In today’s world of digital marketing, fame and notoriety tend to be compartmentalized, defined as either ‘local’ or ‘global.’ Sure, there are a lot of steps in-between but, with the assistance of social media and the internet, almost anyone can seek out (and achieve) their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. And yet, there are those special individuals. Those who managed to achieve their notoriety long before a like, heart, or share had any power. Those whose fame exists on both a local level and on a larger stage.
But as anyone within the automotive realm knows, Rick Hendrick is a breed all his own. A prominent mainstay in both the racing and dealership community, Hendrick is an unapologetic enthusiast, a prominent collector and a generous philanthropist as well as a billionaire. As a result, his diverse lifestyle has rested in the public eye for the better part of five decades, with his presence felt both locally and globally.
Hendrick: The Dealer
It’s a story that has been told many times: Hendrick, in his early-20’s, was able to form a lucrative partnership with an established North Carolina car dealer, negotiated a General Manager title, and sold his assets to purchase his own franchise at the ripe old age of 27.
Today, the Hendrick Automotive Group ranks as both the largest privately held dealership group and the sixth-largest dealership group overall. Consisting of 97 dealerships, 131 franchises, 30 collision centers and four accessory distributors, the presence of Hendrick Automotive Group touches 14 states and employs over 10,000 individuals. Credited with the servicing of well over 2 million vehicles, with over a quarter of a million vehicles sold, the success of the organization speaks for itself. But what sits at the root of that success?
Hendrick: The Racer
Rick Hendrick began drag racing at the age of 14, behind the wheel of a self-built 1931 Chevrolet. Academics and athletics would gain importance throughout his teens, as would his decision to further his yet-to-be-determined professional development. And while Hendrick never lost his love for climbing into the driver’s seat, opportunities behind-the-scenes would lure him into management and ownership roles.
But in 1987, that love of racing and his now-personal stake in NASCAR prompted Hendrick to return to the wheel, racing in the Winston Cup Series for two consecutive years. Finishing 33rd and 15th, respectively, he also made an appearance in the Busch Series, as well as the Craftsman Truck Series. He had even spent a fair amount of time in the pit. Combined, it provided him with a lot of inside knowledge that only furthered his success as both a finance arm and a decision-maker, within the racing community.
Hendrick: The Owner
Hendrick Motorsports has boasted some of the winningest names in racing, associated with such names as Jeff Gordon (who we’ll get back to), Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt (both Sr and Jr.) and Mark Martin. Want to hear some more names? Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Ricky Rudd and Geoff Bodine (among others). The result of such successful relationships has resulted in 16 Drivers’ championships, 345 race wins, and 290 pole positions.
Hendrick is still active in his role as both chairman and owner and isn’t ready to step down any time soon. That said, it was announced late last year, that racer and commentator Jeff Gordon had all but secured Hendrick’s favor, in terms of being named heir-apparent to the Hendrick Motorsports throne. And according to both Hendrick and Gordon, those conversations have been going on for a long while, but no changes are going to take place in the immediate future.
Hendrick: The Collector
Despite his well-publicized love of Corvettes, Hendrick’s collection of automotive acquisitions sits among the most diverse, and the most coveted. For example, he owns one of 116 Corvette roadsters built in 1969, equipped with the L88 engine capable of 560 hp. Now consider the fact that he spent $525,000 to acquire that vehicle from a Barrett-Jackson auction. Okay, now consider the fact that he also paid $1.65 million dollars at the same 2016 auction to acquire three Corvettes with 001 VIN numbers, from sequential models years (1955-1957). And if the point still hasn’t been made… well, he also dished out $100 grand for the ‘Optimus Prime’ Peterbilt used in the filming of ‘Transformers.’ Want more? Okay, fine. He spent a total of $4 million that day, just to further fortify his collection.
Above, we had mentioned Hendrick’s love of Corvettes. The result of a love implanted in him as a young child, the Corvette Hall of Fame Inductee has allocated a portion of his 140-acre motorsports facility in Charlotte NC to house his unrivaled collection, which ranges from modern models back to unique 1950’s one-offs, with plenty of novelty buys thrown in. As once bulleted by USA Today, the collection includes a 1969 tuxedo black Chevy Nova, and three silver Corvettes previously owned by the King of Belgium. There’s also a Corvette which had been owned by the late Roy Orbison, and a 1969 Camaro that had been owned by baseball Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson. And these are just some of the hundreds of vehicles found in the collection of (the man who just might be) one of the “ultimate car guy(s).”
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that his collection includes that same 1931 Chevrolet that he had built himself, and drag raced back in the early 1960s.
Hendrick: The Man
An oft-paraphrased and bastardized quote conveys a belief that if you “show me a man with no enemies, you have found a man with no character, no purpose, no passion, and no courage.” And while such statements are often misunderstood and used to validate thoughtless acts, the simple truth is that it’s largely true. Needless to say, a man as successful as Rick Hendrick is bound to have cracked an egg, here or there. But if you’re looking for that kind of reporting, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Charitable acts have been called the luxury of the wealthy. But dig deeper, and you’ll often find a personal connection behind such acts, a statement made evident by Rick Hendrick’s work in Bone Marrow Transplant and Research. Diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 1996, Hendrick has been fortunate to be in remission since 1999. That said, his experience prompted him to establish The Hendrick Marrow Program, which has helped to establish over 100,000 donors and find matches, and The Hendrick Family Fund which has assisted in the financial coverage of over 5,000 transplants. Such generosity has earned both him and his wife Linda accolades, in the form of the Be the Match Foundation’s “Leadership for the Life” award. He also sits at the heart of The Hendrick Foundation for Children, designed to support programs and services for children with illness, injury, or disability.
As a result of his charitable acts, Hendrick has earned North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine (an honor he holds the distinction of sharing with his late father, Joe Hendrick). He was also inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame back in 2017.
Rick and his wife Linda are the proud parents of three children: daughters, Heather and Lynn and a son Ricky, a former NASCAR driver, who perished in a 2004 plane accident.
Hendrick: The Takeaway
Rick Hendrick has quite the story. And it’s one that anyone looking to do business with the Hendrick Automotive Group, or Hendrick Motorsports, is bound to find interesting.