CONCORD, N.C. – The congratulatory text messages began streaming in Wednesday evening, but at first, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick had no idea what they meant.
The 11-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship car owner soon realized, however, what the messages alluded to: that he had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
“I didn’t expect to get in,” he recalled Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “When it happened, I had folks that I went to school with and friends that I haven’t seen in years, people I don’t talk to – I’ve won some big races that jam my phone up, but not like this. It’s a real honor.”
Hendrick said that when he received the Hall of Fame news on Wednesday, it was almost identical to what he felt when he became a first-time Cup champion as an owner.
“All those emotions came back,” he said. “It sinks in more and more as the day goes on and as time goes on and you really start to reflect back. It feels kind of like the first championship when you want to thank everybody who’s ever helped you and that’s how I feel today about all the drivers, Harry Hyde, and the folks that supported us all the way the last 33 years.”
Hendrick said winning that first championship made him truly appreciate just how many people had helped him along the way.
“I wanted to call everybody I ever knew in racing and thank them,” he said. “I was just overwhelmed.”
Wednesday evening, Hendrick experienced the exact same feeling.
“When this really happened, those same thoughts came back,” he said. “All the doors that had been opened, all the people that had given me a chance, how close we came to shutting the shop down after the race at Darlington (in 1984). Just to grow up on a farm in Virginia loving cars and then dreaming about racing -- to enter the Hall of Fame of what I think is the premier racing organization in the world, it’s like, how does it get any better than that?”