With 245 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins and 12 series championships as an owner, it’s no surprise that Rick Hendrick’s greatness will be emulated in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He has countless accomplishments already even though his career isn’t even close to winding down.
Born on July 12, 1949, Hendrick grew up in small-town Virginia. At just 14 years old, he began drag boat racing before later shifting to a career in NASCAR ownership.
Hendrick formed Hendrick Motorsports in 1984 when he contracted Geoffrey Bodine to drive for him. With only five full-time team members at the beginning, the team was able to survive their first year of competition, despite fears the team would shut down halfway through the season. Bodine even managed to score three wins in the team’s first year of competition.
Success continued for Hendrick Motorsports through the late ’80s and early ’90s as 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Darrell Waltrip won the 1989 Daytona 500, and Hendrick signed the Wonderboy, Jeff Gordon, which would lead to two decades of achievement.
In 1995, Gordon earned Hendrick his first series championship as an owner. Terry Labonte followed that up with a championship of his own. Gordon would again earn the honors of champion in ’97 and ’98, giving Hendrick Motorsports four straight championships.
It wasn’t all peachy for Hendrick, though. In 1997, Hendrick pleaded guilty to mail fraud for giving hundreds of thousands of dollars, BMW cars and houses to American Honda Motor Company executives in the ’80s. He avoided jail time due to his health, but was forced to serve 12 months of house arrest, three years of probation and had to pay a $250,000 fine. He was also not allowed to have any involvement in Hendrick Motorsports during his year-long house arrest.
Hendrick Motorsports’ next big signing came in 2002 when they nabbed eventual seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson began turning heads right off the bat when he sat on the pole for the Daytona 500. He would go on to win three races in his rookie season.
While the team continued winning races, heartbreak struck hard when on October 24, 2004 an airplane carrying 10 members of the team was lost on the way to a race at Martinsville Speedway. The wreckage was discovered later in the day along with the bodies of the 10 people, including Rick Hendrick’s son, standout driver Ricky Hendrick and team president John Hendrick and his two daughters. The race, which was eventually won by Johnson, became not only a dark day in Hendrick Motorsports’ history, but in NASCAR history.
As the years would go by, Hendrick would sign more drivers who went on to win several marquee races for the organization including Casey Mears’ 2007 Coca-Cola 600 win and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s 2014 Daytona 500 win. Johnson has earned each one of his 80 wins with Hendrick as an owner, and all seven championships.
As it sits in 2017, Hendrick is not only one of the most successful team owners in NASCAR history, but a businessman for many to look up to. With his love for his cars, the 67-year-old owns several car dealerships across the United States and employs more than 10,000 people nationwide.
Hendrick’s legend not only continues, but it continues to be great and continues to win races and championships.