NASCAR Rewind: Did Rick Hendrick make a mistake by letting Kyle Busch leave?

Posted On Monday, 18 March 2019 04:22 Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Let’s flash back to 2008, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Hendrick Motorsports as Kyle Busch exited.

Dale Jr. was coming in on a hot streak from DEI; all indications were he would contend for titles at Hendrick, NASCAR’s hottest team at the time.


Kyle Busch was a couple years into his time at Hendrick, and was young, brash, had promise, but was a handful to deal with.


Hendrick Motorsports chose Dale Jr. They let Kyle go off and sign with Joe Gibbs Racing.



Would it have been the same story as we are seeing today (200 overall wins) if Kyle had stayed at Hendrick?


Would Jimmie Johnson’s run of titles had been changed if Kyle was at Hendrick alongside him?


Would Kyle have won more than Dale Jr. did at Hendrick? How much would he have run the lower series, and what would his win total be now?


We’ll never know.

But In the end, I believe Hendrick is no worse off, even if Kyle is whipping them the past few seasons on the track every Sunday.

Hendrick's all-time legends list still includes both Jimmie and Jeff Gordon (and 11 Cup titles between the two). 
The fact that Kyle will forever be known as a Gibbs driver in the history books instead of a Hendrick driver is most likely of no concern to Mr. H, especially considering the relationship he had with Dale Jr., which goes beyond racing.


One lost a father, and one lost a son; that bond is beyond anything Kyle could have brought to him.


Regardless, this is one of those situations where you can wonder what might have happened, similar to how I wonder what Brad Keselowski would have done at Hendrick if he had landed at HMS full-time instead of Penske in the Cup series.


Qualifying cluster

Blame it on the rules package, blame in on NASCAR, blame it on the drivers, blame it on the crew chiefs. Blame it on whoever you want. 


Whoever is at fault, the fact is that Friday’s qualifying at California was a true embarrassment to the sport. It made a mockery of qualifying, and I’m not buying the excuses I’m  hearing.Drivers say they couldn’t be the first one in line or it was a guarantee to finish last in the final session. 


Even if true, how is going out at the very last second and risking no time scored any better? It’s just common sense that you need to record a time, and leaving a one second margin of error is just dumb.

Also, the whole mess of sitting at the end of pit road and not going out until the final minute needs to end immediately. If you leave your pit box, you have to go on track. No getting in each other’s way.  
And If you don’t make a time in final session, you should start at the rear of the pack or even scored a lap down. 


Better yet, let’s go back to single-car qualifying. Or if that’s not exciting enough, let’s do heat races on Friday every week to set the field. But whatever we have going on right now, it has to end, immediately. Or you might as well have the drivers pick their starting positions out of a that. 


Hall of Fame thoughts
The Hall of Fame continues to befuddle me. While most of the legends being enshrined do belong, some decisions are just ridiculous.

First, and foremost, Smokey Yunick, of “Best Damn Garage in Town” fame and Bill France Sr.’s former nemesis due to his mechanical genius, is still not even nominated.

That’s an indictment on the entire Hall of Fame, as legends like Smokey deserve credit for making the sport as innovative as it was, even if they sometimes butted head with authority figures.


Looking down from above, Smokey probably doesn’t care too much. He knows he was a legend. It’s just a shame he can’t be officially recognized as one by the powers that be. 

Also making news is who is no longer eligible. Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s championship crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine was dropped from the nominees. This makes no sense, as he is without a doubt one of the best crew chiefs of all time. Also, dropping Janet Guthrie from consideration was unnecessary, considering the paths she blazed in the sport.

At this point, I think NASCAR should also consider getting away from admitting five people every year. It’s going to get pretty crowded if that’s the case, diluting the meaning of being inducted.

If we’re doing five, my picks for 2020 induction are:
1. Tony Stewart: Obvious pick, one of greatest drivers in NASCAR history, three-time champ
2. Buddy Baker: 19-time Cup winner, and also an excellent broadcaster after he retired
3. Harry Gant: High-line lover before Kyle Larson was even born; a talented driver and winner of 18 Cup races, including four in a row in September 1991
4. Sam Ard: One of the pioneers of the Busch Series, and a two-time champ
5. Red Farmer: He’s so old his birthdate is disputed (sometime between 1928 and 1932) and continues to race well into his elder years. This Alabama gang elder won three straight Late Model Sportsman titles, and the 1956 NASCAR Modified championship.

Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He is on Twitter @MattMyftiu.


Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Search Reviews by Make

AutoTechReviews  is your home for In-depth reviews of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs; information on all the emerging vehicle technology; and breaking news from the world of NASCAR and other motorsports.