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Rick Hendrick offered a powerful defense of driver Jeff Gordon and his run-in last weekend with Clint Bowyer which resulted in a harsh NASCAR penalty this week.
“At Martinsville this year, we were going for our 200th (Sprint Cup) win. We had a photo session before the race and we all wanted to win more than anything, more than any championship, the 200th win coming at Martinsville meant so much to us because we lost so much there,” Hendrick said.
“That was taken away from us. Both of our cars were wrecked on the last wreck or next-to-last lap and it was by (Clint Bowyer). You didn’t see our guys go down there and fight in the pits. We didn’t do any of that.
“I didn’t hurt as bad in my life as I did leaving the race track that day. It took a week or so to get over it just because we had it in our grasp.”
Late in the race at Phoenix last weekend Bowyer made contact with Gordon. Gordon retaliated less than two laps later which erupted into a wreck that included four cars.
NASCAR fined Gordon $100,000 for the incident, stripped him of 25 driver points and placed him on probation through the end of the year.
“Last week, the thing I regret the most is I allowed my anger and emotions to put me in the position to make a bad choice,” Gordon said. “I felt like Clint needed to be dealt with but that was not the right way or the right time.”
In October 2004, a plane owned by Hendrick Motorsports crashed in thick fog en route to a NASCAR race at Martinsville and killed all 10 people aboard, including Hendrick’s son, brother and two nieces.
Hornish, Blaney set to return to Penske
Penske Racing owner Roger Penske said Friday former IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. will return to the organization next season and run for the Nationwide Series championship with the No. 12 team.
Penske said Hornish will also likely run some races in a third Cup car in 2013.
“We have a commitment for a number of Cup races on a third car, which Sam will be there to run those races,” Penske said.
Penske said he also expected Ryan Blaney to drive for Brad Keselowski’s Truck team next season as well as run a handful of Nationwide races for Penske.
“It’s not a done deal,” Penske said of the Blaney rides. “We started with him maybe running two or three this year, and I think he’ll end up with seven or eight.”
Stenhouse welcomes crew chief
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will attempt to win his second consecutive Nationwide Series championship on Saturday but he is already looking forward to his fulltime move to the Cup series in 2013.
Earlier this week, Roush Fenway Racing announced Scott Graves would serve as Stenhouse’s crew chief on the Cup side next season.
“It’s going to be good working with Scott. We’ve worked together a couple of times,” Stenhouse said. “I think the guys around the shop that are going to be working on our car are talking about how they’re excited to be doing it, and that’s all I want.
“I want people that want to be there and work hard, and I think that’s what makes great race teams.”