NEW YORK (AP) _ Rick Hendrick, reeling from a federal indictment handed down earlier this week, got some moral support Thursday from NASCAR's president.

Hendrick, owner of the cars that won NASCAR's Winston Cup championship in 1995 and 1996, was charged in a 15-count federal indictment that accuses him of conspiring to bribe Honda executives to get more cars and dealerships.

One of the nation's largest auto retailers, Hendrick was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on 13 counts of money laundering and single counts of conspiracy and mail fraud.

Hendrick was expected to arrive in New York on Thursday to take part in the postseason festivities that will be capped Friday night when his championship driver, Terry Labonte, and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports team will be honored at the annual NASCAR Awards Banquet for their latest title. Jeff Gordon gave Hendrick his first Winston Cup championship a year ago.

Bill France Jr., head of the stock car series' sanctioning body, told a packed news conference, ``NASCAR has no knowledge of the allegations associated with the indictment of Rick Hendrick. ... However, when it comes to motorsports, we wish we had more car owners like Mr. Hendrick.

``The results of Hendrick Motorsports on the race track speak for themselves. Off the track, Rick has never asked for special consideration. He has never asked for a competitive advantage. He has consistently tried to promote the sport in every possible way.''

As for Labonte, who previously won the championship in 1984 while driving for another team, France said, ``I hope this was not someone's attempt to take advantage of Terry Labonte's celebration of his championship for their own purposes. He and his team have made too many sacrifices, and to have one drop of rain fall on Terry Labonte's parade would be too many.''

France refused to take questions about the situation, adding only, ``It wouldn't do much good for me to talk about it. I don't know anything about selling cars.''

A spokesman for Hendrick Motorsports, Dan Lohwasser, said Hendrick has been instructed by his attorney to refrain from speaking about the case to the media and will talk only about racing and the championship while in New York.

In a statement released Wednesday, Harold J. Bender, Hendrick's attorney, said his client will ``plead not guilty and vigorously defend these charges against him.''