The Frontstretch: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of Hendrick's Fence? by Mike Neff -- Friday June 16, 2006

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Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of Hendrick's Fence?

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Friday June 16, 2006

 

You know how the old saying goes: “The grass is always greener on the other side of the…. ” When looking at one of the most dominant race teams in NASCAR over the last 10 years, Hendrick Motorsports… does that statement really ring true?

This past week, it was announced that Brian Vickers was going to look for employment elsewhere, thus ending a four year relationship with Hendrick. It was a relationship that saw Vickers win the 2003 Busch Series Championship and get a promotion to Nextel Cup, only to become a model of inconsistency from the moment he got there.

Yes, there is no doubt that Vickers has not lived up to expectations since moving up to the Cup level. He won the 2003 Busch Championship by 14 points over David Green, and finished that season with three wins, 13 Top 5s, and 21 Top 10s. In 2004, Vickers took over the 25 car that had previously been driven by names like Tim Richmond, Ken Schrader, Wally Dallenbach, Ricky Craven, Jerry Nadeau, and Joe Nemechek. Since Schrader left the seat, it had only accounted for two victories: one win for Nadeau and one for Nemechek. Vickers brought with him the hope of untapped talent and the enthusiasm of youth many thought the 25 car needed.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm and talent did not translate into trips to Victory Lane. Since moving into Cup, Vickers has accounted for just seven Top 5s and 18 Top 10s in 91 races. One Top 5 for every 13 races is just a little shy of the kind of performance that Hendrick is used to seeing in their race teams. In the time that Vickers has been in the seat of the No. 25, the rest of the Hendrick organization has accounted for 26 wins, 81 Top 5s, and 126 Top 10s in 271 races. That is an average of one win every 10.5 races, better than Vickers top five average.

So, the question must be asked, does Vickers really think that he can get a job with a better organization than Hendrick, or did Hendrick Motorsports politely ask Brian to look for a ride elsewhere? It simply doesn’t seem logical that a young driver, still learning the ins and outs of the Cup series, would leave an organization that wins one out of every 10 races they enter. It would appear that the latter is the more plausible of the two scenarios, that it was Hendrick’s leadership who sat down with Brian and reviewed their success together. After a thorough analysis, a consensus was reached that it would be best for both parties if they went their separate ways.

Vickers certainly has talent. He has run up front many times over the last three years, and he was often the pick of the pundits to be the next Young Gun to reach Victory Lane. There is a very distinct possibility that when Vickers finds another ride, he may very well realize his potential and become a Cup race winner. After 2006, though, that victory will come with a team other than the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet. Here’s to hoping that wherever Vickers lands, they have some quality fertilizer so the grass really is greener on the other side.

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Trent
06/20/2006 12:01 AM
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I think Brian Vickers and Casey Mears have virtually the exact same amount of talent when it comes to racing. The major difference though is that Mears is vocal and demands his crew give him the best while Vickers just takes what he is given. As a result, Mears sits 14th in points compared to Vickers, in far superior equipment being 22nd in points. I don’t think that Mears will get the 25 car into the Chase but he should be able to deliver that elusive victory that Vickers has failed to produce.

 

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