SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2001
This year, auto racing lost a legend, Dale Earnhardt. Thirty-two more people died,
including a grandmother, a soybean farmer and others pictured below.
Each year, an average of 22 drivers, fans and workers never come home from races.
Death track R AC I N G ’ S H U M A N T O L L
RISKS IN THE STANDS By Liz Chandler UNFIT DRIVERS
THE When someone dies in auto racing, it’s often called a freak ON THE
thing or a fluke – so isolated and rare it can’t happen again.
FANS But deaths aren’t as rare or isolated as the racing world be-
It’s one of racing’s worst lieves. An Observer investigation found at least 260 people across The ill, the reckless and
America died in auto racing since 1990. Patterns are evident;
fears: A fan dies at a track. the young can race at
deaths occur an average of 22 times a year.
Since 1990, it’s happened Among those killed were 29 spectators, including five children. America’s tracks, which
to at least 29 spectators. An additional 200 drivers and fans suffered traumatic injuries. often don’t screen drivers.
In this year alone, a grandmother in a wheelchair was killed in
PA G E S 4 - 5 PA G E S 1 2 - 1 3
the grandstands at an Ohio track; a Florida driver was decapi-
tated when he hit a guardrail; and driver Dean Roper died 10
RACING’S DEAD months after his son, Tony, was killed in a wreck in Texas. WHAT’S NEXT
260 “That is not acceptable,” said Lowe’s tracks, and, typically, 4 to 6 feet on drag SOLUTIONS,
Motor Speedway President H.A. strips. Walls and guardrails have failed
STORIES “Humpy” Wheeler, who like other rac- to keep cars on smaller tracks. Specta- CHANGES
ing leaders guessed the death toll was tors are allowed into high-risk areas;
Young and old, half of what The Observer found. “This some tracks allow children into garag-
How can racing be safer?
is something the industry has to deal es and pits, the least protected areas.
professionals and with. We have a moral obligation.” • Potentially dangerous drivers are Drivers, safety experts,
The toll also surprised former Indy allowed to race.
blue-collar, these are racing champion Mario Andretti. “We Except in top divisions, drivers are racing organizations and
know how to make cars go fast,” he rarely screened for experience or health
the sport’s losses. said. “Now maybe we should spend problems. Since 1990, at least 32 drivers others offer their ideas.
even more time and energy in making died from heart attacks while racing,
PA G E S 6 - 9 cars safer.” sometimes hurting other drivers or PA G E S 1 4 - 1 5
Stock car racing legend Richard fans. Children too young for a driver’s
Petty, whose grandson died in a racing license can race at many tracks. Drivers
wreck, was surprised by the number, with revoked licenses or drunk driving
SAFETY OVERSIGHT but characterized it as tolerable, given convictions are allowed to compete. TRACK DIAGRAM
the 12-year span of the study. “That’s a • Head and neck injuries killed at least
WHO’S lot of racing,” he said.
No one keeps track of how many
half the drivers.
Superstar Dale Earnhardt’s death in
WATCHING people die in racing. Since most deaths
are deemed freak accidents, the sport
February drew attention to the need for
head restraints, which NASCAR in Oc-
has been slow to detect patterns and tober mandated for its top-level races.
Racing is under pressure make changes that might save lives. But a majority of U.S. racers don’t wear A detailed look
In a study of fatal wrecks since 1990, restraints. Most track owners and rac-
to be safer, but there’s The Observer found these patterns: ing groups don’t require them. at the most common
• Fences and barriers fail regularly. • Medical response can be inadequate.
little agreement on who In addition to the 29 spectator Emergency preparedness varies, de-
trouble spots at tracks
deaths, at least 70 were injured. Track pending on a track’s size and resources.
should set standards. owners say car parts and debris com- In at least 18 instances, families of dead
for fans and drivers.
monly clear fences, which vary in and injured drivers say the rescue re-
PA G E S 1 0 - 1 1 height from about 9 to 22 feet on oval SEE INVESTIGATION |2N
PA G E 1 6
[ RACING’S HUMAN TOLL ]
GLENN SMITH – ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
This Daytona 500 wreck, which killed racing legend Dale Earnhardt (3) on Feb. 18, prompted NASCAR to look more closely at safety. In the months since, NASCAR has mandated head restraints and is planning a
research center for safety and competitive issues. NASCAR also plans to install crash data recorders in its premier cars.
DEATH AT THE TRACK Fatal accidents aren’t ﬂukes: The average is 22 a year
A surprising toll: 260 dead
Investigation from 1N Who Died, and Where
Details about those killed at
sponse was inadequate. Some small racetracks since 1990.
tracks provide untrained rescuers and
no ambulances or firetrucks. THE DEATHS
“Racing has become so popular that • Deaths occurred in 44 states at
everybody wants a piece of it...but no- 190 racetracks, drag strips, road
body wants to take responsibility for courses and off-road courses.
safety,” said Dr. Terry Trammell, an In- • The dead were 204 drivers, 29
dianapolis surgeon and consultant for spectators, 24 track workers and
Championship Auto Racing Teams crew, and three journalists.
(CART). “A few groups try to do the • At least 32 drivers have died of
right thing, but the industry is so frag- heart attacks.
mented that you have some terribly un-
safe racing going on.” THE STATES
In more than 400 interviews, plus • Florida had the most at 28;
newspaper and Internet searches, The California, 27; Indiana, 15; North
Observer documented 260 deaths in all Carolina was fourth at 14. South
levels of U.S. auto racing – from premier Carolina had two.
Winston Cup and Indy car events to • North and South Carolinians
dirt-track races. The study began with killed at U.S. tracks total 25. That’s
deaths in 1990, when more media and nearly 1 in 10 of all U.S. deaths.
databases became available on the In-
ternet. The study excluded deaths from THE DIVISIONS
youth go-karts, motorcycles, monster • NASCAR had at least 36 deaths
trucks, mud racing and racing schools. of drivers and fans – more than any
Among the dead were 204 drivers, 29 other group.
spectators, 24 track workers and crew,
and three journalists. The tally is likely THE TRACKS
low because some deaths receive little, • More died at Lowe’s Motor
if any, media attention. Speedway than at any other U.S.
The study shows, on average, 14 driv- track: four drivers and three fans.
ers die in crashes yearly; three others • Major raceways – which make
die of health problems on the track. up 4 percent of America’s 1,300
For comparison, in football, four play- JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTO tracks – accounted for 20 percent
ers die from injuries playing the sport Blaise Alexander Jr. moved to the Charlotte area to take advantage of its status in the racing industry. He died Oct. 4 at of deaths.
each year, and nine from health prob- Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Above, in his hometown of Montoursville, Pa., pallbearers walk away from his hearse.
lems, such as heatstroke, on the field.
But more people play football than
race. About 1.8 million play football line – and it’s a tough line to walk. Except for a few elite racing groups, They collect detailed information on safety to the track owners. Track own-
each year, from sandlot to pro leagues. You’ve got to have some danger or it most of the 200 race organizers conduct every accident within their divisions, ers tend to rely on insurance companies
Estimates of drivers range from 50,000 gets boring and nobody wants to little – if any – accident analysis, which which they say helps identify patterns to tell them what’s safe.
to 400,000. Using the highest number, watch.” could more quickly identify patterns or and reduce injuries. Since 1990, CART Insurance companies say they’re not
which results in the most conservative Leaders say racing is safer than it risky conditions. When safety improve- has had two drivers die in the United safety experts either. They sell insur-
estimate, racing’s rate of death is more once was because they constantly eval- ments are made, they aren’t adopted in- States. IRL has not had a driver death. ance based on risks.
than five times that of football’s. uate and improve safety. But even racing dustrywide. And safety information Both groups, however, have had acci- “Just because a track is insured
insiders call it a reactive industry with isn’t routinely shared among groups, dents that resulted in fan deaths. Now, doesn’t mean it’s safe,” said Len Ash-
Dangerous, with a growing appeal too many deaths. whose equipment and research is often they require that tires be tethered to burn, a retired insurance agent who spe-
In the 1990s, auto racing’s popularity “We recognize that we need to get considered proprietary. cars. cialized in racetrack policies.
