Missing The Boss

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. - - Hendrick Motorsports founder Rick Hendrick has not attended a NASCAR race since November 1996. A combination of health and legal problems have kept the car owner away from the track. He spent 1998 under house arrest as part of his plea bargain with prosecutors on charges resulting from his auto dealerships. In addition, Hendrick has been battling a form of leukemia since late in 1996. The treatments have often left him tired and weak. It was hoped that Hendrick would be able to attend the Speedweeks events at Daytona.

Drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Wally Dallenbach were hoping to be the first to get Rick back to victory lane. After capturing the pole position for the Daytona 500 on Saturday, February 6th, Hendrick was on pit road to congratulate Gordon. "(Rick) was doing a lot, seeing a lot of people, and the medication that he's on just takes a lot out of him," Gordon said after the race. "He said he had tears in his eyes because he really wanted to be here and I just hope that we can put a day like this together again in the near future when he is (at the track)."

John Hendrick said during the post race press conference, "Rick started feeling bad Friday afternoon and (contracted) a virus on Friday evening on top of the treatment he has. On Saturday morning he flew back to Charlotte." After returning home, Rick called his brother in Daytona on Saturday evening and indicated that he was feeling better and hoped to return for the race. "He called me (Sunday) morning at about 7:30 and said, 'This virus has still got me. I still can't make it.' He ran himself too hard this week but then he picked up a virus that kind of wore him down," Hendrick said.

As a result, he was unable to attend the Daytona 500 where Jeff Gordon pulled into victory lane. The winning car owner was absent this time; but it's likely he'll be able to enjoy a victory lane celebration sometime this season. The party's not complete without the boss.

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