Rick Hendrick has had plenty of strong drivers in his stable over the years. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte all have won Cup championships for him. Kasey Kahne is the newest commodity to make a commitment to Hendrick Motorsports. The wins and titles are remembered. But not all drivers who passed through the shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway are remembered for a trophy collection. Some have memories of losses and poor performances. Here are five who often ran in mid-pack.
1. Casey Mears. He won Charlotte’s 600 in 2007 for Hendrick. Everyone seems to remember that it was a "fuel mileage" type of finish. Mears’s win is still just as legitimate as anyone else’s win but it is indicative of his weekly performance. He has also been a second half of the pack driver with Ganassi and Childress. Mears now is struggling to find a regular sponsored ride. The family name, rich with racing history, is not known for leading laps while driving stock cars.
2. Ricky Craven. The Maine native began his tenure with Hendrick in 1997. He finished 19th in championship standings. Craven suffered a serious head injury in Texas’ first 1998 Cup race. The recovery was long and trying. In essence his time as a teammate to Gordon and Labonte was short. His on track speed was often short of theirs as well. Craven’s return to the sport years later eventually produced two wins for PPI Motorsports.
3. Wally Dallenbach. The man who took over for Craven full-time never hit it big either. Randy LaJoie filled in on a limited basis before Dallenbach got the nod. In 50 Cup races for Hendrick, Dallenbach can boast of a single top-five finish. He was replaced following the 1999 season.
4. Brian Vickers. Like Mears, he has a single win in Hendrick Cup equipment. The race is remembered for how he won just as much as that he won. Vickers autumn Talladega victory in 2006 came from bumping Johnson into Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap. The exciting finish is one of the few memorable moments for Vickers while driving in Cup for Hendrick. A Hendrick Nationwide Series title never translated into front running Cup status.
5. Ken Schrader. This true racer scored four Cup victories in his first four seasons at Hendrick Motorsports. The big breakout year was always just right around the corner. That corner was never turned. His final five years were spent winless. The popular Schrader who will drive any kind of stock car available, never achieved the superstar level that was predicted in the late eighties when he moved from Junie Dunleavy’s team to Hendrick.
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