‘Local boy who made good’ inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame
Mecklenburg County native Rick Hendrick was one of five legendary NASCAR competitors — three owners and two drivers — inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Jan. 20 in Charlotte, N.C.
Hendrick, 67, was inducted as a team owner along with fellow team owners Richard Childress and Raymond Parks and drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons. Together, they make up the eighth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world because of my family, because of the friends I’ve met in this sport,” Hendrick said. “I thank you, God bless you, and thank everyone who voted for me and all the fans because this is an honor that I will never, ever forget.”
In addition to owning the winningest team in NASCAR history, Hendrick also owns a successful auto dealership chain with more than 100 franchises.
Born July 12, 1949, in Warrenton, N.C., Joseph Riddick “Rick” Hendrick III was raised on his family’s farm, a stone’s throw from Palmer Springs. It was there where his father instilled the value of a hard day’s work and a pure passion for the automobile.
Under the watchful eye of “Papa Joe,” that love of cars led Hendrick into the world of auto racing. At age 14, he quickly made a name for himself by setting speed records at a local drag strip with a self-built 1931 Chevrolet. Two years later, the self-described “gearhead” won the Virginia division of the Chrysler-Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest, a competition for engine builders. He was just 16.
A standout athlete at Park View High School in South Hill, Hendrick considered an opportunity to play professional baseball before pursuing a co-op work-study program with N.C. State University and Westinghouse Electric Company in Raleigh, N.C.
As his auto dealership chain grew, and after winning three championships as the owner of a drag-racing boat team, Hendrick founded “All-Star Racing” in 1984, which is the team that would later become Hendrick Motorsports. The organization has won a record 12 premier series championships with drivers Jimmie Johnson (seven), Jeff Gordon (four) and Terry Labonte (one). Hendrick Motorsports has a total of 15 NASCAR national series titles, the most in NASCAR history. Overall, it boasts 245 premier series wins.
A leukemia survivor, Hendrick is the namesake for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s Hendrick Cancer & Rehab Center in South Hill and has supported other worthy local causes, such as the Palmer Springs Volunteer Fire Department and Mecklenburg County Cancer Association, etc.
He was inducted by his wife, Linda.
At its January meeting, the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution honoring Hendrick as a “local boy who made good” as well as recognizing the assistance he has given projects around the area over the years.