Photo Credit: Vettes4Vets
We were recently turned on to a great non-profit service organization in Alabama called Vettes4Vets that supports a variety of veteran services. What makes the Vettes4Vets organization unique is that they raise funds through entertainment events centered around automotive enthusiasts with a focus on Corvettes.
Vettes4Vettes puts on an annual Memorial Day fundraiser at the Talladega Superspeedway with the two-day event drawing over 250 Corvette and muscle cars and upwards of 700 participants from around the nation and the world. By making a modest donation, Corvette owners can drive their cars on the Superspeedway at Talladega at “safe speeds,” which are normally higher than what you drive on the highway. One of the organizations that have stepped up and made the annual event possible is the Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover in Hoover, AL, located outside of Birmingham.
We turned to Gary Nelson, who runs the Corvette department at Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover. A veteran who flew Cobra gunships in Vietnam, Gary first came to the Vettes4Vets event to drive his Corvette at Talladega as a regular Corvette enthusiast. Following his retirement as a 747 pilot for UPS in 2015, he received the offer he couldn’t refuse…running the Hendrick Corvette center in Hoover, which he has now done since 2016.
Gary tells us that within his first year, the dealership landed in the Top 50 of Corvette sales, and they are still there to this day, ranking 45th in the country in 2021 with 84 Corvettes sold. He also tells us the amazing stat that 98% of Corvettes sold in Alabama are done through Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover.
“We are the go-to place in Alabama for Corvettes. Matter of fact, probably between Atlanta and Dallas, I’ve got people coming from all over,” says Gary. “The word is out about us…we take care of our people, we don’t mark up the cars any and sell at MSRP,” he adds.
Not only does Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover sell at MSRP, but there are also no mandatory packages or market adjustments. Gary says they do offer competitively priced paint protection packages and window tinting, and they are also a custom installer of built-in K40 radar detectors, but as for the Corvettes, they are all sold at MSRP.
Regarding Hendrick’s C8 Corvette reservation lists, Gary says he has 78 customers at 1100 status and another 12 at 3000. Based on their allocations from 2021, we would guess that a customer walking into the dealership today is looking close to a year before their car arrives, which is just about the norm everywhere. For the upcoming Z06, they have around 225 on their Z06 list, but Gary said they are really focused on those customers within the 150-mile radius surrounding the Hoover dealership:
“If someone locally walked in and wanted to be put on the list, I’ll tell you just because your number 226 on list doesn’t mean you’re going to be the 226th person to get a car…I am really focused on our local people who come here for service or those repeat customers that I have sold cars to…I want to handle those people first as opposed to someone I’ll never see again.”
Our conversation shifted back to Vettes4Vettes and Gary says in early 2016 he met with Navy veteran Mark Davis who founded the non-profit in 2008. Mark was needing some assistance with the annual event and without being asked, the general manager for Hendrick Chevrolet in Hoover stepped up and pledged to pay the $11,000 fee for the one-day rental of Talladega, and Hendrick has been helping with the event every year since. On the weekend of the Talladega event, a Show and Shine is held Friday at the Hendrick dealership, and then on Saturday is the track day at Talladega. The event brings in around $30,000 after expenses and Gary says the Vettes4Vette board works with other veteran organizations that identify and help those veterans in need.
Participants at the Talladega track date can buy a single track session that consists of five laps for $100. The first cars roll on the track at 8am with the sessions limited to 15 cars plus the Pace car and a follow-on vehicle to look after the participants While those cars are running, the next 15 are staged, and then they go. Gary says that with Talladega being 2.7 miles, those cars spread out, and speeds can get pretty high, but it’s also done within the safe confines of the track.
Vettes4Vettes also raises approximately $7,500 per year for veterans with the annual “Folds of Honor” Patriot Shootout golf tournament at the Inverness Country Club in Birmingham. Those funds are used for educational scholarships for the children of Gold Star families. The next Patriot Shootout is scheduled for September 18-19.
Vettes4Vets is currently redoing its website, so for the most up-to-date info, visit their Facebook page and hit the Like button so you’ll receive future updates. You can contact Gary Nelson at 205-215-9065 or via email at [email protected] for any questions regarding the Vettes4Vets charity or for anything Corvette-related at the Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover in Hoover, Alabama.
Check out this fun video from the 2022 Show and Shine at Hendrick Chevrolet Birmingham and the Talladega track day event, as well as a gallery of photos below.
Vettes4Vets and Hendrick Chevrolet Hoover