What happened to Ricky Hendrick as Kyle Larson wins at Kansas?

Jake Nichol October 25, 2021
What happened to Ricky Hendrick as Kyle Larson wins at Kansas?
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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Kyle Larson picked up yet another win at Kansas on Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series, and paid tribute in Victory Lane to Ricky Hendrick, but what happened to the late son of team owner Rick Hendrick?

Kyle Larson wins – again

Larson is having one of them seasons.

His victory at Kansas was his ninth of the campaign – no-one else has more than four.

He has the most stage wins of anybody – 17 which is nearly double that of second-best driver Denny Hamlin (10).

Larson broke the record for the most laps led in a Cup campaign since it went to 36 races in 2001, breaking Jeff Gordon’s record.

It is the most laps a driver has led since 1995.

But Larson did not need to win at Kansas.

Victory the week before at Texas had already locked him into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix on November 7th.

This was just an exhibition of a driver at one with his package, team and car and going out to do what he does best.

It was his third win on the trot, too.

It makes Larson the first driver since Dale Earnhardt Sr in 1987 to win three consecutive races two times in a single season.

But this one, this win was poignant.

This one came on October 24th – the 17th anniversary of the death of Ricky Hendrick – the son of Hendrick Motorsports boss Rick Hendrick.

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What happened to Ricky Hendrick

Ricky Hendrick was the heir to the Hendrick Motorsports empire, as son of Rick Hendrick.

In October 2004, he caught a flight aboard the Hendrick Beechcraft Super King to get to Martinsville for the race there.

Also onboard were team president John Hendrick – brother of Rick and uncle to Ricky – as well as key team personnel, including GM Jeff Turner and engine builder Randy Dorton.

John Hendrick’s two daughters were also aboard the flight which departed North Carolina for Virginia and Martinsville.

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It was on approach into Blue Ridge Airport in VA, that the aircraft crashed in heavy, thick fog.

An investigation by the NTSB found that the pilots had performed a ‘missed approach’ on their initial landing attempt.

On the second try, the aircraft did not have sufficient altitude and crashed into the side of a mountain.

The race at Martinsville was already underway by the time of the crash.

Appropriately, Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson would win the race.

Ricky Hendrick’s NASCAR career

Much to the chagrin of his father, Ricky Hendrick would wear his cap backwards.

To honour those lost in the crash, during the race at Kansas on Lap 5 the entire Hendrick fleet saluted those lost by turning their hats backwards.

The pit-crews of Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman all emerged on pit-wall.

At the time, Larson was leading.

The #5 Camaro was also sporting the same livery in the Cup race at Kansas that Ricky Hendrick used in his sole NASCAR win.

Hendrick never did compete in the Cup Series, but raced in the Busch (now XFinity) Series and the Trucks.

His sole NASCAR tour win came in 2001 at the wheel of the #17 Chevy.

It was a strong season for the then-21-year-old, posting 19 top 10 results and taking sixth in the standings.

Where did that win come? Yep, you guessed it, it was Kansas…

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.