By Nancy Knapp Schilke
Rick Hendrick, his family and the Hendrick Motorsports organization are in the process of mourning the loss of their loved ones and friends who were on board the small Beech 200 plane that crashed on Sunday near Martinsville. The following is a brief insight into the life of John Hendrick.
John Hendrick , President of Hendrick Motorsports, father of Kimberly and Jennifer; his twin daughters who were with him on the flight.
John Hendrick took over the reins of Hendrick Motorsports when his brother, the team owner, asked him handle his team for two reasons. One was Rick Hendrick's battle with leukemia and the other was due to a plea bargain he had made with the government.
In 1998, John Hendrick assumed the CEO duties of one of NASCAR's top teams. His duties would entail day-to-day control of the racing operation. At the time, many in the racing world wondered if the team would survive. It not only survived, the team grew stronger as they rallied around the Hendrick family.
In July of 2004, the family and team again supported one another as Rick and John's father, Joseph R. "Papa Joe" Hendrick, Jr. passed away. Now they gather in sadness for the loss of four family members: Ricky Hendrick, Rick's son; John Hendrick, and the 22-year-old twin daughters of John: Kimberly and Jennifer Hendrick.
When John Hendrick took over control of the company, he admitted he knew little about cars, let alone race engines and chassis. The team was losing key people in the organization including Terry Labonte's crew chief and part of Jeff Gordon's crew.
To top it off, the research that Hendrick Motorsports had done on the new chassis was made useless when NASCAR announced chassis rule changes for the 1998 season.
Hendrick took the plunge and made it all work, by mid-season, some of the rumors of the team being sold off piece-by-piece had vanished and then driver Ricky Craven crashed and due to his concussion, Craven would miss four events that year.
The rumors of the then four-year-old organization would fall apart resurfaced. Again, the team survived and so did John Hendrick.
One reason that those who were with Hendrick Motorsports back during the crisis time and still remain is due not only due to the leadership that Hendrick showed, but more importantly due to the family atmosphere.
John Hendrick made if very clear from the beginning that he was "not there to replace Rick, as that would be impossible to do." His position, in his mind, was to make sure that the organization remained successful until his brother Rick returned.
John Hendrick remained with his brother as they led Hendrick Motorsports into the next two decades. The team was celebrating their 20th year in 2004. A year now marked not by their wins and goals but by personal loss.
Jennifer Hendrick worked in the Hendrick Motorsports Marketing Department. At this time, we are unable to report if Kimberly was attending college or if she too was involved in the family business.