By Gray Bostick
Leisure suits and disco didn’t make an appearance, but it was 1976 all over again for a few Bennettsville residents last week.
And not only did Linda Bottoms, Arthur Campbell, Gilbert McCall and David Hinson get a flashback, but it also came with a bonus: a reunion with dear co-workers from a treasured time in their lives.
The occasion was made possible thanks to a decision by Rick Hendrick, founder and chairman of the Hendrick Automotive Group – and perhaps more knowingly by sports fans as the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, one of NASCAR’s premier teams – who recently made the decision to document the history of his amazing success – and especially the people and places who played important roles – by producing a video chronicling everything.
And for Rick Hendrick, as an independent, make-it-or-break-it, new-car dealer, Ground Zero was tiny little Bennettsville, South Carolina.
But just as the tiny acorn produces a tap root that supports the mighty and magnificent oak, deeply-set and multi-limbed, carefully cultured by nature to weather the storms of life and demands of time, yet still yield shade, cover, and fruit, thus was Hendrick Automotive built for the long-term: strong in moral fiber, steadfast against all odds and options.
And thru a strong commitment to core values of fair and honest trading, complemented by trusted and capable customer service, Hendrick Automotive has grown from a single dealership of ten employees here in Bennettsville to nearly 10,000 in what is now the largest privately-held new car marketing group in the United States.
It seems it does, indeed, pay to do things right.
In background, Hendrick bought the floundering local Chevrolet dealership here in 1976, selling off his interest in a used-car dealership to take the plunge as an independent new-car dealer and becoming, at age 26, the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the United States at the time.
Thru commitment to proven principles, as well as sheer dedication and determination, Hendrick, along with like-minded and willed associates, was able to turn the franchise around and it was soon among the most profitable in the region. This led to additional opportunities from Chevrolet and other manufacturers, and after two years in Bennettsville, Hendrick departed for the larger Charlotte market and the fabled City Chevrolet dealership, where he and his associates continued to achieve remarkable success, which, in turn, led to the addition of even more dealerships.
Former Hendrick Chevrolet GM David Hinson shows the film crew around the home where Rick Hendrick lived while in Bennettsville, which Hinson has owned since Hendrick departed for Charlotte and undreamed of success.
Through the years, both good and bad, Hendrick, much like the mighty oak, has weathered every storm and blow and, from a failing single dealership of less than a dozen employees in Bennettsville, South Carolina, the Hendrick Automotive Group has since grown to nearly 100 franchises spread over more than a dozen states selling over 200,000 vehicles a year, while servicing nearly 2 million.
Hendrick didn’t stay completely confined to the car business, however but also lived out a dream by venturing into the deep waters of NASCAR by establishing a team in 1984, initially known as All Star Racing and later re-named as Hendrick Motorsports. And much like the success he found on the car lots, his racing team also performed remarkably well, soon growing into a the maximum four-car operation, which continues to race in the top-line Monster Energy Cup series today, running Chevrolets for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr,, 2017 Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne.
Hendrick Motorsports has also boasted some of the best wheelmen in recent NASCAR history with now-retired drivers and former champions Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Benny Parsons, as well as past champion Kyle Busch and racer extraordinare Tim Richmond, on whose relationship and time with Hendrick Motorsports the movie “Days of Thunder” was loosely based, all claiming multiple checkered flags or titles in Hendrick cars, which are all prepared in-house by more than 500 Hendrick Motorsports employees working on the 140+ acre Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, NC.
With consistent success, too, as thru the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports has won twelve NASCAR Monster EnergySeries championships, three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tiles, and one NASCAR Xfinity Series crown, while racking up a total of 240 Monster Energy victories, 26 Xfinity wins and claiming 26 Camping World events. Remarkably, a Hendrick racecar has won on every track on the NASCAR circuit with the sole exception of Kentucky Speedway, which has only been on the schedule sice 2011.
Hendrick Motorsports has been so successful, in fact, that they are now considered the most valuable racing team in NASCAR with a 2016 estimated value of $350 million.
And all because a little ol’ car dealership in Bennettsville, South Carolina gave a man a chance to prove himself.
Who’d a thunk it?
Videographers document a reunion of old Hendrick co-workers Arthur Campbell, Gilbert McCall, Linda Bottoms and Sears Sauls.
From the late 70’s, what could have been Rick Hendrick’s theme song…