Rick Hendrick may be the ultimate car-guy dealer, and so it seems fitting that he'll receive the National Automotive Dealer Lifetime Achievement Award at the Boca Raton Concours d'Elegance in February.
His dealership group, Hendrick Automotive, operates 96 rooftops with 130 franchises and 29 collision centers in 14 states. His racing enterprise, Hendrick Motorsports, founded in 1984, has won a record 12 NASCAR Cup Series championships.
Now 69, Hendrick launched his retail career in 1976, becoming the youngest Chevy dealer in the country, at 26. In a 2017 interview with Automotive News, Hendrick talked about his auto retail and racing careers.
"If I had one dealership in a small town," he said, "I'm not going to say I'd be happy, but I think I would be."
While building his dealership group, Hendrick started a drag boat racing team in 1979. A dark-red race boat that sits in his 5,000-square-foot personal museum, called the Heritage Center, in Charlotte, N.C., commemorates the team's three consecutive national championships.
Through boat racing, Hendrick met car racing crew chief Harry Hyde. They decided to give NASCAR a try.
"I hired Geoff Bodine to drive. He was an unknown rookie then, and we had no sponsor," Hendrick said. "So six races into the season, I told Harry, 'Look, we gotta shut the doors because we don't have any money.' "
Hendrick had about seven dealerships then. To continue racing without a sponsor endangered his auto retail business. Hyde persuaded him to do one more race.
"We won that race, we got a sponsor and we finished the year," Hendrick said.
In 2013, Hendrick was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 2017 the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The 13th annual Boca Raton Concours d'Elegance, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and AutoNation, is scheduled for Feb.22-24 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida.