One day after announcing that Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will join his NASCAR Nextel Cup stable next season, Rick Hendrick said the driver Earnhardt will replace was lured away by promises of fame and fortune from other teams.
Hendrick said yesterday that Kyle Busch’s head was turned by financial offers from rival team owners, making his return to Hendrick Motorsports impossible. “No matter what I try to do, it's not going to be as good as what somebody else is willing to do. There's some unbelievable opportunities, some unbelievable money out there right now.
"He's a young guy, and when everyone tells you how great you are and says 'You're not going to be the top dog there. You'll be the top dog here, we'll pay you whatever it's going to take,' what would you do? How would you respond to that?"
Hendrick said that while he is sad to see Busch go, he hopes to reunite with the 22-year old phenom one day. "I'm hoping…that he can come back,(and) that we can hook up again. He's got to see what the world's like, what other teams are like and what the best fit is."
Busch clearly will not lack for offers. Dale Earnhardt, Inc., President of Global Operations Max Siegel said Tuesday that Busch is on his short list of replacements for Earnhardt, Jr., and Ray Evernham told Sirius Speedway that same day that he would “absolutely be interested” in talking to Busch about driving a fourth Evernham car next season.
Ginn Racing Owner/GM Jay Frye adding his name to the mix as well, saying,”Would we like to have him? Yes. Half the garage will want to talk to him. He's 22, and the kid is going to be great."
Hendrick himself compared Busch to another volatile (though supremely talented) former driver, saying, “I compare Kyle to Tim Richmond. He's got that desire to win. He doesn't like to run second. He doesn't want to wait. His success has been even faster than I thought it would be."
Busch, meanwhile, said all the right things in a prepared statement released yesterday.
“I have tremendous respect for Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports," he said. "It's where I grew up, and I have a lot of great memories. I kind of feel like I'm graduating. I'm excited about my future, and I know a lot of opportunities await because of what everyone at Hendrick did for me, on the track and off."
“I still have a job to do this year, and will give it my all -- just as I've always done -- to make sure we put the No. 5 car in Victory Lane a few more times before the year is out."