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Published March 23, 2009
Marshall Carlson spent his spare time as a high school youth in a small four-bay garage, running errands, cleaning up and being there for the mechanics when they needed a hand.
“I always loved cars, I loved everything mechanical,” Carlson said. “But I never envisioned that I’d be in this type of role.”
That role has taken Carlson into one of the top team jobs in NASCAR, running Hendrick Motorsports — NASCAR’s version of the New York Yankees, minus most of the drama — as general manager and executive vice president.
While owner Rick Hendrick will always be the face of the team, Carlson has emerged as the team’s day-to-day leader, a behind-the-scenes role that puts him in the middle of everything from contract negotiations to sponsorship, engine shop issues and finance.
One minute he might be in a meeting with Hendrick’s competition team, the next minute he might be reviewing a sponsor’s contract.
“It’s my job to stay abreast of everything,” Carlson said. “One of the real fortunate things about this company, given the breadth of what we do, is that we have a pretty flat management structure. We don’t make any major decisions without the stakeholders having input.”
If a department of Hendrick Motorsports needs a new piece of equipment, more staffing, more resources, Carlson’s job is to understand the need and implement a plan “to make sure our people are in a position to be successful.”
At the end of the day, though, Carlson probably spends as much or more time on contracts as anything. With a sponsor roster that includes Pepsi, Lowe’s, DuPont, National Guard, Kellogg and CarQuest, among others, “we’re representing a lot of companies on the track, through licensed merchandise, media,” he said. “These are complicated relationships and we have a significant responsibility to that company.”