Ray Hendrick, known as “Mr Modified”, was born in Richmond, Virginia on the 1st April 1929 and sadly died of cancer on the 28th September 1990. Ray was well known for his philosophy on racing that is “race anywhere and everywhere”. He was a prolific racer, competing in hundred of races across the speedway, earning him victories in some 712 races. This philosophy prevented him completing a full season in the NASCAR Winston Cup so he never won this championship but did gain two top five and six top 10 finishes in seventeen starts.
His racing career spanned over thirty four years and during this time he competed in mostly the NASCAR Modifieds, driving his famous winged #11 modified coupe, owned by Jack Tant and Clayton Mitchell. Ray won five championships at South Boston Speedway, four whilst competing in the NASCAR Modified division and one in the NASCAR Lat Model Sportsman division. Although he never won a National Modified Championship he finished in the Top 10 in Points nine times between the years of 1960 and 1969 and also finished 8th and 9th respectively in 1974 and 1975 in the National Late Model Sportsman Points (later became known as the Busch Grand National Division). In 1969 Ray won the Modified Race of Champions at the one mile Langhorne Speedway and again in 1975 at the 1.5 mile oval Speedway at Trenton.
He became the first on the all-time winners list of Martinsville Speedway with twenty wins between 1963 and 1975, topping Richard Petty’s 15 wins. 1970 saw Ray win a 100 Lap National Championship race on Memorial Day Weekend.
He can be credited with the following awards: – inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1993, named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, named one of NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10 in 2003, was the first inductee into the Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2003 and inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Darlington, South Carolina in 2007.
Ray achieved near-legendary status among the Modified and Grand National drivers who faced him weekly for almost 35 years. During the ’50s and ’60s he teamed with car owners Ira Smiley, John Tadlock and Jack Tant-Clayton Mitchell to win hundreds of Modified races from South Carolina to New England.
In June 1977 Langley Speedway honoured Ray with a special night a gala was thrown, to recognise Ray with a Silver Anniversary Late Model Sportsman 200 and the night before the presentation Ray and his family were thrilled to attend a lavish banquet at The Chamberlin Hotel in Hampton. Ray said at the time,. “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, I can’t imagine anyone not feeling pretty good about something like this.”
In June 1998 Al Pearce of the Daily Press wrote about five Virginians who have distinguished themselves as nascar racing car drivers. Daily Press Motorsports writer Al Pearce takes a look at the five: “RAY HENDRICK Born April 1, 1929, died Sept. 28, 1990… spent most of his career in NASCAR’s rough and tumble Modified and Late Model Sportsman divisions, winning perhaps 900 races … competed against Modified legends Jerry Cook, Bugs Stevens, Richie Evans, Fred DeSarro and Bobby Allison, and against LMS stars Sonny Hutchins, Bill Dennis, Tommy Ellis, Jack Ingram and Sammy Ard … drove cars prepared by Jack Tant and Clayton Mitchell … love of Modifieds kept him from advancing to Winston Cup … had six top-10s in only 17 Cup starts in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s … inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame in ’93.” He was truly great nascar race car driver with a distinguished and illustrious career.
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