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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 20, 2017 10:44 pm

Hendrick goes from farm to Hall

JENNA FRYER | Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rick Hendrick, owner of the most successful organization in NASCAR, grew up on a Virginia tobacco farm knowing that wasn’t the life he wanted to lead.

He took chance after chance chasing a NASCAR career, came close to folding his team more than once, but always found a way to persevere. It earned him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night.

Hendrick Motorsports has a NASCAR-leading 14 national titles — 11 in the top series with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, but I knew what I didn’t want to do, and that was be a tobacco farmer,” Hendrick said.

Also inducted Friday night was Mark Martin, car owners Richard Childress and Raymond Parks, and former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons. Martin is considered the greatest driver to never win a championship.

Martin was a runner-up five times for the Cup title, and won 40 races — 17th on the all-time list. In NASCAR’s second-tier series, Martin won 49 times, which was a record for 14 years.

With a nod to the late Dale Earnhardt, a tearful Childress thanked his former driver for helping build an organization that led to Childress’ induction.

Childress began his career as a driver and formed his own race team in 1972. He officially gave up driving in 1981 to focus on Richard Childress Racing, and Earnhardt won six of his record-tying seven titles driving Childress cars. Earnhardt won 67 races for Childress, who has 11 total NASCAR titles as a car owner.

“I wouldn’t be standing here tonight without him. He was a great friend and a huge loss to all of us and to our sport,” he said.

Parsons was officially inducted by Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, and it was accepted by his widow, Terri. Parsons died in 2007 from complications from lung cancer at 65. He won the 1973 NASCAR championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 was among his 21 career victories.

Parks, one of the first team owners in NASCAR, was an Atlanta businessman who first entered NASCAR with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall.

Paired with mechanic Red Vogt, his teams dominated in the 1940s and 1950s.

His teams won the first NASCAR title in 1948 and again in 1949.