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January 20, 2017

Jeff Gordon

Rick Hendrick

Linda Hendrick

Jimmie Johnson

Charlotte, North Carolina

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Before he became a record 15‑time NASCAR champion, this inductee owned a championship boat racing team. Lucky for us, he switched to cars. Without his leadership, drive, perseverance and just the amazing genuine person he is, many of us in this room tonight probably wouldn't be here, myself included.
With the passion for cars that is second to none and a fierce devotion to his family, friends and teammates, he has not only built a racing dynasty but a world class organization that functions much more like a family than a business. I am forever thankful that he believed in a no‑name kid from California, and I'm beyond honored to share this day with my car owner and dear friend as he deservedly takes his place amongst NASCAR immortals.
JEFF GORDON: As Jimmie said, the stats speak for themselves: 15 national series championship, 245 Cup wins, certainly impressive numbers, but more important than the wins and the championships is the person behind them. He's the most loyal man that I know. He'll take the shirt right off his back for you. His accomplishments are endless, and his character is unrivaled.
Some know him as a champion. Some know him as a winner. Most of us simply know him as Mr.H. And now that H takes on a new meaning, Mr.Hall of Famer.
(Video shown.)
LINDA HENDRICK: This is an exciting night, not only for Rick and I but for our family, friends and employees who are here to share this special time. When Rick and I first met at a service station in Raleigh in 1971, we had no idea of the plans God had in store for us. We got married, and as the doors of opportunity opened, Rick embraced the challenges. He boldly and courageously walked through those doors and never looked back.
That was 46 years ago, and I stand here tonight as a proud wife because of his hard work and passion for racing with the honor, on this 20th day of January, 2017, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring inductee ring and officially induct my best friend and sweet husband, Rick Hendrick, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
RICK HENDRICK: I am so humbled to be here tonight. When I look around this room and look at the front row here and all of these legends that I grew up idolizing in a sport that I idolized. For me tonight to be able to go in with my good buddy Richard Childress, I'll never follow you again, Richard, never. I never want to follow you again.
Mark Martin. Mark, you make a difference. You've made a difference in every organization that you've ever been in, and you made a big difference in ours.
I'm a pretty good car salesman because I had to talk you and your wife into coming out of retirement to do the whole deal, but congratulations. It's well deserved.
Benny Parsons. Benny was one sweet man. He loved everybody. He lifted everybody. He was such an ambassador to our sport. He was a champion, but he was a champion in the booth. He was a champion person. And when you go through life and no one has anything to say ugly about you, can say anything negative, then you are a true champion, and Benny was that guy.
And to the Parks family, I've read about him, and I've watched the videos, and we surely wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. What he's done for our sport, to get us to this place, it's amazing, so congratulations to you. Well‑deserved, he should have been in a long time ago.
To my wife Linda, I don't know if you remember this, I'm sure you do, 44 years ago this month, we swapped rings. So this ring is as much for you as it is for me, because there's nobody that's sacrificed what you've sacrificed for me to do what I've done. She stood in the back of the grocery store with me, and we counted our money before we went to the checkout line. Our bed in our first house had three legs and Muncie four‑speed gearbox for the fourth leg.
When we were boat racing, she was selling tee shirts out of the back of the trailer so we could raise enough money to go back and do it again. So she sits in church on Sunday, so many Sundays by herself when I've been gone for 44 years doing what I love.
Tonight, this is as much yours, probably more, than it is mine. I love you, and thank you for all you've done.
To Jeff and Jimmie, thank you for that introduction. You two champions have been so instrumental in helping me and being such great role models, not just the champions that you are but what you've done outside of the car. You have been a great role model for a lot of people.
Tonight I'm very blessed, I've got my daughter Lynn, my three grandchildren here, Ricky, Kate and Hendrick, and Emily and Tyler and Cathy and just all of my family is here, cousins. So I'm sharing it tonight. It's about my family. I'm sharing it with them.
One of the coolest things I have is my three grandchildren interviewed me for the Hall of Fame tonight on video, so I can't wait to let them grow up and see that. This has been a special night for me, and it's just really hard for me to believe that a kid growing up on a tobacco farm in rural Virginia that dreamed about racing, just racing in hotrods and waiting for Linda, you know, those were the three things, and always wanting to be involved in racing somehow.
But I was‑‑ I didn't know what I wanted to do in life, but I knew what I didn't want to do, and that was be a tobacco farmer. But I wouldn't take anything for the time that I spent with my mom and dad. They taught me something that really has been the pillar of my life, and that is you need to take care of other people if you want people to take care of you. You need to take care of your neighbors, and you need to do for others, and then good things will happen to you.
You know, God really blessed me by giving me terrific parents. My dad taught me how to work with my hands. It was racing that got me in the automobile business, and I think back to all the lessons. I've got a lot of friends here tonight that are bankers. My mother taught me how to borrow money. I'm very good at that.
