CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — No detail had been overlooked as Hendrick Motorsports spent more than a year planning its 40th anniversary celebration. The first employees hired by Rick Hendrick were invited, special throwback paint schemes designed and Hendrick was to drive the pace car.

The extravaganza was to be held at Martinsville Speedway, the first track Virginia native Hendrick attended as a child. It’s sort of his home track — even though Charlotte Motor Speedway is in the shadow of what Hendrick calls his motorsports “campus,” — but it’s also the most complicated track for NASCAR’s winningest team.

Martinsville is where Hendrick has built its legacy with a track-record 29 victories, and it is where Rick Hendrick’s first of a record 305 wins (and counting) has kept the team in business.

It is also where his son, his brother, his twin nieces and key executives were among the 10 killed in a 2004 plane crash on its way to that October’s race.

Just like he wasn’t there for the day of a 1984 organization-saving win and that awful day 20 years ago, he wasn’t there for the 40th celebration at Martinsville over the weekend.

“The crash that took so many of our people makes it hard to go back up there,” Hendrick said Monday. “But you can’t blame the track for what happened at the airport.”

Hendrick tends to make the annual trip each spring — it is the October race he struggles with — and a great deal of effort was put into the celebration. But the 74-year-old Hendrick had knee replacement surgery five weeks ago and scratched his trip.

Hendrick instead watched on television at home with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, surrounded by celebratory balloons, as Daytona 500 winner William Byron led a 1-2-3 finish for Hendrick Motorsports.

It all figures that Martinsville, again, played such a role in what’s become of that kid who grew up on a tobacco farm near tiny Palmer Springs, Virginia. He worked on race cars in his spare time, but really wanted to race speed boats. His mother put an end to that so Hendrick, who had first visited the Martinsville short track with his father, moved to automobiles.

He is now the largest private car dealer in the United States, his NASCAR team is the greatest in sport’s history and next month Rick Hendrick will enter the Indianapolis 500 for the first time when Kyle Larson attempts to run the race and the Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina on the same day.

Hs rise is full circle from Martinsville, where start-up All-Star Racing was out of money just a handful of races into Hendrick’s NASCAR career. His crew chief talked Hendrick into at least giving Martinsville a go, and even though Hendrick had to miss the race because he was at a church retreat, Geoffrey Bodine won the race that helped launch Hendrick into what it is today.

Some facts:

— Bodine’s win at Martinsville came in the eighth race of the 1984 season; Byron’s win Sunday came in the eighth race of Hendrick’s 40th anniversary season.

— Byron’s win was a Martinsville team record 29th for Hendrick, which became the first team in track history to go 1-2-3 at NASCAR’s oldest and shortest track.

— Martinsville is the only track where the current Hendrick lineup of Byron, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, have all won a race. Hendrick has won the last three spring races at Martinsville and five of the last Cup Series races there, including the fall playoff race.

— Hendrick Motorsports is the only team to have led over 10,000 laps at Martinsville.

Off the track, Martinsville is where Hendrick suffered his greatest loss. His only other mention Monday of the 2004 plane crash was that “spring race I can go to OK; fall race, no.”

And so he ended up missing out on his own party Sunday at Martinsville, where he texted vice chairman Jeff Gordon so many times throughout the day that Gordon had to stop looking at his phone. The wait was worth it when Gordon called from victory lane.

“I didn’t want to do anything other than hold my breath and wait for it to be over,” Gordon said. “When I did talk to him, we just had a great moment of kind of in awe and shock. Even as much as he’s accomplished, this company has accomplished, when we do things like (Sunday), especially something that’s never done before, the 1-2-3 finish at Martinsville, he’s just so humble and appreciative. I love that about him.”

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AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/hub/nascar-racing