LAS VEGAS (AP) — Rick Hendrick remembers the stress-filled days in 2001 when he was trying to launch a new team with an unproven driver.
He had an interested sponsor in Lowe's, but wasn't sure he could sell the company built around a 25-year-old nobody who had four top-five finishes in an underwhelming Nationwide Series career.
So Hendrick called in Jeff Gordon for help in sealing the deal on Jimmie Johnson, the driver Gordon had noticed on the track and brought to the team owner's attention.
"I was scared to death when I went to talk to Lowe's the first time about Jimmie — could he win?" Hendrick recalled. "We had to get Jeff to go make appearances for Lowe's in the beginning. We were doing everything we had to do in the beginning to make that deal work."