PATRICK SPRINGS, Va. (BP)–NASCAR has been rocked with the news of a deadly plane crash involving family and friends of Hendrick Motorsports, one of stock-car racing’s premier competitors.
The small private plane was en route from Concord, N.C., to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia when it missed its first landing attempt, veered off course and slammed into a mountain in foggy conditions Oct. 24.
All 10 passengers on board were killed, including the son, brother and two nieces of Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, whose race team includes drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers.
John Hendrick, Rick’s brother and president of Hendrick Motorsports, devoted much time to working with charities — especially those that support disadvantaged youth — according to a biography posted on the NASCAR website. At the time of his death, he was chairman of the board of Nazareth Children’s Home in Rockwell, N.C., and served on the board of directors for Elon Homes for Children in Charlotte.
“He was probably the busiest man I ever knew,” Josh Regan, Nazareth’s development director, told The Charlotte Observer. “But if I called him and told him one of our children had a need, he would drop everything, get on a helicopter and fly to Rockwell. He did things all the time for these kids.”
Dale Beaver, a chaplain for the Motor Racing Outreach ministry, told The Observer that Hendrick led Bible studies at his race shop most Wednesdays, imploring everyone to be ready for the end.
“He begged his people to be ready because you don’t know when the end will come,” Beaver said.
John Hendrick’s 22-year-old twin daughters, Jennifer and Kimberly, also were killed in the crash. A former classmate of theirs at Charlotte Christian School recounted to The Observer how the girls went out of their way to welcome her when she moved from New Jersey.
“They were two of the most generous and kind-spirited people I ever met,” Reagan Kenwell said. “I stuck out like a sore thumb and they opened themselves up to me.”
The Observer further noted that the girls opted not to take advantage of their well-known family name but chose instead to make their own way in their careers.
Another victim, Randy Dorton, was the chief engine builder for Hendrick Motorsports. Race cars with Dorton motors under the hood won five NASCAR Cup Series championships, a NASCAR Busch Series crown and three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series titles, according to the NASCAR site. He was also involved in the ministry of Motor Racing Outreach, which is listed as one of the two organizations receiving donations in his memory.
NASCAR drivers and racing officials have rallied around the Hendrick family and employees, some by posting notes of concern on the NASCAR site and urging people to pray.
“It’s hard to express how it feels to hear the news about the Hendrick plane crash,” driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s like a hammer to the chest. It takes the wind out of you. The Hendricks are a great family and they’ve always been very generous to me and everyone in NASCAR.”
Driver Michael Waltrip said the crash is a tragedy not only for the Hendrick family but NASCAR as well.
“I hope that all the Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans will lend their prayers to strengthen all the families affected by this heartbreak,” he said. “God has a plan for each of us and it is important during times like this that we rely on our faith.”
Also killed in the crash were Ricky Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s son; Joe Jackson, director of DuPont’s NASCAR program; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; Scott Lathram, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrision.