Courtesy: Darlington Raceway Media Relations
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin, all of whom will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017, will serve as Grand Marshals for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Accompanied by Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge, the three legends will give the command to start the engines for the iconic race – one that will again feature "throwback" paint schemes honoring NASCAR's storied history and heritage.
Childress and Hendrick are two of the most successful owners in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, and their combined seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars will each feature special paint schemes for the race.
Childress and his team, Richard Childress Racing, have posted 105 NSCS wins since he founded the team in 1969. His team has recorded 472 top-five NSCS finishes and won 12 national series championships, which is second all-time in the sport's history. RCR is the first organization to win championships in all three of NASCAR's national series. Much of his success came with driver Dale Earnhardt Sr., who won 67 career Cup races for RCR, including eight victories at Darlington Raceway.
"Darlington Raceway is one of my favorite race tracks. I remember going there when I was very young and seeing some of my heroes race there," Childress said. "Now, it's really neat to say that I'm going to be the grand marshal for the race, and I couldn't think of two better people to do it alongside of than Mark Martin and Rick Hendrick. The race weekend is already special enough with the 'throwback' theme, but this will make it that much more special."
Hendrick, founder of Hendrick Motorsports in 1984, owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte. Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, which is most in NASCAR history. His drivers have won an astounding 242 NSCS races with 1,000 top-five finishes.
Hendrick has 14 NASCAR Cup wins at Darlington Raceway, including seven with Gordon. Johnson's victory at Darlington in 2012 gave him his 200th career NSCS win in the sport.
"Darlington is very special to me, and I'm so grateful to the track for this honor," Hendrick said. "It's still sinking in that I'm a part of such an incredible Hall of Fame class. Richard and Mark are great friends and competitors, and it means a lot to share these experiences with them."
In a 31-year career, Martin won 40 career NASCAR premier series races, including the 1993 and 2009 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He also won eight NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Darlington, which is still the most in series history.
"It is my honor to be co-grand marshal for the Bojangles' Southern 500 with two of my heroes," said Martin. "Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick are two of my favorite people in racing. I'm also looking forward to being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with them, along with Benny Parsons and Raymond Parks in January."
Rutledge, who has served as Bojangles' CEO for the past three years, will say the command alongside three of the sports legends. Rutledge gave the command with 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Terry Labonte before last year's Bojangles' Southern 500.
"I am blessed to represent Bojangles' and give the command to start the Bojangles' Southern 500 alongside three legends of the sport, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin," Rutledge said. "Bojangles' is proud to be the entitlement partner of the Southern 500, a partnership we've enjoyed since 2012."
The Famous Chicken n' Biscuits restaurant chain has more than 680 locations throughout the Southeast. Bojangles' has the naming rights to the Southern 500 through the 2019 season.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions ceremonies will take place on January 20, 2017 in Charlotte, N.C. For more on the inductees, as well as information on visitor and membership packages for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, visit NASCARHall.com.