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January 20, 2017

Rick Hendrick

Linda Hendrick

Jimmie Johnson

Charlotte, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're joined to help honor Rick Hendrick, his wife Linda Hendrick and seven‑time NASCAR premier series champion Jimmie Johnson in here. Just a reminder, Mr.H holds the all‑time record for both NASCAR premier series championships with 12 and NASCAR national series championships with 15.

Q. An easy question to start off. You talked about having five employees in 1984. Is that where the number 5 came from on the car?
RICK HENDRICK: No. Harry Hyde was emphatic about having a single‑digit number, and 5 was the only one, I think, available at the time. So 5 was the‑‑ he just wanted a single‑digit number. Man, it's hard to believe when you go up on the hill and you look at that little tin building and you think about the fact that I actually was renting transmissions, rear ends, equipment, everything from him and Randy Dorton was next door, and we did the engines. But that was the most low‑buck deal that you could imagine because I thought it was going to be bigger the way it started, and it didn't work out.
But to think that you could win three races that year, just unbelievable. In today's world, you take millions and millions to get started. But we ran Chrysler engines and Chrysler transmissions for a year before we ever got enough money to go to what everybody else was racing.

Q. Linda, for years I lived in Raleigh, for 14 or 15 years, and I had to drive every day past this little gas station. And for years I wondered why there's the Hendrick tag on the nicest Lexus or really primo cars parked there all the time, they're switched out all the time. I finally ran into our mutual friend up there in Raleigh and he told me a little bit about the station at the bottom of the hill. Can you talk about that experience, I guess you guys worked on cars there a little bit, too. Can you talk about that little station that was mentioned in the Hall of Fame acceptance speech?
LINDA HENDRICK: Well, Rick and I met at that station because I was taking a friend of ours into Raleigh to meet her fiancé, which was Rick's best friend at the time, and that's where I first was introduced to him by her. He was there working on his Corvette, and it was Gene Henson's service station, a friend of his, and he allowed him to come over and work on it. That's where I met him. Yes, I did help him work on cars, but that was in his yard where we lived at home. We worked on cars after work, carburetors or sanding fiberglass or adjusting headlights or whatever we had to do. I did mostly detailing on the cars. But I didn't do it at the service station, but he did a lot of work at that service station.

Q. You talk about how you idolize the sport and idolized a lot of the people that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. What is it about the sport that made you idolize it?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I grew up not far from South Boston up on Kerr Lake, and we would go to‑‑ my dad was working with Frank Edwards, had a modified car, Ray Hendrick had a jack tent, and I would go with those guys to the race. My dad was involved in the 98, and Clayton Mitchell, I'd go to the shop when I was eight years old, and that was‑‑ so Fridays and Saturday nights, Friday nights were Richmond, Saturday nights South Boston.
No, it was kind of like‑‑ in my growing up as a gear head, you saw the picture of me working on the car and automotive mechanics, that's all I really cared about. I was ADD off the chart, loved working on the race cars, being around the cars, and it was just‑‑ NASCAR was the epitome of racing.

Q. In your speech you said you started with boat racing. Why not going directly into car racing? And my second question is now you build your own engines in NASCAR. Did you do the same in drag boat racing, as well?
RICK HENDRICK: When my dad was running‑‑ involved in the modifieds, there was a guy by the name of Eddie Royster that drove the late model. My mother thought that was too dangerous, so I'd run boats, which was more dangerous, and I lived on a lake.
And then I just got into drag boats, and then we won the national championship, I think, two or three years in a row, held the world record for the fastest propeller driven boat, and then I drove a boat, my brother drove one and Jimmy Wright out of Richmond, Virginia, drove one. He was killed in the boat in Litchfield, Illinois, and we tried to go back and do it again, and I just couldn't do it, and we stored the boats at Harry Hyde's shop, and that's how I met Harry.
If my mother had let me, I would have probably been in a late model car. I probably wasn't good enough, but I would have done it. But I drag raced that '31 Chevrolet and won a lot of races when I was 15 and worked and built motors in high school, built my own motors out of scrap parts from the modified cars, and I've kind of been in it all my life, and what people don't realize is it was the racing that got me in the automobile business, not the automobile business that got me into racing.