boomed. Attendance doubled at ahead of the curve instead of constantly “These are basically 1,000 indepen- The balance of the 200 racing groups Dr. Trammell, the CART consultant,
NASCAR’s Winston Cup events. Eleven being reactive,” said NASCAR vice dent businesspeople across the coun- control another 25 percent of races. visits tracks to help CART determine
major racetracks were built or planned president Jim Hunter, whose stock-car try,” said Allan Brown, publisher of The Most of those are merely networks of hazards. “There’s no manual for how
for stock cars and the sleeker open- governing body is among the largest of National Speedway Directory. “It’s very drivers who just want a place to race. you build or inspect a track, and be-
wheeled cars. 200 groups that organize races. difficult to pin down what’s going on Then there are the independents – cause there’s no book and there’s noth-
The sport went Hollywood with its NASCAR officials have been “Nean- out there.” the small-track owners who stage their ing organized, track owners build some-
marketing, and to Wall Street, where derthals” in their data collection and ac- About half of all U.S. races are con- own races and run their own tracks as thing just like all the rest of the tracks,”
stock in racing organizations is now cident investigation, Hunter said. trolled by those 200 racing organiza- entrepreneurs. They control the re- he said. “...All you do is perpetuate the
traded. In 2001, NASCAR landed a six- Earnhardt’s death, and the questions tions, which generally schedule and maining 50 percent of races, and are the same old mistakes.”
year, $2.4 billion television deal. it raised, intensified NASCAR’s atten- promote the events. Most make few – if most cost-sensitive to safety measures. The Observer study found most
The sport’s speed and power, which tion to safety. In addition to mandating any – demands on driver or fan safety. “If some group wants to put too many deaths happened at the small tracks. But
draw fans, also make it inherently dan- head restraints, it plans to install crash About 10 of those groups, the largest rules on me, they don’t come in here,” major raceways – which make up 4 per-
gerous. Promoters say they need dan- data recorders in its premier cars, as and most influential in the U.S. racing said Russell Hackett, owner of Caraway cent of America’s 1,300 tracks – ac-
ger. CART has done. It also plans a research industry, control about 25 percent of the Speedway in Asheboro. “Nobody’s go- counted for a disproportionate 20 per-
“It’s not a blood sport people want. center that will study both safety and races across America, said Brown, who ing to tell me how to run my business.” cent of deaths.
The loudest roar you’ll ever hear from a competitive issues. contacts almost every track annually. His track is safe, he said, because: NASCAR had at least 36 deaths of
crowd is when a driver who appears to “It’s a whole new world since Dale Among the most popular and safety- “You learn through years of doing it.” drivers and fans – more than any other
be seriously hurt gets up and walks Earnhardt died,” said Hunter. conscious are CART and Indy Racing Caraway’s one death, he said, “was a racing group. Nineteen died at
away,” said Lowe’s speedway President But even Earnhardt’s death hasn’t League, which have about 150 drivers. freak thing. It was just the way he hit.” NASCAR-run races, including eight in
Wheeler. “But you’ve got to walk the united the fragmented racing industry. Their fenderless cars top 200 mph. Racing organizations generally leave SEE INVESTIGATION |NEXT PAGE
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 2N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[ RACING’S HUMAN TOLL ]
D EAT H JUST PA RT O F STO RY
In addition to the 260 people who
have died in racing since 1990, at least
200 others suffered traumatic injuries.
Among them are:
JAY WRIGHT, 51, a NASA engineer from
Shore Acres, Texas, severed his spinal
cord in two places when the car he was
driving crashed in practice at Road At-
lanta Motor Sports Center in Georgia in
1993. Doctors say he will never walk.
VERNON HOLZER, 29, a welder who was
living in Brookings, S.D., can’t speak or
hold up his head six years after a tire
and other car parts hit him while he
worked as a pit crew member at Lake
County Speedway in South Dakota.
Holzer blinks his eyes once for yes,
twice for no and is fed by a stomach
tube. A family friend visits him in his
nursing home daily to exercise his arms
MICKEY HUDSPETH, 35, a heavy equip-
ment operator in Ronda, N.C., nearly
severed his left hand in an accident at JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTOS
Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1996. Doc-
tors amputated it at the wrist. He began
racing again in 1997, using a sophis-
ticated prosthetic hand. A school superintendent’s story
DENNIS TERNING, 36, a Cokato, Minn.,
farmer and track owner, is paralyzed With help from his brother, Frank, and his wife, David Anspaugh undergoes water
from his chest down, except for limited
therapy three times a week to help rebuild his muscles and regain his strength.
use of his right arm. He was injured in
1993 while competing at Arlington Anspaugh, 53, of Sturgis, Mich., is still in a nursing home more than a year after an
Raceway in Minnesota. An assistant Aug. 26, 2000, accident at The Milwaukee Mile. The Waldron (Mich.) Area Schools
bathes and dresses him, and helps him
in and out of his wheelchair.
superintendent was driving about 100 mph when his accelerator apparently stuck
and his car crashed into the first turn wall, slamming his brain against his skull.
DOMINIC CICERO, 21, a racing instructor Anspaugh can feed himself, brush his teeth and shave with an electric razor. But
from Vancouver, Wash., was driving a
high-speed kart last year at Pat’s Acres his speech is erratic. And when he goes to races now, he rides in a wheelchair.
Karting Complex in Canby, Ore. when Will he ever race again?
he was pitched into the air after a crash. “He talks about it,” says his wife, Charlotte. “I don’t really want him to, but that’s a
The impact of his body hitting the
ground ripped off the top third of his decision he’s going to have to make.”
right lung, and doctors could not reat- — DIANE SUCHETKA
tach it. Cicero is racing in England.
––––––– father was killed in 1996 by a tire in the killing a retired truck driver who that 91⁄2 years have passed, nothing has
Investigation from previous page pit at Texas’ Thunderbird Speedway. pushed his girlfriend to safety. changed....It’s a forgotten issue again.”
Inexperienced drivers also elevate
Drivers take the risk danger. Most small tracks don’t screen
3 deaths in past month
BANKING: The sloping of the
its Winston Cup series, where speeds Richard Petty best defines drivers’ ac- drivers for experience. Large tracks, too, The Oct. 4 death of driver Blaise Al- racetrack surface, measured in
are highest. The other 17 died at small ceptance of fate. His grandson, Adam, host events for the inexperienced. At exander Jr. was the most recent highly degrees from horizontal.
tracks where NASCAR sanctions races died in 2000 when his car struck a wall Lowe’s Motor Speedway, three drivers publicized crash. Despite seven months
but leaves safety to local operators. in New Hampshire. He doesn’t blame were killed in separate races for novices. of clamor about requiring head re- CAUTION: A period of a race when
NASCAR uses the short-track races racing. “If he was in an airplane, we ARCA (Auto Racing Club of Ameri- straints, he didn’t wear one. He died at the field is required to slow behind
to help develop drivers and widen its wouldn’t blame airplanes,” he said. ca) is a developmental division that Lowe’s Motor Speedway from a head in- the pace car, and passing is not
exposure, NASCAR’s Hunter said. “We Drivers need to believe it won’t hap- helps drivers move from short tracks jury similar to Earnhardt’s. allowed. Cautions come about
try to pick tracks and owners we think pen to them. “You get a guy who drives a into the large ovals, but the group draws Since then, at least two more drivers when there is trouble on the track
are responsible, but we don’t run the race car, he’s a little like a hunter who criticism for its drivers’ skills. have died. (an accident, an oil leak, rain, etc.).
race. It’s the track’s responsibility to could get shot, but he’s never thinking Julius “Slick” Johnson of Florence, On Oct. 19, Billy Anderson died in CHASSIS: The frame and
make sure they run a safe event.” about getting shot,” Petty said. S.C., died at Daytona in a 1990 ARCA Minnesota of complications from a 1998 suspension of a car.
