Rick Hendrick is undoubtedly one of the most respected and successful car owners in the history of NASCAR. Hendrick has been part of the sport for over 25 years, experiencing firsthand the highest highs and lowest lows brought on by big-league auto racing. Despite it all he’s persevered, and in addition to his responsibilities as Chairman and CEO of Hendrick Motorsports, joined JR Motorsports in 2007 as co-owner.
Born July 12, 1949 in Warrenton, N.C., Rick Hendrick was raised on his family’s farm, a stones throw from the small Virginia community of Palmer Springs. It was there, south of Richmond near the North Carolina border, that his father instilled the value of a hard days 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. A year later, the self-described gear head won the Virginia division of the Chrysler-Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest, a competition for engine builders. He was just 15 at the time.
A standout athlete at Park View High School in South Hill, Va., Hendrick considered an opportunity to play professional baseball before pursuing a co-op work-study program with North Carolina State University and Westinghouse Electric Company in Raleigh, N.C.
In July 2007, Earnhardt announced a partnership deal with Hendrick Motorsports—under the JRM banner with Hendrick Motorsports engines, chassis and vehicle engineering support—to field two NASCAR Nationwide Series race teams. JRM continued racing with its flagship No. 88 Chevrolet, but added the No. 5 Chevrolet previously fielded by Hendrick to its stable.
Gov. Jim Hunt recognized Hendrick in 1996 with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolinas highest civilian honor. The award is bestowed upon citizens of the state who have a proven record of extraordinary service. Past recipients include award-winning journalist Charles Kuralt, Rev. Billy Graham, artist Bob Timberlake and Hendricks late father, Papa Joe, who was presented the award by Gov. Mike Easley in 2004.
In April 2006, Hendrick was presented with the prestigious Horatio Alger Award at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
Each year, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans bestows the Horatio Alger Award on truly outstanding Americans. Association members are dedicated community leaders who demonstrate individual initiative and a commitment to excellence as exemplified by achievements accomplished through honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance.
In accepting the award, Hendrick joined a group of prominent Americans that includes former U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan; Hall of Fame athletes Hank Aaron, Julius Erving and Wayne Gretzky; entertainers Waylon Jennings, Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones and Oprah Winfrey; author Maya Angelou; astronaut Buzz Aldrin; and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Hendrick also offers his time to multiple boards and other business-related ventures. One of five dealers to be selected for the national planning committee for General Motors Saturn Division, he also served on the GM Presidents Dealer Advisory Council and has taken on other various roles with automobile manufacturers.
A resident of Charlotte, Hendrick is vice chairman of the North Carolina Motorsports Association, a nonprofit group that acts as a proponent of the motor sports industry throughout the state, and recently helped lead the regions successful bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Hendrick even has a film credit to his name after serving as a technical advisor on the 1990 motion picture Days of Thunder. The film, which starred Tom Cruise, netted more than $80 million at the box office.