CONCORD, N.C. -- Rick Hendrick’s accomplishments are well documented but the NASCAR Hall of Famer says success comes down to simple principles that he has followed for many years. In a new podcast, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group broke down how he built thriving companies in the automotive and racing worlds, and it starts with the people.
“I love people,” Hendrick told Don Yaeger on the “Corporate Competitor Podcast.” “I love being around people. I love seeing them grow and become successful. I love seeing young guys become crew chiefs. I love to see young guys become champions, and I love to see young guys become champions of the (car dealerships). It makes me feel good.”
Hendrick combined his love of people with old-school work ethic to build his businesses. Born in rural Virginia, his father instilled in him early that he wouldn’t be handed things in life. He started drag racing at 14 and worked on cars with his dad, who was a volunteer crew member on the weekends.
“You drive it, and you have that appreciation because you worked and built it with your hands,” Hendrick said. “I think that’s one reason Chase Elliott is so good. His dad started him off building cars, working with them, and then driving the car. He understood the way the car works and the appreciation of the guys who put it together.”
By helping his father build cars and tagging along to local short tracks, Hendrick said he was “bit” by the racing bug. He continued to work with cars while he went to high school and excelled in multiple sports. It was the atmosphere on those teams that taught him another ingredient to being a leader.
“Recognition counts,” Hendrick said. “Recognition is so important. I use that today. You know, getting a letter for you jacket or a write up that you hit the home run -- just being rewarded for doing a good job and wanting to not let your teammates down.”
Hendrick detailed how he used to travel to each car dealership he owned and shake every employee’s hand. At awards banquets, he would make sure the top 10 dealerships were recognized, and he encouraged all his team members to cultivate positive relationships.
“I don’t care what business you’re in, it’s all about people,” Hendrick said. “People don’t care about you if you don’t care about them. That’s the secret sauce in our business.”
That practice was put to the test in March 2020 when the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it would have saved money, Hendrick vowed he would not lay off or furlough any of his teammates.
“You’ve got to take care of your people,” he told Yaeger. “If I preach (that) my people are my biggest asset, and if I tell them they are the most important part of our company, then when things happen, you’ve got to stand up and stand with them.”
Hendrick’s approach paid off. Not only did Hendrick Automotive Group have a record year in 2020, but Elliott’s No. 9 team gave Hendrick Motorsports a record-extending 13th NASCAR Cup Series title.
Despite more than 45 years in the automotive industry and entering his 37th season as a NASCAR team owner, Hendrick said he isn’t stopping anytime soon. His childhood lessons of work ethic from his father, along with his competitive drive, have continued to fuel him.
“Anything I try to do, I want to be the best at it,” Hendrick said. “It’s not an ego thing, it’s a competitive thing. I think you either have that or you don’t. Some people know it’s time to step away when they lose that. I’m 71 and I haven’t lost it yet.”
The “Corporate Competitor Podcast” is hosted by Don Yeager, the longtime associate editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times best-selling author. Listen to his entire conversation with Rick Hendrick by clicking here.