This year has been among racing’s Families of drivers also have to accept race. His car went into a spin; a driver wreck at Iowa’s Knoxville Speedway. It
FLAGMAN: The track official who
worst, with 33 deaths, 29 at small tracks. fate. They have little recourse because behind him slammed into his car. was that track’s third fatality in six years.
waves flags to start and finish
In June, seven drivers died in seven drivers, too, sign waivers that release or- “I didn’t want him to go,” said his Anderson broke his neck when he ran
races and alerts drivers to
states, all at small tracks. A wreck at Lo- ganizers from responsibility. wife, Janice. “We all knew there were over the wheel of another car and
cautions and on-track penalties.
rain County Speedway in Ohio killed The youngest driver to die since 1990 going to be a lot of rookie drivers.” flipped. For three years, he was in a
Flagmen are stationed at the
one fan and hurt 13. was Jimmy Olson, 15. He suffered head wheelchair, unable to talk. His wife
“I almost lost my children at a sports injuries last year when he crashed his
Rescue teams often lacking nursed him through recurring infec-
start-finish line and sometimes in
the corners and at pit entrances
event,” said Ginger Jakupca of Akron, pickup into a concrete wall at Wiscon- Some small tracks provide poorly tions. “This was a freak accident but it
Ohio, whose children were injured. sin’s Lake Geneva Raceway. He wasn’t trained fire and rescue workers. Some can happen to anybody and that’s what
“There’s just no excuse for that.” wearing a head restraint, and didn’t have firetrucks and ambulances stand- people need to realize,” said Jenny An- FUEL CELL: A type of fuel tank that
have a driver’s license. Most states, in- ing by; some don’t. Drivers and fans derson. has an inner rubber - or similar -
Are fans protected? cluding the Carolinas, don’t require a li- rush to accident scenes, occasionally On Oct. 21, two days after Anderson lining to hold the fuel if the outer
Depending on a track’s size, protec- cense to race. hampering rescue efforts. died, Jimmy Jones was killed at India- tank is punctured.
tion for fans ranges from reinforced Lowe’s speedway President Wheeler Delmar “Junior” Riggins’ gas tank ex- napolis Raceway Park when his car GARAGE: The area where
fences and concrete walls to dirt allows children as young as 12 to race ploded in a 1999 wreck at Oklahoma’s went into a spin and was hit by another mechanics and drivers prepare
mounds, which can serve more as against each other in smaller, less pow- Enid Motor Speedway – where there car. Drivers had no radio warning of and work on their cars. Garages
launch pads than shields. erful cars. But putting a child in a full- was no firetruck on site. Extinguishers Jones’ trouble. Race organizers had are usually located in the infield.
Cars and parts can turn into lethal size car to race with adults, “is like giv- were used to fight the fire, but Riggins, banned radios, a safety tool, to help driv-
projectiles. Drivers crashed through – ing a kid a .357 magnum with a feather- 44, died from his burns. ers save money. HANS: Acronym for Head and
or over – barriers, striking scoreboards, light trigger and telling him to scratch Driver Doug Wolfgang – trapped in Five days later, a track pace car led Neck Safety device. The brace fits
flag stands, trees and bleachers. his head with the barrel,” said Wheeler. his burning car for eight minutes in a the procession from the funeral home to around the shoulders and
A 10-year-old boy and his younger California’s Del Quinn – known as 1992 wreck – won a $1.2 million verdict the grave for the 26-year-old father of attaches to a driver’s helmet,
sister were killed in 1993 when a tire “The Mighty Quinn” – was the oldest against Lakeside Speedway in Kansas two young children. limiting the neck’s movement
cleared the fence at a small Kansas driver to die. The 68-year-old retired City, Kan., and the World of Outlaws “I don’t want this to keep happening,” during a crash to help minimize
track. Three fans died in 1998 in Michi- electrician had crossed the finish line at sanctioning body. Wolfgang’s case fo- said his mother, Sue, a day after the fu- whiplash.
gan, and three more in 1999 near Char- Hanford’s King Speedway when he had cused on inadequate rescue measures. neral. “Something has to be done. We’ve HARNESS (five- and six-point):
lotte, when car parts cleared the fences a heart attack in 2001. “We proved beyond a shadow of a got to stop burying these boys.” Safety belt designed to limit the
at two major tracks. In 1997, at a now-closed speedway in doubt it was gross, wanton negligence,” range of motion of drivers during
Protection is particularly poor Rutherford County, N.C., a driver had a said Wolfgang, who endured 15 recon- — AMES ALEXANDER, PETER ST. ONGE, ANDREW SHAIN a collision.
around infield, garage and pit areas – heart attack and careened off the track, structive surgeries. “But the truth is now AND DIANE SUCHETKA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. INFIELD: The area inside an oval
where spectators wander amid working track.
crews and moving vehicles. Fences and
barriers in those areas are typically less KART: Smaller racing car with
substantial than those guarding stands. wheels and chassis covered by a
At least nine spectators and 12 crew lightweight plastic shell. Karts are
VT. N.H. MAINE capable of reaching 150 mph.
and track workers died in pits and in-
0 6 2
fields. Racing WASH. MICH. N.Y. OPEN WHEEL: Fenderless cars that
Rene Bourgois, 34, was killed and 21 race with their wheels exposed.
were injured at Stockton (Calif.) Speed- Deaths 5
11 11 Includes CART, IRL and Formula
way in 1993, when a car crashed through by State ORE. 0 1 MINN. W.VA.
One and sprint cars.
a pit fence and into seats for drivers and 4 MASS. 1
crew. A father of triplets died at an Au- From 1990 to IDAHO S.D. 1 WIS. 3 PITS: The area where cars are
burn, Mich., track in 1999 when a car hit October 2001. 3 WYO. 2 11 R.I. 0 serviced during a race. At smaller
0 IOWA PA. CONN. 6 tracks, the pits also are where
him in the infield. And in 1996, at Indi- NEB.
NEV. 8 OHIO 8 N.J. 3 cars are parked before and after
ana’s Salem Speedway, a 7-year-old girl
3 UTAH 1 ILL. IND. DEL. 1 races. Pits can be inside or outside
visiting her father in the infield was CALIF.
KAN. 10 15 13 MD. 1
the track oval.
killed when a tire hit her head. 27 2 MO.
Some tracks bar fans from these high- Number of deaths 6 6 KY. 3
N.C. VA. 7 ROLL CAGE: The steel cage
risk areas; others charge them extra to 0 designed to protect drivers from
ARIZ. OKLA. TENN. 1 14 impacts or rollovers.
visit. People who enter the infield and 1 N.M. ARK. S.C.
5 5 1
pits must sign waivers promising not to
1 GA. 2 STOCK CAR: Racing vehicles with
sue – even when race organizers are MISS. ALA.
2 1 3 the bodies of mass-produced
negligent. Courts typically uphold such 11-20 TEXAS LA. passenger cars and trucks.
waivers, which allow tracks to avoid in-
21-30 12 3 FLA.
stalling safety measures. STRAIGHTAWAY: The portion of a
“You know what those waivers do? It 28 track that isn’t a turn.
gives them the power to kill you, and Note: Alaska and Hawaii had no racing deaths.
Source: The Charlotte Observer study of U.S. racing deaths since 1990 DAVID PUCKETT – STAFF
there’s nothing you can do about it,”
said Ron Landrum, whose 71-year-old
S U N DAY , N OV E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 3N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[ THE FANS ]
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
Fans recoil from a fiery February 2000 wreck that sent NASCAR truck driver Geoffrey Bodine spinning into the grandstand fences at Daytona International Speedway. Nine spectators were injured in the wreck,
which tore down 50 feet of fence and sent debris into the stands. Since 1990, 29 fans have died at U.S. racing events, including 16 fans in grandstands.
DEATH AT THE TRACK Out-of-control cars, ﬂying debris end lives in an instant
Race fans also die By Peter St. Onge
The wheel came off in Turn 2, snapped from its axle in a two-car colli-
sion. It bounded free down the small-track straightaway and into the pits,
slamming off a car’s hood and leaping, faster than fright, into the Salem
(Ind.) Speedway infield.
There, Dawn Mayden and her daughter had left their lawn chairs for
some barbecued chicken at a concession stand. The tire struck Lindsey
Mayden, 7 years old. Lindsey who wanted to be a veterinarian and a
midget car racer. Lindsey who liked her daddy to play Pretty, Pretty Prin-
cess with her at night, and who, on this day in 1996, kissed him and waited
while he worked as a spotter for his brother in the afternoon’s last race.
“I told her I’d see her as soon as Uncle Pete was done,” says her father,
“Three minutes later, she was gone.”
