Martinsville Five Years Later

2009 Daytona 500 119

(photo courtesy of Leon Hammack)

It has been five years since that fateful foggy Sunday afternoon on October 24, 2004.  A Beechcraft Super King Air 200 airplane, owned by Hendrick Motorsports, bound for the Martinsville racetrack crashed while trying to land at the Martinsville airport.

There were no survivors.  Lost in the crash were; John Hendrick, brother and President of Hendrick Motorsports, John’s twin daughters Kimberly and Jenifer Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky, General Manager of HMS Jeff Turner, chief engine builder for HMS Randy Dorton, a DuPont executive Joe Jackson, Tony Stewart’s helicopter pilot Scott Latham, and the pilots of the aircraft, Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrison.

On this Sunday on October 24,2004, there was no victory celebration after the race in victory lane.  Instead, NASCAR  cancelled all victory lane ceremonies and summoned all of the Hendrick Motorsports crew members to the NASCAR hauler to notify them of the tragedy that had occurred during the running of the race.  It was at that point that the race teams and all of the viewing public was informed of the  HMS tragedy.

That Sunday, October 24, 2004 in Martinsville, contrasted dramatically from a Sunday in the spring of 1984 at that same racetrack in Martinsville,VA.  In the spring of 1984 a young car dealer put together a NASCAR race team called All-Star Racing. In the cockpit sat a very hungry and young driver named Geoff Bodine.  It was there at Martinsville that both the young race car driver and young entrepreneur, Rick Hendrick, scored their first NASCAR victory!  All-Star Racing had arrived on the scene!

Fast forward to this spring.  On the 25th anniversary of All-Star Racing, now Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson shows the field the fast way around Martinsville and logs still another victory for HMS.  It was a very joyous celebration for both Rick Hendrick and driver Jimmie Johnson, unlike the victory that occurred at Martinsville on Sunday October 24, 2004.

Is there some coincidence that Hendrick Motorsports has experienced both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows at Martinsville?  How can one place trigger both of those emotions and hold such a contrasting memory for one organization?

As we approach the 5th anniversary of the Hendrick Motorsports tragedy at Martinsville, I have included this video to pay respect to those whose lives were lost on that foggy Sunday afternoon near Martinsville, VA.

Go rest high up on that mountain, you’re work on earth is done!



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