CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 1, 2004) – Gov. Mike Easley was on hand at Hendrick Motorsports Tuesday to present “Papa Joe” and Mary Hendrick with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- the state of North Carolina’s highest honor bestowed on a citizen for dedication and extended length of service to his or her organization. Family, friends and hundreds of Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group employees joined Papa Joe and Mary, parents of team owner Rick Hendrick and HMS president John Hendrick, for the presentation. “Because of the work that you two started many, many years ago, you have improved the quality of life of thousands of North Carolinians and those beyond this state,” said Easley, addressing the Hendricks. Papa Joe and Mary laid the groundwork for Hendrick Motorsports’ success decades ago near the small town of South Hill, Va., where their two sons were introduced to the world of motor sports. Fondly referred to as “Papa Joe,” Joseph R. Hendrick Jr. began racing modifieds in the early 1960s with longtime friend Frank Edwards. While fielding a car with driver Ray Hendrick (no relation), the team won races throughout the state of Virginia at tracks like South Boston, Martinsville and Richmond. As children, Rick and John experienced high-speed competition first-hand as they rode to nearby tracks in the back of their father’s pickup truck. In 1965, Joe and 14-year-old Rick built the eldest son’s first racing machine, which set records at a local drag strip. Throughout the years, Papa Joe has become a fixture at Hendrick Motorsports and remains one of NASCAR’s most beloved figures. With his grandson, Ricky Hendrick, he now co-owns the No. 25 GMAC Racing team with driver Brian Vickers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, along with the NASCAR Busch Series No. 5 Lowe’s team with pilot Kyle Busch.