She is one of 29 spectators since 1990 tracks, after tragedies, raise fence
to be killed by cars or their flying parts heights or beef up security and car in-
at U.S. auto racing events. At least 70 spections. Other officials do little,
have been injured, some suffering life- shrugging instead at the danger of mix-
altering afflictions, including a Florida ing fans who crave nearness and cars
father of three now living in a New Jer- that, by design, fragment upon impact.
sey home for people with brain damage. Still others, inured by lap after lap of
Most prominently, three spectators fan-friendly racing – and unaware that
were killed and six injured by a flying almost one fan a month in racing season
wheel and debris in June 1998 when is killed or seriously injured on U.S.
driver Adrian Hernandez hit the Turn 4 tracks – think of spectator incidents as
wall during a Championship Auto Rac- mere freak occurrences. PATRICK SCHNEIDER – STAFF PHOTO
ing Teams race at Michigan Speedway. Such is what Jeff Mayden believed be- Emergency workers shield the bodies of spectators killed when a three-car wreck sent a wheel and debris into the stands in
In May 1999, three died and eight were fore his daughter was killed. May 1999 during an Indy Racing League race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Three fans were killed and eight injured. In
injured in Concord when a wheel and For as long as he remembers, his view response, speedway officials raised grandstand fences from 15 to 21 feet and have stopped hosting IRL races at the track.
parts from a three-car wreck flew into of Saturday nights was framed by the
the grandstand during an Indy Racing edges of a driver’s helmet. He learned to
League event at Lowe’s Motor Speed- race on go-karts at age 9, graduated to first trip to a track. handing food and drinks to her husband 17 feet after its 1998 CART crash. In
way. stock cars as an adult. On the night Rickie Foster had been to others, and and 5-year-old son, Matthew. She Charlotte, speedway officials made no
More often, like Lindsey Mayden, Lindsey was born, he rushed to the hos- on this night in 1996, he began to feel un- looked up to see the Dodge tumbling in changes in the 10 months after the
spectators die with less publicity at pital smeared with grease; hours earlier, easy as he dipped down a country road the air her way, then jumped up, shoved Michigan wreck, then raised their
smaller ovals and asphalt drag strips on he’d bought his first race car, a 1984 Im- to Sumerduck. The track seemed in her husband aside, and pushed Mat- fences from 15 to 21 feet after their own
Friday and Saturday nights. Sixteen pala Super Sport. poor condition. The grandstands thew down into the bleachers. The car, open-wheel racing accident. Both
have been killed in grandstands and Lindsey took to cars with the same looked shabby to him; the fence in front roof first, slammed into her. She died in- tracks also increased their fences’ over-
bleachers, nine in pit and infield areas, fervor. She spent after-school hours at of them seemed too short to be protec- stantly. hang.
one leaning against a track fence, anoth- her father’s Sellersburg, Ind., body shop tive. It is, perhaps, racing’s worst fear: a car At smaller tracks, insurance compa-
er sitting on his vehicle at the end of a and weekends with her mother at Yet weren’t there races here every or its disconnected parts hurtling over nies are the primary arbiters of fence
drag strip. They have been struck while nearby Salem Speedway, watching her weekend? Rickie Foster had never heard fences into fans. “We don’t want any- height and design. Required fence
getting into a pickup truck to go home, dad and uncle race. “I always thought of any fan deaths; in fact, there had been body killed, but we sure don’t want our heights for oval track bleachers vary
while getting a drink from the conces- she was probably in more danger driv- none in Sumerduck’s 30 years. So, Fos- customers killed,” says Lanny Edwards, from 9 to 15 feet, according to insurance
sion stand, while watching races with ing to the racetrack than being in the in- ter remembers now, he ignored the tug owner of Devil’s Bowl Speedway in company representatives. Pit fencing,
their mothers and fathers, children and field,” he says. of intuition, and his family sat in the Mesquite, Texas, one of thousands of however, is rarely mandated. The reali-
grandchildren. Now, he says softly, he doesn’t know. bleachers about halfway down the one- small tracks dotting the country. ty: “Fences can always be higher,” says
With the deaths have come questions He is thankful only that Lindsey had her eighth-mile strip. The worst such incident occurred in Tracy Clay, manager of I-30 Speedway
– about track fencing, about unin- back to the track when the tire bounced Soon after, Danny George’s 1970 1955 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in in North Little Rock, Ark.
spected cars, about supervision in re- toward her. She never saw danger com- Dodge Dart revved at the starting line France, where Pierre LeVegh’s Mer- Track inspections vary, as well. In-
stricted areas. And for each spectator ing. Most race fans don’t. for a qualifying run. When the Dodge cedes flew over a 3-foot grass bank and surers wait as much as three years be-
killed, there are tales of others spared leapt forward, a small, metal antifreeze small white fence into a crowd of spec- tween track visits, leaving opportunity
when cars or wheels flew over fences
No protection from fences plug came loose from the engine. Cool- tators near the pit straightaway, killing for repairs and maintenance to lag. At
and through pits, striking no one. In a For her 36th birthday, Vickie Lynn ant spewed; instantly, the track was more than 80. Race officials later moved Clay’s I-30 Speedway, track officials we-
1998 incident, an out-of-control race car Foster got a treat – a trip to Sumerduck slick. spectators back from the straightaway ren’t aware of a hole in a wire fence near
climbed over a fence at a Phoenix Dragway 40 miles from her rural Chan- “The car turned sideways on the and built new fencing, now about 30 the pit area outside the track’s oval. In
speedway and came to rest just 15 feet cellorsville, Va., home. The idea was track,” Foster says. “It came up into the feet high, to protect them. July 1995, Michael “Buzz” Baker, a vis-
from fan seating. “It could have been a husband Rickie’s; he and Vickie bleachers. It took a total of about four Other tracks have taken a similarly re- iting construction worker from Sabetha,
nightmare,” the track’s owner said then. watched all kinds of racing on televi- seconds.” active approach to tragedy. Michigan Kan., paid to watch a Saturday night of
The response to fan danger? Some sion. This, however, would be Vickie’s Vickie Foster sat in the grandstands, Speedway raised its fences from 14 1⁄2 to SEE SPECTATORS|NEXT PAGE
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 4N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[ THE FANS ]
––––––– then you’re opening yourself up to law-
Spectators from previous page suits,” says Dave Rhead, president of op-
erations at Red Cedar Speedway in Me-
races from the pit bleachers.
As Baker left his seat for a drink from
Fans want to get too close
the concession stand, a wheel came A small-track Saturday night: mid-
loose from a car on the track. The September at the Lancaster (S.C.)
wheel, witnesses would say later, Speedway, and the season has taken its
bounced through the unrepaired hole in usual toll. Drivers, nursing accumulated
the fence, then struck Baker above his grudges, satisfy them on and off the
right eye. He died a week later. track. Their cars, after months of mutu-
“The insurance never determined al insult, begin to take on the appear-
what happened,” says Clay, who said he ance of crumpled paper.
doesn’t know the path the wheel took. The result is something of a chaotic
“Some people said it went over the feel: fights in the pits, fans rushing in
fence.” North American Racing Insur- noisy scrums to watch. “I have 200 fires
ance settled with Baker’s widow, Cyn- to put out,” track president Doug
thia, for $1 million. McManus says. “And it gets worse at the
“I still love to go to races,” Cynthia end of the night.”
says now. “He would be going if it were Security, it seems, can get lost in the
me that died.” swirl. Considered by drivers as one of
But: “Everywhere I go, I check out the area’s safer tracks, Lancaster falls
their fence.” prey to spectators sneaking into re-
At Sumerduck Dragway, where stricted areas or watching from behind
Vickie Foster’s life ended, owner Roger the short fences that circle the outside
Curtis has changed nothing about his 4- of the oval. Others ignore signs urging
to 6-foot chain-link fences. “No,” he people away from the 4-foot chain-link
says. “It was a fluke-ass thing.” Curtis, in fence separating the pits from the track.
fact, is proud of his track’s barriers; he One father lifts his infant daughter JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTO
installs guardrails for dragways around above the fence so she can better see the Haley McGee still fights to recover from brain injuries suffered when she was hit by debris during a May 1999 IRL crash
the Southeast. cars roaring past less than 20 feet away. at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Haley, who once earned A’s and B’s in school, now struggles to keep up with her class.
“If you run your track right,” he says, Such indifference to safety is a con-
“things won’t happen to you.” cern to track officials everywhere.
The crash that killed Rickie Foster’s “Fans are their own worst enemy,”
SURVIVOR: HALEY MCGEE
Family adapts, but life has changed
wife left his son, Matthew, in critical says Dickie Gore, owner of Old Domin-
condition for two months with a rup- ion Speedway in Manassas, Va. “There’s
tured sternum, seven broken ribs and a certain thrill with being right on top of
two collapsed lungs. Rickie Foster be- the cars.”
lieves his son also suffered from a lack The challenge for speedway owners:
of oxygen that night. The result: Mat- How do you balance the counter- ––––––– make others forget she was injured. has made a reasonable settlement of-
thew, now 10, has difficulty compre- weights of safety and intimacy? One She appears no different than other fer to the McGees. The family is pur-
hending colors and the alphabet. compromise is to offer pit access to fans 12-year-old battles back, girls her age – a Winnie the Pooh fan, suing a lawsuit.
