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CONCORD, N.C. – H.A. Mergen has been going to car shows his whole life.

An engineer in the Hendrick Motorsports simulation group, Mergen and his late father participated in shows all across the country over the years, winning awards along the way. But last weekend’s AutoFair might’ve been the most meaningful.

Mergen’s red and white 1955 Oldsmobile Starfire earned top honors – Best of Show – at the event.

“Have you heard the slogan, ‘This is not your father’s Oldsmobile?’ Well, this is my father’s Oldsmobile,” Mergen said. “My dad, Howard Mergen, was Mr. Oldsmobile. He worked for Oldsmobile for 30 years in California. When this car came available, he fell in love with it. We got it all shined up and started showing it. He passed away last November. We’re here in his honor. It was his goal to win this award, Best of Show, for the Spring AutoFair.

“He wanted this one bad.”

And he got it.

Mergen recalled that his father loved that particular Oldsmobile, and his father’s friends pegged it as their favorite among all his rides.

It won the Ladies’ Choice award at the 2016 AutoFair, and this time it took home the top prize. Mergen said it made for “an emotional week” to go through the process without his father – but he couldn’t have imagined not participating.

“I teared up a couple times, but I made it all through Victory Lane without having a come apart, so I was happy about that,” he smiled. “We had to do this one for him. I’ve been telling everybody, ‘Dad won the AutoFair! Dad won Best in Show at the AutoFair, we just had to take the car for him.’ That was really good for us.”

When Mergen began his Hendrick Motorsports career, he was a race engineer for the No. 88 team. When he moved to the simulation group, it cut down on his travel to the racetracks throughout the season. Looking back, he said, it was a blessing because it allowed him more time with his father, including traveling to plenty of car shows.

Being able to realize his late father’s dream at the AutoFair was something he’ll never forget.

“I don’t have words to explain – it means a lot to us,” Mergen said.

“It was just the absolute best weekend you could possibly have.”