saturday, July 31
Practice: 12:15-12:45 pm, 1:25-1:55 pm
Qualifying: 4:30 pm
Green flag: Approx 9:00 pm