Sunday, December 6, 2009
Rick Hendrick is an extremely wealthy man. He could retire today and go live on an island somewhere and never have to think about the rest of the world.
Instead, he maintains his position as the active owner of his chain of automobile dealerships, as well as his focus on a 25 year career as an owner of a NASCAR operation that currently fields four teams.
This year Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) took the first, second, and third positions in the Sprint Cup Series, which is NASCAR's top level of competition - an unprecedented achievement. Additionally, his team that operates the #48 won an unprecedented fourth straight championship, during an era that is statistically more competitive than any in NASCAR history.
HMS has won nine championships in its 25 year existence, for a total of 36 percent. There are four drivers in NASCAR history with four or more championships; HMS has had two of those four driving for it, and they have been with HMS for their entire Cup careers. One of these drivers, Jeff Gordon, is considered one of the all-time greatest in NASCAR history and is said to have singlehandedly taken NASCAR from a regional sport to a national phenomenon. The other, Jimmie Johnson, is Jeff Gordon's personal choice to drive a car of which Gordon owns a percentage, and while Johnson does not always receive the same respect from fans and media today, he is very respected amongst the ranks of current and past stars of the sport.
Rick Hendrick is a NASCAR owner amongst names such as Joe Gibbs of NFL fame, Jack Rousch of Ford Mustang lore, Roger Penske who has had great success in Indy car racing as well as auto dealerships of his own, and the man NASCAR calls "The King" - Richard Petty. When a Roger Penske owned team won the Daytona 500 in 2008 - his first ever victory in "The Great American Race" - Rick Hendrick came down to victory lane and gave him an "H" hat... Penske said it was as much an honor to receive that hat as it was a thrill to win that race.
Yet for all the successes that Mr. H has enjoyed financially and on the race track, those are not the means by which he is recognized amongst his peers. Every team owner, driver, crew member, and NASCAR representative to a man will tell you that what they admire most about Rick Hendrick is his humility and his decency as a person, as well as his desire to help others succeed.
This clip is from the 2009 NASCAR awards banquet, at which Hendrick was given a ceremonial award named after the founder of NASCAR. What impressed me most was his humility throughout the speech, especially toward the end of the speech as he comments about our troops and his personal experiences in Israel.
Rick Hendrick exemplifies what all of NASCAR strives to represent, and his example is one from which we can all learn.