NASCAR President Backs Hendrick
NEW YORK (AP) _ Rick Hendrick, accused of conspiring to bribe Honda executives to get more cars and dealerships, received some support Thursday from NASCAR’s president.
Hendrick owns the cars that won NASCAR’s Winston Cup championship in 1995 and 1996. He is also one of the nation’s largest auto retailers.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on 13 counts of money laundering and single counts of conspiracy and mail fraud.
``NASCAR has no knowledge of the allegations associated with the indictment of Rick Hendrick,″ said Bill France Jr., head of the stock car series’ sanctioning body. ``... However, when it comes to motorsports, we wish we had more car owners like Mr. Hendrick.″
Hendrick was expected in New York on Thursday for postseason festivities that will be capped Friday night. 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.
``The results of Hendrick Motorsports on the race track speak for themselves,″ France said. ``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.″
Labonte previously won the championship in 1984 while driving for another team.
``I hope this was not someone’s attempt to take advantage of Terry Labonte’s celebration of his championship for their own purposes,″ France said. ``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.
``It wouldn’t do much good for me to talk about it,″ he said. ``I don’t know anything about selling cars.″
Harold Bender, Hendrick’s attorney, said his client will plead not guilty.
A spokesman for Hendrick Motorsports, Dan Lohwasser, said Hendrick has been instructed to refrain from speaking about the case and will talk only about racing while in New York.