During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said that his 29-year-old niece, Alesha Gainey, received a liver transplant on Sunday. She is not conscious, but is in stable condition, and all signs point toward recovery. Hendrick
left Florida before the championship-deciding Ford 400
to support Gainey and her family while she awaited an emergency liver transplant at a North Carolina hospital. Gainey is the daughter of the late John Hendrick, Rick's brother who died in the 2004 plane crash
near Martinsville Speedway. The crash also claimed the lives of John's twin daughters and Rick's son, among others.
Hendrick said he received a phone call from Gainey's husband on Friday alerting him to Gainey's condition, which Hendrick labeled "critical." He flew home Friday night. On Saturday, Gainey's health deteriorated. Hendrick called the day "very grim." On Sunday Gainey's health improved enough to allow for transplant surgery. The owner said that he ducked into the waiting room on a few occasions to watch the race and saw the end, when Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson won his record fourth straight Sprint Cup title, but the race was not even close to his main concern. "I could not have enjoyed the race or celebration," he said. "I needed to be there with my family."
Hendrick said the healing process will be slow - he said Gainey's kidneys have yet to start functioning and "we are not out of the woods yet" - but her progress thus far is encouraging. Said Hendrick, "The good news is the liver is working, she's stable and we're going to have a very good Thanksgiving.''
Rick Hendrick not at Homestead