Rickie Foster is raising Matthew and who sign a liability waiver, which isn’t after suffering injuries from nervous about middle school, learning Yet Haley and her family feel fortu-
their other two children. The oldest, a so much a safety solution as acknowl- to play “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” on her nate. In the weeks after the accident,
daughter, was married this summer. edgment that the best viewing is also debris soaring into stands clarinet. Haley was like an infant, unable to
The youngest, another daughter who the most dangerous. ––––––– But the accident shows itself often care for herself. The McGees were
was 13 months old when her mother Yet pit access leaves tracks harder- in Haley – and in her family. told she might never function nor-
died, is now in middle school. pressed to monitor fans. By Peter St. Onge Haley suffers hand tremors and fre- mally.
Rickie Foster, who suffered knee and Another Saturday night: Late August Staff Writer quent headaches. Her mind works a “I was sitting right beside Haley
back injuries in the wreck, no longer 1991 at the Can-Am Speedway, a four- CONOVER — The list is one page couple of beats slow at times, says her when it happened,” Susan McGee
works, thanks to an insurance settle- tenths-mile clay oval in upstate New long, dated June 1999, compiled by a father, Neal. “Haley’s smart,” he says. says. “I thought for a long time, ‘Why
ment. York. Bethany Wells, a 17-year-old from physical therapist in Charlotte. On it “She thinks of things, but it’s two min- didn’t I push her down?’
“I just exist day to day,” he says. Watertown, N.Y., leaned into her fa- are games children play and activities utes after. Her thoughts go behind her “I’ve always been protective, but
ther’s car in a racers-only area. they love - 30 in all. Haley McGee is actions.” I’ve become a little more so. My older
Cars loosely inspected On the track, an accident sent a wheel warned from each. She once earned A’s and B’s but children tell me, ‘Mom, you’ve got to
Classes at Christ the King School flying through the pits. “Heads up,” Gymnastics is out, as are friendly now struggles to keep up with class- let us live.’ ”
were canceled for Josh and Amanda someone yelled. When Bethany Wells games of football. Basketball, cheer- mates, and she must sit at the front of She tries. Trips to the racetrack are
Dutton’s funeral. On an autumn Friday straightened to look, she was hit in the leading – perhaps another day for a the class so she can focus better. out, but last year, the McGees went to
in Wichita, Kan., students and teachers forehead by the wheel assembly. She girl with brain damage. At home, Haley’s parents are pro- a rodeo with friends. Susan seemed to
walked next door to Christ the King died five days later. It is a reminder even now of the tective about her activities – any new enjoy the evening, but when bull-
Church, where a eulogist read farewell Track owners initially argued that journey 12-year-old Haley has faced bump on the head could cause severe riding began, she left the bleachers.
letters from Cindy and Paul Dutton to Wells was not in a restricted area, but in- since debris from an Indy Racing damage - but they don’t want Haley to Her husband found her near the exit.
their children. surers later settled with Bethany Wells’ League car struck her at Lowe’s Motor live in a shell. “She said, ‘If those bulls come over
Six days before, on Sept. 4, 1993, the mother, Lois, for $100,000. New general Speedway near Charlotte in May 1999. The compromise: Haley can play that fence, I’m out of here.’ ” Neal Mc-
family spent Saturday night as usual - at manager John Burr acknowledges Wells Three spectators were killed and sev- softball, but she must wear a helmet at Gee remembers.
the 81 Speedway, a three-eighths-mile was where she shouldn’t have been. en others injured. all times. She can’t take gymnastics, He told her that wasn’t going to hap-
clay oval at the north end of town where Another Saturday night: Late August Haley, knocked unconscious for two but she is trying out dance classes. pen.
Paul Dutton raced sprint cars. Josh, 9, 1997 at the Cowtown Speedway in Ken- days, remembers nothing about the Lowe’s Motor Speedway president “That tire wasn’t going to, either,”
and Amanda, 7, sat in the grandstand nedale, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb. In accident. Sprightly and smart, she can Humpy Wheeler says the speedway Susan McGee said.
with their mother, their grandparents the final race of the night, Melanie
and 5-year-old brother, Justin. Mitchell, a 16-year-old from Kennedale,
During a qualifying heat, a sprint car watched with her boyfriend in a re-
driven by Jon Johnson lost its tire and stricted area near the back straightaway.
rim in a turn. The tire hit a concrete bar- Just after midnight, a car leading the SURVIVOR: LAKE WILSON
rier in front of the grandstand. race lost its right front wheel, which
Brain injury takes dad from his family
“It kind of catapulted into the sky,” sailed into a fence near the teens. The
Cindy Dutton remembers. “When it fence hit Mitchell in the head, killing
came down, it came down on us.” her.
The wheel hit Amanda flush, crush- “They were told to move,” says Cow-
ing her lungs and heart beyond sur- town Speedway general manager ––––––– “He loves to go to races,” says Kathy
geons’ repair. She died five hours later, Danny Bogart, who says new owners Wilson.
early the next day. Josh, shoved into the have installed fencing that restricts ac- After 11 1⁄2 months in coma, Michelle Wilson, who lives with her
bleachers by the impact, suffered mas-
sive head injuries. He died the day after
cess to the area where Mitchell and
Lewis were standing.
he’s in a facility far away children in Inverness, Fla., sued Citrus
County Speedway after the 1990 acci-
his sister, on his 10th birthday. Can-Am Speedway also has installed ––––––– dent, but withdrew the lawsuit in part
At their funeral, the Rev. Eugene Ger- fencing near the pit area where Bethany By Peter St. Onge because her husband had signed a
ber, bishop of Wichita’s Roman Catho- Wells was killed. Staff Writer waiver to sit in the pit area. Later, she
lic diocese and a family friend, tried to “It’s too late,” says Danielle Wells, Lake Wilson wishes his son and sued Mr. Gasket, manufacturer of the
console the mournful. Nobody planned now three years older than Bethany. twin girls could come to New Jersey hood pins on the car that crashed. The
this tragedy, he told them. “It was,” he “She was in a prohibited area. They say more often to visit. He knows his fami- case was settled before trial; members
said, “nobody’s fault.” they patrol that area all the time, but ly once was together, but for awhile, he of the Wilson family will receive struc-
Eight years later, 81 Speedway’s there should have been better security.” couldn’t recall the racing accident that tured cash payments of up to $5 mil-
owner seems to disagree. Johnson’s car, changed everything. It was, he lion for the rest of their lives.
said C. Ray Hall, was using an experi-
Marriage ends; questions haunt
thought, a boating mishap. A spokesman for Ohio-based Mr.
mental spindle, which serves as an axle Jeff Mayden hasn’t been to Salem Wilson lives now near his boyhood Gasket says the company has been
for the front wheels. Speedway in the five years since his home in a facility for people with brain sold twice since the accident; he didn’t
“It didn’t belong on that car,” Hall daughter’s death. He’d heard the track injuries. He may spend the rest of his COURTESY OF KATHERINE WILSON know details of the settlement.
says. was going to build a fenced playground life there. Lake Wilson, here with his son and Says Michelle Wilson: “It makes me
Of the 29 fan deaths since 1990, 10 oc- in the infield in Lindsey’s honor, but That life changed on April 4, 1990, twin girls last Christmas, lives in a able to take care of them.”
curred after tires and other parts inex- those plans went unrealized. Salem has, when Wilson sat in the pit bleachers at New Jersey home for people with The twins, 12-year-olds Tracee and
plicably came off cars. An Observer sur- however, put up a new fence separating Citrus County, Fla., Speedway while brain damage. His wife and children Randee, were 11 months old at the time
vey of track officials showed that few the infield from the pits. his wife took their children to a circus. still live in Florida. of the accident and only know their fa-
speedways inspect cars closely for more It is too late, he thinks. Too late for his At the track, a stock car veered out of ther this way, their mother says. Ryan,
than basic safety items such as re- daughter, and for his marriage, which control and flipped. Its hood flew into plegic, says his wife, Michelle. He has just shy of 7 then, is having troubles at
straints and helmets. Some neglect even lasted almost five years before bowing the bleachers, hitting Wilson in the shown great improvement; he now can high school and difficulty seeing his fa-
those, conducting superficial prerace to the weight of Lindsey’s memory. How cheekbone. use the right side of his body. Last year, ther so different, she says.
walk-throughs or no checks at all. do you deal with seeing your child’s face Wilson, then a 28-year-old boat me- he qualified for his General Educa- “He and his dad had been insepara-
At the 81 Speedway, Hall says cars are every time your wife walks through the chanic, spent 111⁄2 months in a coma, tional Development (GED) certificate. ble,” Michelle Wilson says. “He re-
inspected on two occasions - the first door? then awoke to find himself a quadri- He visits his mother on weekends. members how he used to be.”
time they appear at the track and after He is remarried now, and he’s even
they are involved in accidents. Johnson, found himself back at the track, racing a
who confirmed the experimental spin- truck some weekends at Indianapolis
dle on the car involved in Josh and Raceway Park. Yet he can’t outrun the
Amanda Dutton’s death, says he drove it questions that wait for him at nights in
that night in a one-time arrangement for his auto body shop. Why did Lindsey SURVIVOR: KALEB CHESTER
a local outfit. “The spindle just locked want to sit in the infield that night in-
up and came off,” he remembers. Track
technicians had not inspected the car.
“We don’t do checks before races,”
stead of Turn 1 or 2, where she and her
mother always sat? Why, after not eating
solids for two weeks because she
10-year-old has close call at fence, but lives
says Hall. “There’s no way to stay ahead choked on a grape at school, did Lind- –––––––
of these drivers.” sey suddenly want chicken? Neither parent worried terribly about nearby Turn 4 fence.
Kaleb driving. But they never consid- His parents saw only the wreck. “I’m
Such decisions are largely left up to “I ask myself every night if something Now his family’s back ered the danger of watching. going to take Seth and see the crashed
speedways. Sanctioning bodies, some of could have been different,” Mayden
which require driver safety equipment, says. Fencing, maybe, or car safety. Al- at Saturday night races On Sept. 4, 1999, Diane and Terry cars,” Diane told her husband. Terry
Chester watched Saturday night races followed later. “On the way down, I
don’t demand that tracks inspect cars, though Salem says technicians inspect ––––––– from the Tri-City heard people say a little kid got hurt,”
an Observer survey found. Insurance cars, Mayden, a former driver there,
companies, some fearful of legal liabili- says cars drove often with deficient By Peter St. Onge bleachers with he said. It was his son, on the ground,
Staff Writer 2-year-old son Seth. thrown 20 feet by the impact of the car.
ty, are reluctant to mandate any driver parts – especially in the lower classes.
or car inspections. Was that what went wrong? Kaleb Chester has been racing small Kaleb played with his Kaleb suffered a fractured pelvis,
“We have to be very careful what we It’s a struggle echoed by those left sprint cars for five years. He figures the buddies near the front fractured skull and a contusion on his
ask them to do,” says George Knight of with the loss of fan fatalities. How do cars will get bigger as he does, until straightaway and Turn brain. He was unconscious for four to
George Knight Associates in Tulsa, they reconcile racing’s freakish possibil- he’s driving in NASCAR races like his 4. “I’ve sat down there five days, on crutches for two months.
Okla., a small-track insurance provider. ities with the notion that death, perhaps, favorite driver, Tony Stewart. Already, a million times,” said Now, his father says, the family has
“We don’t want the legal system to say, doesn’t have to be so inevitable? the 10-year-old has asked his mom to Kaleb Terry Chester. “It’s a gone back to Saturday nights at Tri-
‘You approved this car inspection “It could be someone else’s daughter be in charge of publicity. place you never City. Kaleb is back in a quarter-midget
thing.’ ” next time,” Jeff Mayden says, but the an- Diane Chester readily agreed. She’s thought a race car could get to.” car, racing in nearby Greenville, Ill.
Track officials voiced the same hes- ger is only a flash, the sentiment dis- an avid racing fan; her husband and On this night, one did – a late-model “The first time he got in that car af-
itance. “If you tell them what they have sipates with a sigh, and the body shop is Kaleb’s father, Terry, races in the modi- car that went out of control on the half- ter the accident, I was a little nervous,”
to do, and then something happens and still too quiet without his best friend, fieds division at Tri-City Speedway, mile track and struck a wall in Turn 4. Diane Chester says. “But after that, I
they haven’t done what you told them, Lindsey. near their South Roxana, Ill., home. Kaleb at the time had his back to a was fine.”
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 5N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
1990 VERNON HARRIS
28, track staff FEB. 1, 1993
JULIUS “SLICK’’ July 22, 1990 Sept. 27, 1992
JOHNSON A piece of metal McIntyre was work-
41, driver from another car ing as a flagman at
ripped through the Old Dominion
Feb. 15, 1990
Johnson’s car floor of Vernon Speedway in Ma-
crashed during a Harris’s stock car at nassas, Va., when a
stock-car race at KEN WILKINSON Maryland’s Potomac car crashed and
Daytona (Fla.) 37, driver Speedway, severing struck the flagstand
International May 26, 1990 an artery in his leg as its driver battled
Wilkinson’s car and causing for position on the JOHN CLARK ERIC KARL LINDQUIST
Speedway. A 52, driver 37, spectator
Florence, S.C., collided with extensive blood loss. last lap. The Dale
machinist and father another car’s wheel, The construction City, Va., resident
of two, his family went airborne, company owner was known for lean- After a day of time trials, racers drove
crashed into a wall – from Prince Racing has lost the prominent – and those who wanted to be. Seven-time ing over the rail to interested spectators around a make-
stopped life support
after three days so and nearly into the Frederick, Md., left midget and sprint car champion Rich Vogler died in 1990, NASCAR veteran touch winning cars shift road course in an Irvine, Calif.,
he wouldn’t die on grandstand at Beech two sons. with the checkered amusement park parking lot. Clark, a
Ridge Motor J.D. McDuffie in 1991, and that same year, 22-year-old Kara Hendrick, who flag, said Tom
his son’s birthday.
Speedway in Maine. ––––––– Priddy, who was as-
California computer consultant, was
dreamed of being the first woman to win the Daytona 500. Billy Vukovich III taking Lindquist for a ride when
––––––– Wilkinson, an sisting McIntyre on
Clark’s 1965 Lotus Elan crashed into
electrician from died in a sprint car in November 1990, 35 years after his grandfather died at the stand that night.
RON HUGHES JR. Turner, Maine, broke a grove of trees. Clark’s widow, Gin-
28, driver his neck and died.
the Indianapolis 500. Three months later, Danny Milburn was killed in a ––––––– ger, raced for several months after
March 9, 1990 sprint-car crash in Phoenix. His parents still visit the Arizona man who his death as a way ’’to stay in touch
A 1984 racing ––––––– with John.’’ Lindquist, a California
accident had left received their son’s kidney.
Hughes, of Houston,
firefighter, was known for restoring
paralyzed from the antique cars.
waist down. Driving
a specially designed
1990-1993 MAY 8, 1993
car with hand July 28, 1990
controls, he won the A car ran off Lorain
SCOTT CZUB JOVY MARCELO STEVEN TROY ROUSE FRED CLARKE Fosburgh, a re-
state midget class 26, spectator 27, driver 19, driver
championship in Speedway and into
42, driver tired steel worker
WILLIAM TERRY July 19, 1991 May 15, 1992 Aug. 1, 1992 Oct. 4, 1992 from Valparaiso,
Texas in 1987, 1988 the pits, killing The track was a ref- Marcelo was trying Rouse, son of a An avid hunter and
and 1989. He was 36, driver Harsh, from Elyria, uge for Czub, a Mid- to become the first NASCAR official, fisherman, the
Ind., was talking
killed in a crash at June 3, 1990 Ohio, and injuring with Lewis, his
Terry, a production lothian, Ill., man who driver from the Phil- crashed when the 10-year driving vet-
Devil’s Bowl four. His wife says loved to help a friend ippines to make the rear axle on his son-in-law, in the
worker at a truck eran died at New
Speedway near she lives on a farm who was a driver, Indianapolis 500 stock car broke dur- bleachers at Wis-
plant in Flint, Mich., Hampshire Interna-
Dallas. bought with the said his brother, when he died in a ing a race at his
was killed when his proceeds of a
JAMES SHANNON KARA HENDRICK tional Speedway HILARY FOSBURGH consin’s Red Ce-
––––––– car hit a wall on a settlement from the
Ron. Czub died in
the pit area at
Oct. 5, 1991
crash during prac-
tice. The married fa-
Tucson (Ariz.) Race-
when his high-speed
kart spun and hit a
62, spectator dar Speedway
turn at Owosso track. A $20 check Grundy County (Ill.) ther of one had just way Park. The car ––––––– when both were
(Mich.) Speedway. April 27, 1991 Hendrick, from wall. Clarke, from
JIM BROUK Harsh won in a race
Finley, a Navy Speedway when a Chino, Calif., set a moved up to the top flipped, and the im- Chesapeake, Va., hit by a muffler
35, driver The track now has hangs on her wall. MARK LEWIS that flew into the
an annual Will Terry veteran who lost car hit him after sail- track record in a level of Indy cars. pact broke Rouse’s was ejected from
April 15, 1990 32, spectator stands. They
Brouk, a six-year Memorial Race. ––––––– part of his right leg ing over a track wall. qualifying heat, the
neck. His family or- the kart during the
in Vietnam, raced in night her open- ganizes a Troy World Karting Asso- both died shortly
racing veteran from
––––––– DAVID SANBORN a car with a specially ––––––– wheel midget car Rouse Memorial ciation event. afterward. “The way (the muffler) hit
West Chicago, Ill., designed flipped and crashed race every August.
died in an accident 46, track staff
––––––– them, it looked like they were facing
Sept. 2, 1990 accelerator. The St. into a wall at Cajon
Sanborn, from Louis resident died (Calif.) Speedway. In ––––––– each other,” says Yvonne Krostag,
Placentia, Calif., was in a five-car crash at 1989, she had be- Fosburgh’s sister. “I don’t think they
according to a Tri-City Speedway in come the third BOB SHUPP were aware of what happened.” Lew-
published report. working as a
flagman during a Granite City, Ill. He woman to win a 51, driver is, from Rice Lake, Wis., was survived
Aug. 7, 1992
––––––– sprint car race at was to have been
married less than
USAC race. Her
dream was to be- Shupp lost a right
by a wife and daughter, who were
Ascot Park in GARY BATSON
front tire during a
nearby in the bleachers.
Gardena, Calif., three weeks later. come the first wom- 40, driver
TONY JANKOWIAK BUTCH LINDLEY J.D. MCDUFFIE sprint car race at
when a car slid into an to win the Day- May 16, 1992
April 22, 1990
him. He and his wife, ––––––– 52, driver
Aug. 11, 1991
tona 500. In his first race on a
Belleville (Kan.) High
June 6, 1990
Kathleen, were superspeedway,
Banks and rolled TOM NAYLOR SEPT. 5 AND 6, 1993
Lindley’s car hit the
regulars at the track, GARY NEICE
McDuffie, from San-
ford, N.C., died after
––––––– Batson died from
several times, ac- 36, driver
wall at Desoto (Fla.) 36, driver cording to a pub- Oct. 17, 1992
now the site of a burns after a multi-
father of two broke
his neck when he
Speedway. His brain
stem was severed, shopping center. May 4, 1991
Neice, from Candler,
his car hit a wall and
flipped at Watkins 1992 car crash trapped
lished report. The
Naylor, a Boise, Ida-
ho, native, died
struck a wall at Glen, N.Y. He never him inside his burn-
but the Greenville,
S.C., resident lived
––––––– N.C., had a heart
won in 653 NASCAR MARK KENT ing car at Charlotte
from Phoenix had when his car hit the
attack and crashed retired from racing wall head-on at
Stafford Motor five years in a coma races. He was buried 35, driver (now Lowe’s) Motor Mesa Marin (Calif.)
into the third-turn but still raced one
Speedway. at a nursing home. in a racing suit, a ci- March 18, 1992 Speedway. Batson Raceway. In Naylor’s
wall during a Busch time each year at
Jankowiak met his His family played gar cradled between Kent’s BMW M-3 of Travelers Rest, car was the same
Series race at South the Kansas track.
wife, Debbie, while music, tapes of his his fingers. “If you veered off the road S.C., ran The Feed engine Billy Vukov-
Boston (Va.) AMANDA DUTTON JOSH DUTTON
working on the crew two children’s Speedway. A
cut him,’’ the minis- course at Sebring In- Store restaurant. ––––––– ich III had used 7, spectator 10, spectator
of her brother’s voices and the ter said at his funer- ternational Raceway
racing team. Debbie sound of cranking
fund-raiser for his
al, “he’d bleed Havo- in Florida, then rolled
––––––– when he died prac-
ticing at the track in
widow and infant Amanda and her brother, Josh,
Jankowiak’s brother engines to try to jolt line.’’ A lawsuit before jumping over GRAIG HINTON 1990. Naylor’s
son was held in
died in a racing him awake. He died EBEN ’’JOHN’’ Hickory, where he
against the track a 12-foot fence and 50, driver brother also died in a were sitting with family members
accident 10 months of pneumonia. JOHNSON JR. and NASCAR was slamming into an May 30, 1992 racing accident in when a wheel came off a car and
was a track
before her 27, driver dismissed. empty bus in the Hinton’s 1960 Jag- the 1980s. sailed into the bleachers at the 81
husband’s death. ––––––– Nov. 14, 1990 spectator parking uar rolled several
according to ––––––– area. No fans were times after hitting ––––––– Speedway in their hometown of
––––––– Kissimmee, Fla., died
injured in the crash another, smaller car
Wichita, Kan. Amanda died five
when his car veered, ––––––– involving the graphic that had spun out at hours later; Josh died two days after
hit a guardrail and design firm owner Moroso Motor- CLIFFORD ALLISON the accident, on his 10th birthday.
flipped, ejecting him from Hingham, sports Park in Flori- 27, driver
at the Orlando Mass. da. Hinton was a Aug. 13, 1992
Speed World veteran racer from A member of the fa-
Dragway. His sister, ––––––– England who re- mous stock car rac-
Pamela Chiarelli, had stored vintage cars ing family of Huey- MICHAEL EUGENE RON FILKINS
DUANE HOUART SR. a videotape of the JOHN STEWART POTTS in Delray, Fla. “He town, Ala., Allison ROBINSON SR. 50, driver
41, driver accident. ’’I kept BETHANY WELLS 27, driver thought all those fractured his skull JOHN TARTAGLIA 42, driver Aug. 1, 1993
LARRY LADUE June 30, 1990 rewinding it to look 17, spectator March 20, 1992 safety precautions when his car hit a 38, driver July 3, 1993 After previous heart
43, driver Houart, an for something,’’ she Aug. 29, 1991 Potts, an auto me- were a bunch of rub- wall during practice Nov. 2, 1992 Robinson, from Sci- attacks, his cardiolo-
May 14, 1990 electrician from said. Wells, a high school chanic, died when bish, but he com- at Michigan Interna- Tartaglia had Hodg- ence Hill, Ky., often gist had warned Fil-
LaDue’s sprint car Gary, Ind., was in a senior from Water- his Monte Carlo hit a plied because he tional Speedway. His kin’s disease but worked 16-hour kins of Alta Loma,
May 7, 1991
spun out, landed on last-lap accident at ––––––– Gehrke, from town, N.Y., was talk- wall after he was wanted to race,’’ brother, Winston was in remission days as a body re- Calif., against drag
its side and was Indiana’s Illiana ing to her father, bumped during a said his ex-wife, Cup star Davey Alli- when another drag- pairman at a truck- racing. But his son,
MIKE RICH Lincoln, Ill., died
struck by several Motor Speedway. driver William Wells, warmup at Orlando Ann. son, died in a heli- ster collided with his ing company and at Eric, said his father
32, crew three days after a
cars at Texas’ Devil’s The roll cage bent in in a prerace area at Speed World Speed- copter accident al- at New Hampshire’s his own garage. He won a race after ig-
Nov. 18, 1990 wreck at Talladega
Bowl Speedway. The the collision and Rich, from Blairsville, (Ala.) Superspeed- Can-Am Speedway way in Florida. The ––––––– most a year later. New England Drag- was racing a 1977 noring such advice.
Dallas auto parts punctured his heart, in New York when a Bithlo, Fla., resident way. The Tyngsboro, Camaro that hit a Filkins had a fatal
store owner had according to his son.
Ga., was changing a
rear tire on Bill
way. His mother,
Kathie, was in the wheel came through got into racing after JONEL BROSCANC ––––––– Mass., auto techni- knee-high barrier heart attack after a
started driving the pits. When she watching his father 32, driver DOYLE TINDALL and flipped at Burn- drag run in his car
’’That’s the way I Elliott’s car during a pits at the time. A cian took his family
dragsters at 18. stood up, she was race. Potts’ son, June 6, 1992 38, driver side (Ky.) Raceway. while driving to the
want to go, doing Winston Cup race at promising driver, to races across the
struck in the head. Johnny, 8, born after Broscanc, from Aug. 15, 1992 garage at Califor-
country and brought
––––––– something I love,’’
Duane Jr. said.
Atlanta Motor Gehrke wrote a
his father died, also Glendale in Queens, Tindall, a St. Cloud, his car to area
––––––– nia’s Sears Point
Speedway when a story as a child
spinning car struck about his love for
––––––– wants to race. N.Y., died when the Fla., mechanic, died schools. EDWARD MANESS
––––––– him. His death racing.
