Rick Hendrick History

Even before the advent of NASCAR, the South has long been home to auto racing. From dirt tracks to raceways, it has always been part of the South’s DNA for decades. Given this historical perspective, it seems only right that Rick Hendrick would be born to run in this grand tradition, all the while building his own legacy of success.

Born July 12, 1949, in Warrenton, N.C., Joseph Riddick “Rick” Hendrick III grew up on his family’s farm located in close proximity to Palmer Springs, VA. The young Rick learned the value of a hard day’s work and as well as a pure passion for the automobile under the watchful eye of his father, affectionately known as “Papa Joe.” That love of cars led Hendrick into the world of auto racing.

At the tender age of fourteen, Rick had already established the Hendrick name as an automotive force to be reckoned with when he set speed records at a local drag strip behind the wheel of the 1931 Chevrolet he’d built himself. Two years later, he won the Virginia division of the Chrysler-Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest, a competition for engine builders. 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., known throughout this country’s history as ‘Tobacco Road.’

While there, Rick’s burgeoning automotive passion led him to partner with Mike Leith an established new-car dealer. Together they opened a used car lot that was so successful, Leith felt compelled to promote the twenty-three year-old Hendrick to the post as general sales manager of Leith’s new-car import operation.

Every race driver knows that winning often risk. In 1976, the 26-year-old Hendrick took an off-track risk, selling off all his assets and purchasing a struggling franchise in Bennettsville, SC. By doing this, Rick became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the United States. His influential reputation and savvy leadership turned the once-troubled location into the region’s most profitable dealership.

From those humble yet successful beginnings, today’s Rick Hendrick Automotive Group numbers more than 80 franchises, including this Rick Hendrick Chevrolet dealership, with 6,000 employees working in ten states. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., the company generated revenue in excess of $3.5 billion in 2009 after selling nearly 100,000 vehicles and servicing 1.5 million cars and trucks. Hendrick leads the organization as its chairman. Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in Duluth and Buford is proud to be a part of the great Rick Hendrick dealership history. Each day at our Rick Hendrick Chevrolet dealership, we strive to embrace the core value of the Hendrick Automotive Group: Teamwork through Trust and Respect, Integrity, Commitment to Customer Enthusiasm, Passion for Winning, Accountability at all Levels and Commitment to Continuous Improvement. 

Rick Hendrick

Rick Hendrick

Hendrick Automotive Group
Owner, Hendrick Motorsports

Hendrick Motorsports

Hendrick Motorsports

Despite the success of his commercial ventures, racing still ran hot and fast in Hendrick’s blood. In the late 70’s, he founded a drag-boat racing team that won three consecutive national championships. His boat, Nitro Fever, also set what was at the time world speed record by running at 222.2 mph.

However, Hendrick was soon back on land as the co-owning sponsor of a limited number of NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Series (now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series) entries. His tenure here included a 1983 victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the wheel. In 1984, Hendrick founded All-Star Racing, which became Hendrick Motorsports in 1985.


What follows here is a listing of highlighted accomplishments Hendrick and his team have enjoyed over the years:

  • In 1984, completing an entire 30-race campaign in the No. 5 Chevrolets, finishing ninth in championship points after earning three victories and three pole positions in its first season. (Geoff Bodine, driver)
  • Earning a NASCAR record 12 owner’s championships and 13 overall: eight in the Sprint Cup Series, three in the Camping World Truck Series and one in the Nationwide Series driver’s competition. Its roster of stock-car drivers includes Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Currently running second on NASCAR’s all-time Cup win list (1949-present)
  • Leading all owners in modern-era victories (1972-present).
  • Hendrick’s Sprint Cupteams have won at least one race each year since 1986 – the longest active streak – and averaged nearly 10 wins annually during the last decade.
  • As you might expect, Hendrick Motorsports has enjoyed working with the top drivers in NASCAR, including the afore-mentioned Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Geoff Bodine, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Hendrick Marrow Program

In 1997, Rick Hendrick chartered the Hendrick Marrow Program, a nonprofit fundraising organization working with the Be The Match Foundation to support the National Marrow Donor Program®. The initiative raises funds and helps patients find a marrow match, providing assistance to recipients with uninsured transplant costs.

As of this writing, the Hendrick Marrow Program has raised millions of dollars, added nearly 100,000 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry, and eased the financial burden of more than 5,000 patients with grants from the Hendrick Family Fund for Patient Assistance. Hendrick and his wife Linda were honored in 1999 with the Be The Match Foundation’s Leadership for Life Award, recognizing those individuals displaying an extraordinary commitment to serve marrow transplant patients.

The cause is deeply personal with Hendrick. In 1996, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), better known as “CML.” Thankfully, he has been in full remission since December 1999.

The Hendrick Foundation for Children

Another of Hendrick’s passions is the Hendrick Foundation for Children, which was established in 2004 by Hendrick’s brother, the late John L. Hendrick. The Hendrick Foundation for Children supports and provides programs and services that benefit youngsters with illness, injury, disability or other hindrance. Continued in John Hendrick’s memory, the Foundation committed $3 million in 2005 to assist in the establishment of Charlotte’s 12-story, 234-room Levine Children’s Hospital, a leader in meeting the needs of children and their families. In recognition of the gift, the hospital dedicated its pediatric intensive care centers in honor of Rick Hendrick’s late son, Ricky. The hospital opened in October 2007.

The Joe Hendrick Center for Automotive Technology

In April 2004, Hendrick Automotive Group donated $1 million toward the construction of the Joe Hendrick Center for Automotive Technology at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). The facility provides cost-effective, state-of-the-art training to prepare students for future careers in the automotive industry.

The Horatio Alger Award

In April 2006, Hendrick was honored with the Horatio Alger Award at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Each year, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans bestows this prestigious award on truly outstanding Americans. Association members are dedicated community leaders demonstrating individual initiative and a commitment to excellence. In accepting the award, Hendrick joined other prominent Americans, including former U.S. Presidents Dwight 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.

Other Honors Include:

  • Bill France Award of Excellence
  • Order of the Long Leaf
  • One of five dealers to be selected for the national planning committee for General Motors’ Saturn Division
  • Served on the GM President’s Dealer Advisory Council
  • Vice chairman of the North Carolina Motorsports Association, a nonprofit group that lead the region’s successful bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • Served as a technical advisor on the 1990 motion picture Days of Thunder starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Robert Duvall.
  • Featured in the Tom Cruise narrated “TOGETHER: The Hendrick Motorsports Story,” a documentary-style film chronicling Hendrick’s first 25 years in NASCAR. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.