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OCTOBER 25, 2004

Hendrick Motorsports

Our thoughts are with the Hendricks Motorsport team in the United States today following the plane crash on Sunday which killed five team members, two family members and three pilots. The 10 were travelling in a Hendrick-owned Beech King Air 200 turboprop plane when it crashed in the Bull Mountain area, seven miles to the west of Martinsville airport in Virginia. The plane carried 24-year-old Ricky Hendrick, team owner Rick Hendrick's only son, who drove a Busch Series car before retiring from the sport in 2002. He has since been groomed to take over the team. His uncle John Hendrick (Rick's brother) who was president of the racing organization was also killed as were his two daughters 22-year-old twins Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick. Also onboard was Jeff Turner, the general manager of the Hendrick racing empire and a man who played a key role in the whole Hendrick business, which includes one of the nation's largest car dealership networks, in addition to the teams which run Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers in the Nextel Cup. Another of the dead was engine builder Randy Dorton, one of the top names in engine tuning in NASCAR and Joe Jackson, the DuPont executive who was responsible for the sponsorship deal on Gordon's car. The three others killed were all pilots: Hendrick's employees Dick Tracy and Liz Morrison and Scott Latham, a helicopter pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, who appears to have been hitching a ride on the 25 minute flight from Concord, North Carolina to Martinsville.

Rick Hendrick was not on board the flight as he usually would have been. He was unwell and decided not to go to watch the race.

The Bull Mountain area was reported to have been foggy all day. It is not the first such accident in the area as a small plane crashed in the vicinity in 2000, killing the pilot, and a US military bomber crashed there in the 1940s.

Most of the NASCAR teams now run their own private aircraft because of the need to fly crew members around quickly because of the 36 events in a year. The sport has lost a number of people in plane crashes including 1992 NASCAR champion, Alan Kulwicki, who was killed in a 1993 plane crash en route to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Later that year Davey Allison died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in the infield at Talladega Superspeedway.

Team owner Jack Roush nearly lost his life after crashing a small plane in Alabama in 2002 while CART team owner Tony Bettenhausen, his wife and team members died in a plane crash in Kentucky in February 2000.

Formula 1 has had its fair share of such incidents with double World Champion Graham Hill being killed along with his driver Tony Brise and several Hill team members in 1975 when flying back from a test. Several F1 drivers have been killed or injured in plane crashes, the most recent being in May 2000 when David Coulthard walked unscathed from a crash at Lyons airport in which the two pilots of his plane were killed.