I think back to Linda and I moving to Charlotte and I was selling parts to all the race teams that weren't funded, and I got a call one day when Richard Broom and I were drag boat racing, and we were looking for a sponsor, and Max Muhleman called me, and he said, would you like to own a race team with maybe C.K. Spurlock, the All‑Star Race, and Richard Petty would be the driver? And I thought, is this a trick question? Am I really‑‑ are you serious?
Well, the All‑Star part, Richard was smart, he didn't come aboard. Richard, how many championships would you have won then? Would it be more than seven? I'm just kidding.
But anyway, I met this guy, Harry Hyde, who was a better salesman than I am. Harry Hyde convinced me if he could build one car that he could go win a race, and I believed it. And when we formed All‑Star Racing in that little tin building on the hill, we had five employees. I was renting the transmissions, renting the equipment, and Harry was making $500 a week.
And we raced for six races with Geoff Bodine, and I said, Harry, we wrecked Darlington, and I said, I can't go any further. If we don't get a sponsor we've got to close the doors.
Now, true story, Linda is here. I had promised her we'd go to a revival. So on the Martinsville race, the seventh race, I was in church, and I went to a pay phone after church, and I called my mother, and I said, mom, how did the race end up in Martinsville. She said, you didn't hear? And I said, no. She said, Geoff blew up, and I said, blew up, okay. She said, no, he won. I said, he won the race? So everybody was wrapping his yard in toilet paper.
But I think I had divine intervention that day because I was in church.
But we got a sponsor that year, and kind of the rest is history.
You know, when I think about accepting this award tonight, I think about all the people that have been involved in motorsports, and I can't name them all. I won't even try, like Richard, with putting the names on the wall. You know who you are. Every person in the very beginning to today, everyone that laid a brick is part of this, and it's the same thing we talk about in the automobile business. It's together, we achieve more, working together. Dale said it. I believe that with all my heart.
I love this sport. I love the fact that we are a family. I love the fact that when I had the tragedy that all these folks, Richard Childress included, every owner, everybody in the garage reached out to us, and they were there for us. We compete on Sunday, but we are there for each other in a time of real tragedy.
And I remember, Richard will remember this, there was a movie about it. Bill France called us down to Florida, and he pinned our ears back like I've never had anybody talk to me in my life. But the day I was diagnosed with leukemia, shortly thereafter, he walked in the front door of my house, and he said, I just want to look at you and make sure you're okay. So that's the kind of direction we had with NASCAR, but at the same time, there was an awful lot of love inside this room.
I humbly accept this tonight, and all the drivers that have been involved in our company, all the mechanics, everybody that's ever been a part of it, I accept this on your behalf, past and present. I know my son is watching tonight, and he's so proud. Congratulations to Jimmie for winning No.7, dedicating it to him. It's something those folks we lost will always be big in our heart.
But I can tell you that the feelings that I have for this sport and for all the people in it, all the sponsors, and I've got so many here tonight I can't name them all, don't want to do that, but it's your faith, it's your family and your friends that get you through life, and that's the most important thing. When it's all over, it's the people that you touch and the lives you change that make a difference in this world.
Now, to Dale and Chase and the rest of our gang, Kasey and Jimmie, I'm not retiring, so that doesn't mean we're not going to go win some more races, so it's not over. So we're going to‑‑ and to William Byron, all these young guys, keep me pumped up.
I'm the luckiest guy in the world because of my family, because of the friends I've met in this sport. I thank you, and God bless you, and thank everyone who voted for me and all the fans because this is an honor that I will never, ever forget. Thank you.
KRISTA VODA: I like what Jeff said, Mr.H., Mr.Hall of Famer. You said something very profound to me this week. You said in this sport, we spend so much time looking out the windshield. That's how you win. This has given you a chance to look in the rearview mirror. What sort of things have you seen and what have you thought about that process?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, this for me, I've always worried about today, tomorrow and next week, and this week I've called a lot of old friends, and I've thought about family and I've thought about the beginnings, the humble start, and I've just had all kinds of emotions, the doctors that saved my life, the people that have been there to support me. And tonight is about just giving thanks to the good Lord for letting me do things that I love to do, for blessing me with a great wife and a great family and a bunch of great people that I love more than anything else, in the automotive side and the racing side. We're a family, and I accept this for all of them, because it is them, and that's just the raw emotions that I just‑‑ it's just overflowing this week. That's all I can say is just how humbled I am to look at this wall, being a big Junior Johnson fan, a big Richard Petty fan and be friends with these guys and go to races with Junior Johnson and let him tell me stories, and I think we're inventing something today. He did it 25 years ago.
You know, it's just been a really unique experience just to know these people and to figure out‑‑ just to see their heart, and I'm just a lucky, lucky man to be able to live a dream.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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