Rick Hendrick , Owner of Hendrick Motorsports, addressed the media for the first time since the tragic plane crash in October: "This is going to be kind of hard for me so I'm going to do the best I can. I'm really here today for two reasons.
Rick Hendrick , Owner of Hendrick Motorsports, addressed the media for the first time since the tragic plane crash in October:
"This is going to be kind of hard for me so I'm going to do the best I can. I'm really here today for two reasons. Obviously I want to thank everyone in the NASCAR community and the fans for the outpouring of love and support. A lot of you right here in this room have been friends for an awful long time. You support us and our organization and I appreciate it. NASCAR itself, from the France family providing airplanes and being at my home, to the drivers and owners. Ray Evernham and Richard Childress flew out teams. The Lowe's people picked up my family in different parts of the country. All of things that this community has done for our family have been unbelievable. Kyle Petty called me. We spent time together. He knows exactly what I'm going through. One of the things Kyle said that meant a lot to me was, 'You know there are 365 days in year and there are 38 checkered flags.' The rest of the time we're all together here in buses and planes and on pit road. You spend more time with these folks in this garage than you do your own family. When somebody hurts, everybody hurts. It's been very obvious to my family and to me that everybody has been hurting with us and have sure been there to support us."
"I want to thank the Patrick County volunteers up where the accident happened. There were volunteer firemen and volunteer rescue squad people that slept on that mountain to take care of our family and our people. Those people weren't getting paid. They just did an unbelievable job. Marshall, my son-in-law here, has been up there with our family. My family has been there twice. The land owner has been gracious to us as well as the state police and the medical examiner. A small church up there cleared out pews so they could feed the people at night. Motor Racing Outreach has been phenomenal. We don't know how fortunate we are to have those people with us because I can tell you if you don't have your faith, your family and your friends you sure can't make it through something like this. Everyone involved, the NTSB and the FAA, have been phenomenal. Everyone has had a heart and they want to help. When the medical examiners worked around the clock instead of going home - those people deserve a lot of thank you's from us.
"A lot of you I see in here are unbelievably good friends and a lot of you were at the services. I know you have questions and that's your job. I know you do. I want to answer them for you. I've never not done that. At the appropriate time I will answer anything you want. Hopefully we'll get that done by the media tour. I'll give you every bit of the opportunity to ask me anything you want."
"I'm really proud of our organization. If you look at this year, it's been one of the best and one of the worst at the same time. We've got 14 Cup wins and 5 Busch wins and 3 ARCA wins and 22 (total) wins with Kyle (Busch) as Rookie of the Year who finished second in the points and two guys going for championship tomorrow. I'm proud of the organization. I'm proud of those statistics but I'm more proud of the fact that these guys, Pat Perkins and the folks at Motorsports, not only took care of my family but the other families. We had people with them around the clock and are still with them and still taking care of them. We had a job to do and the organization had a job to do and they showed up at Atlanta. They raced and we were fortunate enough to win. Everybody in that organization, 450 strong, stepped up. It wasn't one. It wasn't two. It was 450 people that just really, really stepped up. Our guys are champions no matter what happens tomorrow because of what they've been through. They've had a tough time. I couldn't have done it.
"I don't know how Brain Vickers, as close as he and Ricky were, could get in a car. I don't know how Jeff or Jimmie could do what they've done, or the crew chiefs or the tire changers. I know Kyle Busch and Ricky were awfully tight. Some of you don't know that. He was his spotter, his owner, his big brother and his friend. That kid wanted to win those two races extremely bad. I apologize for him when he got out of the car if he didn't stop and answer questions. I know where his heart was. He's 19 years old. I'm awful proud of him. He's a good boy.
"I'm here really today to support my teams that have worked hard and they deserve this sport because we got a job to do and we're going to do it. I can answer one of the questions for you. What's going to happen at Hendrick Motorsports? Who's going to take the place of Ricky and John? Before that we lost my dad four months prior to this deal. How about Jeff Turner the general manager or Randy Dorton who has been with me 20 years and Joe Jackson who was one of my best friends from DuPont and Liz and Dick that were flying the plane? We had Scott Lathram with us. We're going to honor those people by going on. I can't replace my family and I can't replace people like Randy Dorton and Jeff Turner but what our company has always done is we're a strong group, a lot of people with back up that are committed. The way we close those holes is together each one of us picks up pieces. I wanted to be at Darlington. That was one of the worst weekends since the tragedy but this week I've gathered a lot of strength from my people."
"When I got back to Motorsports and I've been there this week, it was amazing to me (to realize) all of things that Randy was doing and Jeff was doing and Ricky was doing. Everybody had picked up a little piece of it. I can just tell you that I love this sport. My family loved the sport. That's all Jennifer and Kimberly who graduated from college wanted to do. That's what John wanted to do. It kept my dad alive until he was 84 years old going over there when races weren't on TV and my mother would watch old tapes of Riverside or whatever was going on. To honor all of those people on that plane, I'm more committed to this sport than I've ever been. I think I'm overweight but I'm healthier than I've been in the last eight years. Together we're going to continue to try to be a strong competitor and a good citizen of this sport. We love the sport and love the people. The folks on that plane will never be forgotten. But we have to go on.
"I'm going to be on the box with Kyle for this race today. I'll be with the teams tomorrow. I promise you that I'll available to answer any questions that you might have but I just want you to know that from a standpoint of Motorsports, people are already engaged and I don't think they've missed a beat. We'll not ever replace them but we're all going to pick up the pieces and we're doing that right now. Marshall started at Motorsports. He's my son-in-law. I don't call him my son-in-law. He's my son. He's been in the automotive group. Now he's back over there with me. Bobby Rice who some of you saw that's been with me 25 years was at the track. He couldn't be here today because he has a wedding." He's been engaged and I cannot tell you how proud - with this championship, winning it would be nice - but I'm so proud of what our people have done in the face of all of this to give me strength and give each other strength to go ahead. They stepped up and Scott Lathram's wife is here today and I'm going to meet her in a little bit. We've all kind of banned together. You don't think you can get through but again with faith, and friends and family you can do it. Thank you."