[cifnmedia] 10 killed in plane accident

  • From: Lawrence Estep <indylre@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 10:38:52 -0500


Title: 10 killed in plane accident
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Nascar tragedy
10 killed in plane accident
4 of team owner's relatives among dead; Johnson wins race, Busch extends lead.

News of the plane crash sinks in for members of Jimmie Johnson's pit crew after the Subway 500. -- Don Petersen / Associated Press
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10 killed in plane accident
NASCAR Nextel Subway 500 results

On the plane
Passengers on the airplane that crashed near Martinsville, Va.:
• Ricky Hendrick, former race driver, Busch Series car owner and son of Rick Hendrick
• John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of Hendrick Motorsports
• Jennifer Hendrick, John Hendrick's daughter
• Kimberly Hendrick, John Hendrick's daughter
• Jeff Turner, Hendrick Motorsports general manager
• Randy Dorton, chief engine builder at Hendrick Motorsports
• Scott Lathram, Tony Stewart's pilot
• Dick Tracy, pilot
• Liz Morrison, pilot
• Joe Jackson, DuPont executive
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 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.

The dead included the four relatives of Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said Harry Litten, a spokesman for Moody Funeral Service, where the bodies were being taken. He said state police gave him a list of the people aboard the plane.

It was overcast when the plane went down, but the cause of the crash was not immediately known. National Transportation and Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were on their way to the site, which was in rough terrain, and would begin their investigation 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 in the Subway 500 in the Nextel Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway.

In the race, Johnson pulled away from Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman on a restart with seven laps to go to win and climb four spots in the season-ending title chase.

Johnson's celebration of his series-high sixth victory of the season was cut short. Shortly after the race, the team's drivers received word of the crash.

Another solid performance by Kurt Busch moved him one step closer to winning NASCAR's first playoff championship.

"You've got to step up to the plate and race hard in each of these final 10" races, Busch said after finishing fifth, his sixth top-six run in as many races since the playoff started. "We had a regular season and now we have a playoff and right now we haven't had a bad finish."

NASCAR learned of the Hendrick plane's disappearance during the race but withheld the news from the drivers until afterward, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. The Hendrick drivers were then summoned to the NASCAR hauler, and Johnson was excused from victory lane.

NASCAR also had spoken with Rick Hendrick.

"We're working very closely with members of the Hendrick organization," Hunter said. "We're just saying extra prayers right now."

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

Citing the state police list, Litten said the people aboard the plane were:

Ricky Hendrick, 24, Rick Hendrick's son and a retired NASCAR driver; John Hendrick, 53, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of the organization; and Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, both 22, John Hendrick's twin daughters.

Also, Joe Jackson, an executive at DuPont, which sponsors Gordon's car; Jeff Turner, Hendrick Motorsports general manager; Randy Dorton, the team's chief engine builder; Scott Lathram, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Dick Tracy and Liz Morrison. Their ages were not available Sunday night.

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.

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.

"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.

In the race

While Busch led a race-high 120 laps, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were never a factor, allowing Busch to build his lead to 96 points over Gordon and 125 over Earnhardt, who started the day 24 points off the lead.

"We didn't really need this," Earnhardt said.

On the late restart, teammates Newman and Wallace ended up battling each other as Johnson drove away. They blamed each other for poor decision-making.

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