Q. Rick, everybody seemed to be able to keep their emotions pretty much in check up there tonight. You mentioned talking to all different kinds of people and looking back at different things throughout this week. Was it a case where, by the time you get here and get through all this, you're just emotionally drained?
RICK HENDRICK: It really was. And Linda will tell you, this has been the toughest week, besides losing a family member. We're all emotions up and down, and we had a little champaign toast before I went in there, and the two doctors, the doctor that invented the medicine that saved my life was in there, and I lost it. I mean, Jeff Gordon said, I've never seen you that emotional in there since I've known you.
Just my friends and family were in there, and I got to be with them, so I got a little bit of it out of me before I got on the stage. But when Linda came out‑‑ I think you get so busy in life, you're looking at today and what you're going to do tomorrow and plan for how you're going to race this year, how you're going to‑‑ I've got roll‑outs with the automotive group next week and I'm knee deep in numbers trying to get ready.
But this week I ratcheted back and I started looking at old pictures of my dad, my mom, us when we first got married, and thinking about Muhleman and thinking about Harry Hyde and all those stories and Tim Richmond and all‑‑ just all those memories. I didn't do anything else this week but just think about‑‑ go back and reflect on the past, and it just‑‑ man, it's just like, I couldn't help it. I've never been that way. And I'm kind of glad that I got to take a minute, and we shared stories about remember when I left to go to school and she was sanding the boat in the yard, the drag boat, and we laughed about adding up our money in the back of the Winn‑Dixie to make sure we could pay when we got out. You know, those kind of things you just forget about, and then you think about the ones we lost. My son, when Jimmie just‑‑ it was the sweetest thing ever when he dedicated the race and was talking to Ricky.
We are like a big family, even though it's a lot of us, we care about each other, and I don't care if people think that's corny. That's the way I was raised. It's worked for me, and it's worked in our companies, both of them. When Winston told me when I walked in here, he said, there was one thing I can tell you about the fabric of both of your companies, your people love you. And I said, you know what, your telling me that means as much to me as getting into the Hall of Fame because I feel like job well done because you look after your people and they look after you.
Maybe I'm just getting to the age I'm getting where I reflect back. Richard Petty and I had some really‑‑ he's always given me some of the best one liners that I've ever had. When he lost Adam and we lost Ricky, he told me, he said‑‑ we were walking through the garage one day, and he said, you know, it wasn't our plan, but it was God's plan. I meant what I said tonight about all the people in the sport. There's some great folks. Richard Childress and I called each other. We were talking today. Joe Gibbs called me before he was going to be out of town, Roger Penske called me. When I'm sitting in Daytona‑‑ not Daytona but Homestead with Roger Penske and Joe Gibbs, we're racing each other and we're paying each other compliments. You wouldn't see that in the NFL. We want to beat each other just as bad as anybody, but it's really strange. It's a different deal.
I don't know what it is, but it's pretty special.

Q. Rick, the first win at Martinsville, you get the purse and pick up a sponsor. If you had not won that race or won sometime during that period, were you actually close to having to pull back?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, we had made that decision. You know, I was counting on a sponsor with Richard and the deal we were talking about. With All‑Star Racing on the car and going to Daytona, and man, looking down pit road thinking, you don't need to be here. And I couldn't afford it. I could not afford to finish the year.
And you know, if you close the doors, you probably don't come back. And Geoff Bodine knew that. I had told him and Harry I'd go as far as I could, and we wrecked a couple of times. We wrecked Darlington pretty hard.
I said‑‑ but Harry said, Bodine is so good in Martinsville, if we can go to Martinsville, I think we can run well. And thank goodness I listened to Harry and Geoff won the race, because we picked up Northwestern Security Life, and that got us through the end of the year, and then as soon as we won that race, we got Levi Garrett about halfway through, and we won two more races, and then it just fell into place.
But man, it was done. No way we would have come back.

Q. Jimmie, we know the story about Jeff Gordon telling you when you were just coming in that Rick was interested in you. What was that like for you, and how soon did you get with him and what was your first meeting kind of getting into the sport with Rick like?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, the opportunity that I had to talk with Jeff in 2000 at the‑‑ I guess the fall Michigan race it was, I was looking for advice, and I felt like Jeff really knew the answer. He was in a position earlier in his career where he had to leave Ford and a lot of people that believed in him and got him going, and he left and went with Chevrolet and with Rick. My situation was similar. The opportunities that I had meant leaving Chevrolet and doing something different.
I was, one, shocked that Jeff accepted‑‑ Jeff was willing to talk with me and spend some time with me that afternoon before the race. Two, I was shocked that he even knew who I was, that Mr.Hendrick knew who I was, and that they were considering starting a fourth team and I was the driver that they were talking about.
Mind was blown for sure. I had been around Rick and Linda a little bit prior to that. I had been around Ricky Hendrick a ton. We were great friends. I had no idea that behind the scenes Ricky was one of the‑‑ one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders, with Jeff, with Rick, with Linda, and really helped kind of get some air under my wings within the company, and people paid attention to me and looked at me as an option.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Mr.H.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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