Rick Hendrick is named 2016 Citizen of the Carolinas

The Charlotte Chamber has named Rick Hendrick the 2016 Citizen of the Carolinas, the business group’s most prestigious honor, to be presented at its annual meeting in December.

Hendrick, who heads the Hendrick Auto Group and Hendrick Motorsports, is being recognized for his “significant contributions to Charlotte’s business community, his indelible influence within NASCAR and his tireless work with local charitable organizations,” the chamber said in a statement Friday.

“Rick embodies the collaborative spirit that sets Charlotte apart from any other major city in the United States,” said Bob Morgan, chamber CEO and president.

Previous Citizen of the Carolinas winners include Erskine Bowles, Harvey Gantt, Leon and Sandra Levine, Ben Bernanke, Dean Smith, Hugh McColl and Jerry Richardson.

Hendrick’s career in cars began when he was 26 in 1976 in Bennettsville, S.C., where he turned a struggling Chevrolet franchise into the most profitable in the region, the chamber said. In 1978, he bought City Chevrolet in Charlotte, which is the flagship location for Hendrick Automotive Group, now the largest privately held dealership in the country.

The company employs more than 10,000 people across 14 states.

Hendrick Motorsports, which Hendrick founded in 1984, employs more than 600 people to support four full-time Chevrolet teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Hendrick has done charitable work with local organizations like the Levine Children’s Hospital and Together We Feed Charlotte, the chamber said. In 2015, he served as the honorary chairperson for the annual Charlotte Observer Summer Camp Fund, which set a fund-raising record of $200,000.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta