As his drivers prepare to do battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title at Homestead Miami Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports team boss Rick Hendrick has returned to his home in North Carolina due to family issues.

Hendrick's team will secure its ninth Sprint Cup title regardless of the result at Homestead, with Jimmie Johnson poised to snare a fourth straight crown, but the boss himself has elected to miss the event to be at the bedside of his niece - who is in a critical condition in hospital being prepared for a liver transplant.

Alesha Gainey is the 29-year-old daughter of John Hendrick, who was one of the people killed in the Hendrick plane crash at Martinsville back in 2004.

"Rick obviously wishes that he could be here," Hendrick general manager Marshall Carlson told the official NASCAR website. "He's incredibly proud of the accomplishments of the team, and has asked me to personally express his total confidence in their capabilities. They know exactly what needs to be done, and they know how to do it.

"Rick's priority at this point is supporting his family at this critical time. Again, he wishes he could be here. He's so proud of the teams. But he needs to be back in North Carolina with his niece and her family."



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