10 die as Hendrick plane crashes
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- A plane owned by the Hendrick Motorsports organization 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 teams.
The Beech 200 took off from Concord, N.C., and crashed in the Bull Mountain area about seven miles west of Martinsville's Blue Ridge Regional Airport about 12:30 p.m., said Arlene Murray, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
A spokesman for a funeral home where the bodies were being taken said the dead included the four relatives of Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports.
The weather in the area was overcast at the time of the crash, according to Jan Jackson of the National Weather Service in Blacksburg.
NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were on their way to the crash site, which was in rough terrain, but could not begin their examination until Monday.
Hendrick owns the teams of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers, who competed in Sunday's Subway 500 in the Nextel Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR learned of the plane's disappearance during the race but withheld the information from the Hendrick drivers until afterward, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. All the Hendrick drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler immediately after the race and Johnson, who won the race, was excused from Victory Lane.
"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.
NASCAR has spoken with Rick Hendrick, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said, adding that neither NASCAR nor the Hendrick organization would have further comment Sunday night.
Hendrick had been on a season-long celebration of its 20th anniversary in NASCAR's top series.