Hendrick says he'll leave door open for Kyle Busch
Rick Hendrick said he hopes his split with Kyle Busch after this season won't be permanent.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick said he hopes his split with Kyle Busch after this season won't be permanent.
"I'm hoping that this deal happened with the relationship that he can come back, that we can hook up again," Hendrick said Wednesday after announcing that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would replace Busch at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
"He's 22 years old. He's got to see what the world's like and what other teams are like and what the best fit is."
Busch was given a release from the final year of his contract in 2008 to pursue other opportunities after it became apparent he wasn't completely happy at HMS.
One of those options might be replacing Earnhardt at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI, said on Tuesday that Busch would be on the organization's short list if he were available.
Jay Frye, the minority owner of Ginn Racing, said his organization plans to talk to Busch soon.
"Would we like to have him? Yes," Frye said. "It'll be just like the Junior thing. Half the garage will want to talk to him. He's 22, and he can get it. The kid is going to be great."
Hendrick isn't surprised by the interest.
"He's the No. 1 free agent out there right now, the No. 1 draft choice, however you want to say it," he said.
Hendrick said other teams tried to put all kinds of things into Busch's head, from monetary advantages to switching teams to how he can go from the No. 3 driver behind Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at HMS to first somewhere else.
"So no matter what I try to do, it's not going to probably be as good as what somebody else is willing to do that's trying to get their deal to a certain level," Hendrick said. "There's some unbelievable opportunities, some unbelievable money out there right now."
Hendrick said there's no chance Busch will leave before the end of the season, stressing that the goal is to make the Chase for the Cup and win a title.
Busch, who is 10th in points heading into Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway, welcomes the fresh start.
"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."
Hendrick stood by Busch numerous times the past few years despite accusations that he was too aggressive and immature, sometimes causing embarrassment to sponsors.
"Kyle is one of the most awesome talents," Hendrick said. "I compare Kyle to Tim Richmond, and that's saying a whole lot about car control. He's got that desire to win. He doesn't like to run second; he doesn't want to wait.
"At his age, to do what he's done -- no fear, going end over end, barrel roll, get out and get in another one and not flinch -- his success has been even faster than I thought it would be."
Busch would like nothing more than to remain successful the rest of the season.
"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," he said.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.