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Hendrix Has Raced Back From Coronary Bypass Surgery in '96

May 17, 2000|DARIN ESPER

To say Rick Hendrix of Simi Valley has a passion for racing is an understatement.

The 47-year-old missed the majority of the 1996 United States Auto Club Western Midget Car series season after having a heart attack and undergoing coronary bypass surgery. Hendrix came back to finish second in the points standings in 1997 and won his second championship in 1998.

"My love of racing was tremendous motivation and probably one of the reasons I came back so soon," Hendrix said. "I'd be in those hospital rooms, and [racing] was all I'd think about. [It] definitely [helped my recovery]."

Hendrix has competed in the USAC Western Region Sprint Car series and the Western Midget Car series the last two seasons.

His goal is to become the first driver to win USAC Western region championships in three divisions--sprint, midget and TQ midget. He is focusing on capturing a second midget title thanks to a strong start that has him sixth in the standings following his second-place finish at King's Speedway in Hanford on Saturday.

In 1998, Hendrix competed in 35 sprint and midget races, and finished fourth in the sprint series. He plans to compete in more than 40 races this year between the two series, and is ninth in the sprint car standings despite missing two races.

Hendrix will race at one of his favorite tracks Saturday, when the midgets return to Perris Auto Speedway for the first time since 1996. He started racing TQ midgets in 1986 at Ventura Raceway and won a championship in that division in 1992.

The heart attack came in May, 1996, after Hendrix had won two races. Hendrix underwent a series of tests before his doctors decided to perform a single bypass in August.

"I haven't had any trouble at all," Hendrix said. "It was only one artery, and they didn't have to use one from my leg. They took one from my chest, and it is immune to the disease.

"The doctors said it was genetics. My father had a heart attack at 59."

Hendrix was back in a race car in November, 1996. He practiced for the 100-lap Turkey Night Grand Prix, then decided against racing after consulting with his doctors.

In January 1997, Hendrix competed in the Chili Bowl midget race at Tulsa.

As the 1998 season was concluding, Hendrix entered into his first sponsorship agreement with father and son Homer and Rick Park.

The Parks are racing enthusiasts who own Afterburner Precision Products and B&C Machine, located across the street from Hendrix's automatic-fence business in Canoga Park.

"Here at the business, I have always tried to keep racing low-key, because I didn't want my employees thinking that I spend all of my money on racing," Hendrix said. "We were neighbors for the longest time and didn't know I raced."

Hendrix said he plans to compete as long as he can remain competitive and still have fun.

"I have goals to win that sprint championship and that can't happen until 2001," Hendrix said. "So I will race at least through 2001."

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