November 11, 1949 – August 20, 2013
According to the National Office, Phil Hennrich joined the North Carolina Region on April 1, 1974, and from all accounts he volunteered to make it a success right from the get-go. Sam Fouse and Dan Robson, who joined about 18 months later, have said that Phil was the first member they ever met. He was setting up an autocross course in Raleigh, and introduced himself to them when they showed up as newbies, eager to learn the ropes. Within six months of Phil’s joining, he became the guy who towed the autocross trailer to events in Raleigh. Between events, that trailer, with all the cones and timing equipment, lived with him at his mother’s house. Later it would be joined by a race car or two, and all the Region’s radios for use at races.
How long was Phil our radio guy? There’s no record of when he actually started in that position, but he was already ensconced in it when the Region raced at Rockingham in 1978. He was often called “Radio Phil” by new workers and folks from out-of-region. To NCR members he was just “Phil”. There was only one. Everyone knew who you meant when you said “Phil.” You’d see him arrive at a race, at Rockingham, or Roebling Road, and finally at VIR, in his light brown van, packed to the roof with communication gear, radios and headsets, that he lovingly maintained and repaired between events. He’d pass out the gear to waiting volunteers. During events you could count on him to be there to fix any communication problem that arose. He very early earned a National license in Flagging and Communications. And eventually he got one as radio tech, too; once the National Office came to realize that they should recognize that position separately, because it required special skills and dedication. But Phil had already been doing that job for years before they gave him a license for it. And he held the job until he could no longer do it, about the 2010 season or so.
Somewhere along the way, Phil was elected Treasurer, a position he held for nearly as long as he was the radio guy. He started keeping the books and writing the checks well before computerization, and he took the first stab at that too, on his home PC, when they were a rarity. Phil was a hardware tester at IBM so he had one of the first commercial IBM PC’s at home. In the end, though, he couldn’t keep up with the software revolution, and ceded the job to Sara Snyder, who along with office manager Ginny Condrey, got us on to Quick Books.
Somehow, Phil also found the time to compete. At first in autocross, and then on track, originally in some production class Spridget and then in a Pinto in GT3, both painted that awful shade of light brown that matched his van. That color was horrible for a race car. At its best, it had the look of that dull sand color the Army uses for desert camouflage. Corner workers used to amuse themselves by coming up with humorous names for that color, most of them unprintable. There was even a running joke that he had bought the paint at an Army-Navy surplus store and painted both his van and race car alike because he need to save money for tires. But everyone knew Phil’s race car, just as they knew Phil’s van. And though he seldom did very well, he kept plugging away, running a couple of races every year. He even managed to get the grand course record in GT3 at VIR. He was the only entry in GT3 the one time we ran that configuration!
But even when he was racing, Phil was our go-to guy. His good friend and our former flag chief, Chuck Stanley, recounts that the first time he met Phil was at Rockingham in 1989, and Phil drafted him into helping rebuild tire walls and reset Armco posts even before Registration had opened. And only when the course was ready, did Phil ask Chuck to help him get some tires mounted on his race car! That was the Phil we all remember. It was more important to him to help others than to do well on course himself. James Shanks says that he, too, remembers Phil at Rockingham, skipping lunch to help repair a guardrail post so we could start again on time. He should have been working on his race car, because later that same afternoon, he DNF’d. Was he angry about that? Not Phil. He just smiled philosophically and said, “Moving right along.” That was his well-known catch phrase, and he would utter it whenever discussing or confronting a problem. So as usual, he put the car back on the trailer for the tow home, expecting to do better the next time. Phil also worked tirelessly at VIR when the Region presented that facility with its gazebo corner stations in 2002, helping to transport them and set them up. The staff there nicknamed him “Gazebo Phil.” Always ready to pitch in and help, whatever the project. That was Phil.
NCR gave Phil more than a few awards over the years. He was the first recipient of the Ellis Roach award for service to other drivers, back around 1976 or 1977. Eventually we gave him a Lifetime Achievement award a few years back, in 2005, but it wasn’t enough. We’ll miss you, Phil. The Region lost one of its great souls when you finally said, “Moving right along,” for the last time and left us. Thanks for your service, old friend.
Below: Phil’s Pinto racer. Get those blue flags ready boys!
Below: Phil receiving Lifetime Achievement Award from then RE, Kaye Fairer in 2005.