Four of NASCAR team owner's family members, including a brother and a son, are among those killed.
By wire services
Published October 25, 2004
MARTINSVILLE, Va. - 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 turboprop took off from Concord, N.C., and crashed in the Bull Mountain area 7 miles from Martinsville's Blue Ridge Regional Airport at about 12:30 p.m., said Arlene Murray, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Those killed include the four relatives of Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said Harry Litten, manager at Moody's Funeral Service in Stuart, Va., where the bodies were taken.
It was overcast when the plane went down, but the cause was not known. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were en route to the site, which was in rough terrain, and would begin their probe today.
It was "extremely foggy" in the area of the crash, said Dale Greeson, who lives about a mile from where the plane went down.
Hendrick owns the teams of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers, who raced Sunday, with Johnson winning the Subway 500 in the Nextel Cup series at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR learned of the plane's disappearance during the race but withheld the news from drivers and fans until afterward, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said.
"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 late Sunday.
A team spokesman said Rick Hendrick did not travel to Martinsville for the race because he wasn't feeling well.
Driver Rusty Wallace, who is 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."
"I was hoping I'd never hear this," Mark Martin, a driver for Roush Racing, told the Speed Network. Martin's father, stepmother and half sister died in 1998 when a private plane his father was piloting crashed in Nevada.
Among those killed Sunday, according to Hendrick, were Ricky Hendrick, 24, Rick Hendrick's son and a retired NASCAR driver; and John Hendrick, 53, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of the organization. John's 22-year-old twin daughters, Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, also died.
Hendrick's team has 128 wins and five championships in NASCAR's top series.
Ricky once drove a Busch car for his father, but retired in 2002 because of a shoulder injury caused by a racing accident. His father then installed Ricky as owner of the Busch car Vickers drove to the series title last season, and that Kyle Busch currently drives.
The Hendrick family already had dealt with loss this year. "Papa" Joe Hendrick Jr., Rick and John Hendrick's father who also was involved in the company, died in July.
"It's just very tough," Donnie Floyd, who works on Labonte's team, said of the crash. "We are like one big family."