One of auto racing's most successful dynasties was in mourning after a plane owned by Hendrick Motorsports crashed in thick fog en route to a NASCAR race, killing all 10 people aboard, including the son, brother and two nieces of owner Rick Hendrick.

STATEMENT FROM CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY VP/GM MATT ALEXANDER ABOUT THE HENDRICK PLANE CRASH - "It is with saddened hearts that we at Chicagoland Speedway extend our deepest condolences to the entire Hendrick organization and the families of those who lost their loved ones in the plane crash. Everyone in the motorsorts community will never forget them or the impact they had on our great sport. They will truly be missed and their family and organization will be in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

...In Lieu of Flowers

The Beech 200 King Air took off from Concord, N.C., and crashed Sunday in the Bull Mountain area seven miles from the Blue Ridge Regional Airport in Spencer, near the Martinsville Speedway, said Arlene Murray, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation Monday but an air safety investigator had not yet been to the crash site.

"There is no information that any flight data or cockpit voice recorders were on board the aircraft," the investigator, Brian Rayner, said.

Rayner said tapes of any communication between the pilot and the FAA had been requested by air traffic specialists and would be reviewed Monday.

Asked how the plane hit, Rayner said, "It's my understanding that the airplane struck a steep incline and that the airplane and all its associated parts are confined to an area approximately 200 feet long."

News of the crash halted Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson's victory celebration after the Subway 500 in Martinsville as word of the deaths filtered through the Hendrick team, which also includes drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers.

"It's just very tough," said Donnie Floyd, an employee of Hendrick, who placed a bouquet of flowers outside the company's Charlotte, N.C., headquarters. "We are like one big family."

Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement late Sunday asking "that those affected be kept in your thoughts and prayers, and respectfully requests that privacy be considered throughout this difficult time."

Rick Hendrick, 53, did not go to the race because he wasn't feeling well, a team spokesman said.

It was the second major plane accident in less than a week: On Tuesday, 13 people died and two were injured when a commuter plane crashed and burned near Kirksville, Mo. Many of the passengers were doctors and other medical professionals heading to a conference.

Hendrick employs 460 workers at its North Carolina compound, which includes race shops and a 15,000-square-foot museum and team store. Flowers were placed on shrubs leading into the compound.

Early Monday, a chaplain from the Motor Racing Outreach group met with Hendrick employees for a prayer service. Counselors and chaplains were available for workers.

Rick Hendrick and his wife Linda did not attend that service. In addition to their son Ricky, the couple also has a daughter.

The team spokesman said Hendrick's cars will race this weekend in Atlanta and that the company was spending Monday trying to finalize details for a memorial service.

The tragedy came on what was to be a triumphant day for the company, with Johnson winning his series-best sixth race and Gordon rallying from a poor start to finish ninth and move into second place in the championship standings.

NASCAR officials learned of the accident during the Subway 500 but withheld the news from the Hendrick drivers until afterward, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said.

NASCAR drivers reacted with a fam

iliar sadness. Series stars Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki were killed in separate air crashes in 1993.

"I was hoping I'd never hear this," NASCAR driver Mark Martin told the Speed Channel 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.

Driver Rusty Wallace, also a pilot, said he considered the airports in Talladega, Ala., and Martinsville the two most dangerous facilities to fly into for races.

Hendrick's team has been on a season-long celebration of its 20th anniversary in NASCAR's top series. The organization has won five titles in the top series, three truck series championships, and one Busch series crown.

The team has more than 100 Cup series wins, making Rick Hendrick just the second team owner in NASCAR's modern era to surpass that mark. He's also viewed as a pioneer for beginning the movement to multicar teams in the 1980s.

Hendrick Motorsports identified the dead as: Ricky Hendrick, 24, Rick Hendrick's son; John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick's brother and president of Hendrick Motorsports; Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick, John Hendrick's 22-year-old twin daughters; Joe Jackson, an executive with DuPont; Jeff Turner, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports; Randy Dorton, 50, the team's chief engine builder; Scott Lathram, 38, a pilot for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; and pilots Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrison, 31.

Ricky Hendrick began his career driving a Craftsman truck for his father, but retired from the Busch Series in 2002 because of a racing-related shoulder injury. His father then made him the owner of the Busch car Vickers drove to the series championship last season, and was grooming him for a larger role.

Joe McGovern, a racing fan from Concord, N.C., drove by the team's compound to pay his respects. "It's just devastating," he said. "This was just a great racing team and they are also such nice people."

Story: Associated Press

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