Hendrick plane crashes en route to NASCAR race

Everyone here at Driver Insider sends theirs thoughts and prayers to the family and friends at Hendrick MotorSports in this time of tragedy. Words can not even begin to express what the Hendrick family must be going through. May God give them light and the strength needed in their time of need.

  A Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed Sunday on its way to a NASCAR race, killing all 10 people aboard, including the son, brother and two nieces of the owner of one of auto racing's most successful organizations.

 The Beech 200 took off from Concord, N.C., and crashed in the Bull Mountain area seven miles from Martinsville's Blue Ridge Regional Airport about 12:30 p.m., said Arlene Murray, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

It was overcast and foggy when the plane went down, but the cause of the crash was not immediately known. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were on their way to the site, which was in rough terrain, and would begin their investigation Monday.

 Rick Hendrick owns the teams of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers, who raced Sunday in the Subway 500 in the Nextel Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway.

 Hendrick Motorsports identified the dead as: Ricky Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's son and a retired NASCAR driver; John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of the organization; Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, John Hendrick's 22-year-old twin daughters; Joe Jackson, an executive with DuPont, sponsor of Gordon's car; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; Randy Dorton, the team's chief engine builder; Scott Lathram, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Dick Tracy and Liz Morrison.

 NASCAR withheld the news about the plane from the Hendrick drivers until after the race, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. The Hendrick drivers were then summoned to the NASCAR hauler, and Johnson, who won, was excused from Victory Lane

``Hendrick Motorsports asks that those affected be kept in your thoughts and prayers, and respectfully requests that privacy be considered throughout this difficult time,'' the company said in a statement released late Sunday.

NASCAR had also spoken with Rick Hendrick, who did not travel to Martinsville for the race because he wasn't feeling well.

``I was hoping I'd never hear this,'' Mark Martin, a driver for Roush Racing, told the Speed Network after the race. Martin's father, stepmother and half sister died in 1998 when a private plane his father was piloting crashed in Nevada.

`I just feel so bad it's unreal,'' said Martin, himself a pilot.

Driver Rusty Wallace, also a pilot, told reporters after the race: ``Talladega and this place are the two most dangerous approaches on the circuit. I feel bad that this happened. Maybe the states will fix something.''

 Hendrick had been on a season-long celebration of its 20th anniversary in NASCAR's top series. The organization has won five of the series' top titles, three truck series titles, and one Busch series crown.

 The team has over 100 Cup series wins, making Hendrick just the second team owner in NASCAR's modern era to surpass that mark.

 Rick Hendrick recently began grooming Ricky Hendrick for a larger role with the company.

 Ricky began his career driving a Busch car for his father, but retired in 2002 because of a shoulder injury caused by a racing accident. His father then made him the owner of the Busch car Vickers drove to the series championship last season, and that Kyle Busch currently drives.

 Hendrick employs more than 400 workers at the Charlotte, N.C.-based Motorsports compound, which includes race shops and a 15,000-square-foot museum and team store.

 Deputies barricaded the entrance to the Hendrick shop in Charlotte, allowing only team employees to enter the compound. Twenty or so people could be seen in the parking lot inside.

 A small bouquet of flowers had been placed at the entrance gate.


By Eddie 911


Associated Press writers Jenna Fryer and Paul Nowell in Charlotte, N.C., and Larry O'Dell and Sue Lindsey in Richmond contributed to this report.

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