Three individuals who have contributed to the success of Corvette during the past 50-plus years will be honored for their overwhelming dedication and love for America’s Sports Car when they are inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame this fall.
It’s hard to think of three individuals who are more deserving of this honor than these three men, who have gone above and beyond in their love for the Corvette.
The 2015 inductees slated to be honored at the 18th Annual Corvette Hall of Fame Ceremony on Sept. 4 at the National Corvette Museum are Herb Fishel in the category of Racing, Rick Hendrick in the category of Enthusiast, and Russ McLean in the category of GM/Chevrolet.
All three men are humble about their induction, saying that they represent a much larger group of people just as enthusiastic about the Corvette.
Fishel grew up in the 1950s and read about Zora Arkus-Duntov in the pages of hot rod magazines. By 1964, he had joined his hero at GM and was helping to make the Corvette into one of the world’s leading race cars in his roles as Director of Chevrolet Racing and Executive Director of GM Racing.
In fact, Fishel’s list of accomplishments is beyond impressive as, under his watch, Chevrolet won 25 NASCAR Manufacturers Championships (including 11 in a row!), 12 Indy 500s, and class wins in the Baja 1000, Pikes Peak Hill Climb, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Daytona 500 and Indy 500.
Says Fishel: “I didn’t want to just coast through a career. I wanted to leave something substantial behind me that was significant and noteworthy. The Corvette’s success in racing was a key chapter in the story of Corvette. I had the vision and provided the leadership to make it happen, but I didn’t do it alone. It took a team of people to do that. To be inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame now for that contribution and to be placed in the same framework as people like Zora Arkus Duntov, who I’d looked up to as a kid, is humbling. I’m very grateful.”
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Rick Hendrick and his passion for Corvettes, since he always seems to be the winning bidder on the first or last of numerous Corvette models, including the most recent purchase for $1 million of the first 2015 Z06 to help the Karmanos Cancer Institute!
But what you might not know is that Hendrick started from very humble beginnings, opening a small used car lot with another car dealer when he was just 23.
His hard work and enthusiasm has now resulted in the Hendrick Automotive Group, with more than 120 franchises in 13 states and 10,000-plus employees. He founded Hendrick Motorsports in 1984 and now has a 430,000-square-foot facility to help four full-time Chevrolet teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His drivers have included familiar faces like Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the teams have won a NASCAR record 14 national series owner’s championships and 15 overall.
Says Hendrick: “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be selected for the Corvette Hall of Fame. My love for Corvettes goes back to when I was a teenager, and it was the love for the car that got me into racing and the automobile business. To be honored at a place where so many of the Corvette greats are honored — it’s just humbling. I never dreamed that I’d be recognized in such a way.”
Of course, Hendrick might not have those new Corvettes to buy if not for the clandestine efforts of Russ McLean a quarter of a century ago.
In the 1990s, McLean was brought in to turn the Corvette program around but then was suddenly told by GM brass to let the Corvette die.
Faced with such a problem, he chose not to follow those orders, joining with other rebels in the company to quietly keep the Corvette program moving forward into the highly successful fifth generation model that has now led to the amazing C6 and C7 editions.
Says McLean: “This honor is really for the Corvette people working with me who did their jobs extremely well; who interphased and cooperated with each other; who were so dedicated and supportive of each other. My job was to kill the Corvette, but together we did all we could do to improve the C4 and keep the C5 viable. I’m very happy to be representing all of those people in the Corvette Hall of Fame.”
The National Corvette Museum established the Corvette Hall of Fame in 1998 to confer the highest honor and recognition upon the most influential individuals in the history of the Corvette. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to their respective fields, each having reached the highest level of accomplishment. Inductees must also reflect the highest standards of integrity and character to positively enhance the prestige of the Corvette and the National Corvette Museum.
We can’t think of three individuals more deserving of this honor than Fishel, Hendrick, and McLean, and on behalf of enthusiasts around the world, we say thank you for your vision, dedication, and passion that have made it possible for others to enjoy their Corvettes, too.
National Corvette Museum