News & Media

Will Hall's call cap Hendrick's recent run of fun?

May 23, 2012, David Caraviello,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick flashed a broad smile Tuesday afternoon, as he and driver Kasey Kahne cut a wide red ribbon to open a new automotive dealership bearing the car owner's last name. Of course, after all Hendrick has experienced in the past two weeks, it's amazing his face isn't frozen in a permanent grin.

Eleven days earlier, his race team's long quest for its 200th victory in NASCAR's premier series finally ended when Jimmie Johnson prevailed at Darlington Raceway -- very near to the small South Carolina town where Hendrick opened his first car dealership many years ago. He returned home to learn one of his BMW outlets had earned a national accreditation, cause enough for a party up in Raleigh, N.C. Then, Johnson's team won the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge. And last Saturday night, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a qualifying race that preceded Johnson's triumph in the Sprint All-Star Race, which led a joyous team owner to jump halfway into the No. 48 car and hang on as it made its victory lap (watch).

HOF nominee

Rick Hendrick has amassed 248 victories and 13 championships as an owner in NASCAR's top three series.

"That's the dumbest thing I've ever done," Hendrick conceded. "I think [it was] that night. Dale running good, and Kasey running well, and Jimmie going out there and taking it. Man, that's our home track. ... I was excited. And then all the things that have happened all week ... I got caught up in it."

Hendrick didn't realize until too late that there was nowhere for his legs to go in the web of bars and components inside the vehicle, leaving him to shove his feet under the dash and cling to the B pillar as Johnson held onto him. Because Johnson couldn't get to the clutch with his team owner sitting on the sill, the driver had to gun the throttle -- which was when Hendrick realized he was in for more of a ride than he had bargained.

"I don't think you'll see me do that again," he said.

Even so, it was another celebration in a span that's been full of them. Tuesday afternoon brought balloons and music as Hendrick opened his first store in the Charlotte area. That night, country-music star Brad Paisley was being flown in to sing at a Hendrick Motorsports party. And Wednesday brings what could be the greatest honor of them all -- potential election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hendrick is one of 25 people nominated for enshrinement, and the five members of the class of 2013 will be selected by a panel of 55 voters. The announcement is slated for 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by SPEED and streamed live on NASCAR.COM.

It's a crowded field populated by several drivers with multiple championships, and car owners who enjoyed great success within the sport's national divisions. Hendrick's numbers, though, are impossible to ignore -- the 200 victories compiled by Hendrick Motorsports rank second all time behind Petty Enterprises, which won 268 times on NASCAR's premier division. His 10 Cup titles and 13 national-series titles are both all-time records. Hendrick's organization is clearly the most successful of the sport's modern era, and arguably the best all time, but the owner won't lobby on his own behalf.

"I'm honored if that happens, but there are a lot of people that are not around today that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's an honor, and I know when I look at the numbers that one day I'll get there. But I'm not going to be disappointed. I'd like to see some folks that deserve it that maybe are dead and have been gone for years. Before the fans forget them, I'd like to see them in. I wish we could have done about 10 or 15 in one lick, and gotten the Wendell Scotts, and I hope Tim Richmond gets in one day, and Harry Hyde. There are so many people out there that are deserving. You can't put everybody in, but you don't want the fans to forget those folks that you never knew."

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The election panel is comprised of NASCAR executives, track operators, media members, broadcasters, manufacturer representatives, a handful of retired drivers, crew chiefs and car owners, and select industry leaders. Within that group, there sometimes seems to be a movement to elect those nominees in advanced age, or those who made contributions to NASCAR's growth. That kind of sentiment could end up working against an active owner like Hendrick, despite his staggering achievements.

"I don't know that it works against me, but I'm not done, I hope," he said. "Look, it's an honor. Now, maybe if two active guys went in before me that didn't do what we've done, you'd say that would bother you. But I'm not bothered by any of it. I think all of the folks who deserve it should get in. I think we've got more to do. We'd sure like to win some more championships and more races and try to add to what we've got."

And right now, he has plenty going on, including two drivers -- Johnson and Earnhardt -- who have to be considered favorites in Sunday's Cola-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "This has been kind of like having a birthday every day," he said of his team's run of success since breaking down the dam at Darlington. Wednesday's Hall of Fame election could be a capper to it all. Hendrick said he plans to be in attendance for the ceremony, but he won't be heartbroken if he's not selected.

• Born: July 12, 1949
• Hometown: Palmer Springs, Va.
• A longtime racing enthusiast and driver himself, Rick Hendrick owned a championship drag-racing boat team before founding All-Star Racing, the team that would evolve into Hendrick Motorsports, in 1984.
• Geoffrey Bodine snared Hendrick Motorsports' first victory, on April 29, 1984, at Martinsville Speedway. Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick its 200th win, on May 12, 2012, at Darlington Raceway, making it the second organization in NASCAR to reach that milestone.
• Fifteen drivers have recorded Cup Series victories for Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon (85), Jimmie Johnson (56), Terry Labonte (12), Tim Richmond (9), Darrell Waltrip (9), Geoffrey Bodine (7), Mark Martin (5), Kyle Busch (4), Ricky Rudd (4), Ken Schrader (4), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1), Casey Mears (1), Jerry Nadeau (1), Joe Nemecheck (1) and Brian Vickers (1).
• Hendrick Motorsports owns 10 Cup Series owners' championships: Jimmie Johnson (5), Jeff Gordon (4) and Terry Labonte (1). Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. Johnson won five in a row from 2006-10.
• Hendrick Motorsports has won six Budweiser Shootouts, 10 Daytona 500 twin qualifying races, six All-Star Race qualifiers and seven All-Star Races.
• Hendrick Motorsports has 23 Nationwide Series wins and 25 Truck Series victories. Hendrick has three Truck owners' titles, all with Jack Sprague (1997, 1999, 2001).
• Hendrick Motorsports won Cup and Truck series titles in the same year twice: 1997 and 2001 (both times by Jeff Gordon and Jack Sprague).
• Off-track, Hendrick is active in promoting awareness for leukemia research. He successfully battled the disease in 1996, establishing the Hendrick Marrow Program in 1997 to aid patients nationwide suffering from leukemia and 70 other blood diseases.

"It's not my way to be thinking I deserve something over somebody else," he said. "I'm comfortable with where we are, and I'm still active. So I'm not going to be disappointed."