Fans of NASCAR know it wasn't all that long ago that the Hendrick Motorsports family lost several of its members in a tragic plane crash in the Bull Mountain area of Virginia. In 2004, a plane carrying eight Hendrick team members crashed on its way to a race in Virginia, killing all eight members of the organization, as well as two pilots. Among those Hendrick team members killed were Rick Hendrick's son, Ricky Hendrick, his brother, and his twin nieces.
Fans will also know that another plane-related issue in 2011 in Key West, Fla., wherein the plane lost control of its brakes and crash-landed, resulted in Hendrick himself suffering a broken rib and clavicle.
In light of all these prior issues, it's mind-boggling and ultimately terrifying to think that the Hendrick Motorsport family could again be beset upon by further plane-related problems. But that's just what happened early Monday as a Hendrick team plane was returning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After a fuel stop in Oklahoma, with the team en route to North Carolina, smoke discovered in the cabin forced the plane to make an emergency landing at Memphis International Airport in Tennessee.
Fortunately, none of the passengers aboard were injured - there were no drivers on the flight - or suffered from smoke inhalation and another plane was dispatched from North Carolina to retrieve the team members, team spokesman Jesse Essex said.
The malfunctioning plane was an Embraer twin-engine regional jet. It has been towed to Wilson Air Center and is being evaluated.
The Hendrick Motorsports team were coming off an extremely successful Sunday in Las Vegas. Three of the team's cars finished in the top-10 in the Kobalt 400, with Jimmie Johnson checkering in third place and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne landing in eighth and 10th, respectively.
Chase Elliott, after earning his first top-10 finish the week prior, had his day ended early after a wreck with about 44 laps left to go.