But people change, things happen and friendships often fade.
And after Brian Vickers stole his first career Nextel Cup victory Sunday by spinning Jimmie Johnson into leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap at Talladega Superspeedway, things might never be the same.
There were already cracks in the foundation, and Vicker's gaffe possibly caused the whole structure to crumble.
“He's doing a great job of isolating himself,” an angry Johnson said after the race. “I don't think he meant to do it, but he did it. He shouldn't even think about putting any of us in that situation. It's ridiculous.”
Pretty harsh words for a good friend.
Along with Casey Mears, these guys were definitely “boys” - the NASCAR in-crowd who showed up together on the lake, in New York City nightclubs and courtside at NBA games. But things began to change shortly after Ricky Hendrick was killed in a 2004 plane accident. They all took it hard, especially Vickers, who was extremely close to Ricky and owed much of his success to his good buddy.
It was Ricky who hand-picked Vickers to join the Hendrick fold, persuading his father to put him in a Busch Series ride that Vickers drove to the championship. Then he pushed his father to move Vickers into the Cup series in the No. 25 Chevrolet, the team Ricky was running.
But in the two years since his death, it's quite possible that Vickers has struggled with the burden of fulfilling the expectations of his late friend. While Johnson and Jeff Gordon were racing off into championship contention, Vickers never found the same success.
He was the low man on the Hendrick totem pole, the weak link in a rock-solid structure.