Hendrick stays home during emergency

Updated: November 23, 2009, 5:21 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A family emergency kept team owner Rick Hendrick from celebrating a record-tying ninth Sprint Cup championship for Hendrick Motorsports Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hendrick's 29-year-old niece Alesha Gainey, the daughter of the late John Hendrick, who was killed in a 2004 plane crash near Martinsville Speedway, had an emergency liver transplant in North Carolina.

Team officials said Monday the surgery went well and she was recovering in intensive care.

"Rick obviously wishes he could be here . . . [but] Rick's priority at this point is to support his family at this crucial time," Hendrick Motorsports general manager Marshall Carlson said Sunday before the race.

Jimmie Johnson claimed his historic fourth straight Sprint Cup title over teammate Mark Martin. Teammate Jeff Gordon, the only other driver who had a chance at the title, finished third in the standings.

The title ties HMS with Richard Petty Enterprises for the most in NASCAR history.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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