Audi he was driving after his dragster
helped lead to speed
MITCHELL MORTON ––––––– on a road course slid veered into the ––––––– 51, driver
July 11, 1993
35, driver off a sharp curve
CHARLES ROBERT limits for cars on pit ––––––– Sept. 7, 1991 along a remote for-
guardrail at U.S. 19
Maness had a heart
WHITE Dragway in Albany,
Morton, a 15-year
racing veteran, died
est road near Wells-
boro, Pa. The car hit
Ga. Tindall and his 1993 attack and smacked
into a wall at Illinois’
July 1, 1990 ––––––– 33, driver
when his dragster a tree on the driver’s
twin brother, Dale,
Sante Fe Speedway,
White, of Barberton, May 11, 1991 had been racing
BILLY VUKOVICH III failed to stop at the side. say legal docu-
Ohio, died when his Authorities were un- since age 17.
DAVID GAINES 27, driver end of a run and ments. His wife
car went out of
control and crashed Nov. 25, 1990
sure if Miller, of Na-
perville, Ill., had a fa-
struck a guardrail at ––––––– ––––––– sued the track and
May 16, 1990 Vukovich, from Sumerduck Drag- HAL SCHUSTER NASCAR, claiming
into a pond at the tal heart attack be- CARL MCCORMICK
Gaines was a Coarsegold, Calif., way near Culpeper, BILL STALEY 49, driver medical help was
Cloverleaf fore or after his 58, track staff RENE BOURGOIS
Goldston, N.C., died while practicing Va., published re- 39, driver June 6, 1992 not dispatched to
Speedway in crash during a Sept. 12, 1992 34, crew
engineer known for for a sprint car race ports said. The War- April 25, 1992 Schuster, a Vietnam Maness until the
Cuyahoga County, NASCAR event at McCormick, a real Sept. 18, 1993
innovative engine at Mesa Marin renton, Va., me- A noted drag racing veteran who sold end of the next race.
Ohio. According to the now-defunct estate agent from JOE BOOHER Standing behind a
designs. He died (Calif.) Raceway. He chanic left behind a engine builder from transmissions, pull- A judge dismissed
published reports, Sante Fe Speedway Fairfield, Ohio and a 51, driver fence at the Stock-
when his car was competed in three wife and two sons. Houston, Staley died ed his car off the the suit because her
the coroner said he in Illinois, according 20-year race worker Feb. 12, 1993 ton 99 Speedway in
struck by another in Indianapolis 500s. when his dragster track during a stock husband signed a
died of a heart
a race for drivers
attack before his car His grandfather, Bill
to published reports. ––––––– veered off the track car race at Cajon
for the U.S. Auto
Club, was working
Booher, an Indiana waiver releasing California with other
farmer, trucker and
trying to gain
experience on large
hit the water. Vukovich, died in ––––––– WILLIAM RITTER and struck a con- Speedway near San as a pit steward and racing veteran, died
NASCAR and the
track owner from li- Bourgois was struck
1955 trying to win 42, driver crete light pole at Diego and collapsed cleaning up a spin- by a car that
tracks at Charlotte ––––––– his third straight Sept. 14, 1991 the Texas Motorplex in the pits, track offi- out at the Indiana
after a three-car
crash in a minor
crashed over a barri-
(now Lowe’s) Motor Indy 500.
Speedway. His RICH VOGLER
Ritter, from Nankin, near Dallas. Soon af-
ter spreading his fa-
cials and published
State Fairgrounds league NASCAR race ––––––– er. Another 21 peo-
when another car hit ple were injured. The
father, Jerry, left 39, driver ––––––– Ohio, had wanted to
replace wheel parts ther’s ashes over the him.
at Daytona Interna-
Modesto, Calif., auto
David’s room July 21, 1990 on his vintage midg- start line of a Hous- ––––––– tional Speedway. He
had named his son, repair shop owner
untouched for 10 –––––––
Vogler, a five-time
national midget-car 1991 et car but couldn’t
afford it, relatives
ton track, Staley’s
son took a drag-rac-
A.J. Booher, after
friend and driving
had stopped driving
race cars himself af-
––––––– two-time sprint-car
said. The car lost a ing course in his
honor. 32, spectator legend A.J. Foyt. ter a fiery crash in
STEVE HAKE wheel as it crossed Sept. 22, 1992 1991.
champion, died at 36, driver the finish line at
Salem (Ind.) June 5, 1991 Ohio’s Buckeye
Graham, from Thax-
ton, Miss., was sit-
Speedway when his Hake’s car went air- Speedway and JAY ALAN LUECKE DAVID KUHN
car touched another ting on the tailgate
borne and struck a flipped. Ritter’s son, 33, driver 50, driver SONIA RUPP
and careened into a of his pickup truck
scoreboard at Ida- B.J., is restoring the March 20, 1993 July 25, 1993 29, spectator
wall just before the SONNY IRWIN with friends near the
ho’s Meridian car. Luecke, an auto Kuhn, a Massachu- Oct. 22, 1993
final lap. An Illinois 51, driver finish line of the
DANNY MILBURN Speedway after body repairman setts public televi- The mother of two
July 11, 1992 Pooleville Race Track
native who lost his 41, driver slamming into a bar- ––––––– A self-employed in Mississippi, said
from Pinellas sion journalist who was killed at Volusia
father in a 1981 Feb. 2, 1991 rier, according to his County, Fla., died of raced vintage En- County (Fla.) Speed-
A.J. MICHAELS crash during construction worker his mother, Alta. A
Milburn was a few father, Donald. The OSCAR HARVEY LUBKE a heart attack after glish cars for a way when a car
32, driver practice, Vogler was from Tucson, Ariz., car in a drag race
months away from auto parts salesman 47, driver a practice run at hobby, died on a vaulted over a
May 19, 1990 posthumously TERRY HERMAN Irwin died of a head came off the track,
taking over the from Boise died two Sept. 28, 1991 Sunshine Speedway Schenley Park, guardrail and into
Chasing his dream awarded the race 47, driver injury when his and his friends dove
family’s garage-door weeks after the Lubke, from Con- in Florida. He’d had Penn., road course the pits where she
to become an Indy victory. May 10, 1992 sprint car slid off the away. Graham was
business in birth of his first cord, N.C., died at small heart attacks after his sports car stood with specta-
car driver, the Herman, a Las Ve- dirt track and into a struck and killed.
Indianapolis when child. Mooresville Drag- and mentioned to veered off the road tors. Her family re-
Liverpool, N.Y., gas driving school wall at Manzanita
he collided with way after his drag- friends he was hav- and pinned him ceived no settle-
mechanical owner, crashed trav- Speedway in Phoe-
another sprint car ster struck a guard- ing chest pains days against a tree. ment because she
engineer died when eling more than 200 nix. Irwin was an
and slammed into rail. Part of the earlier. had signed a waiver
his car spun and hit mph during the Ne- outdoorsman who
the wall at Phoenix guardrail came to be in the pits. “We
a wall backward at vada Open Road didn’t lavish money
International through the wind- all miss her every
Oswego (N.Y.) Challenge, at which on anything but his
Raceway. His shield and hit day,’’ says husband
Speedway. His cars compete on race car, his family
parents occasionally Lubke’s head. Lubke, Tom, a Jacksonville,
sister, Lori, says closed public roads. said.
visit the Arizona who worked as a Fla., plumber.
she’s become a Jeff loan manager, was His ex-wife said he
man who received had not planned to
Gordon fan because drafted by the NFL’s
Milburn’s donated drive that day, but
he reminds her of New York Jets in
kidney. he got a last-minute
her brother. 1968, but a concus-
call with an offer to NOTE: Photos were
sion forced him to not available for
quit the team. race a souped-up
Porsche. some victims.
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 6N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
1993 ROSEMARY TINDALL
4, spectator 1997
March 22, 1994 Sept. 23, 1996 MICHAEL HIMES
Acting as the Christopher, from 42, driver
co-driver in her Janesville, Wis., was Jan. 31, 1997
boyfriend’s race car, on a weekend
Himes, from Los
Tindall died when it outing of camping Gatos, Calif., died
swerved off a forest and auto races with after his car
course near DAVE INNES EDGAR LANDRUM his father, Aaron, slammed head-first
Olympia, Wash., and 60, track staff 71, spectator when a stock car hit into a wall at
hit a tree. A friend June 18, 1994 June 22, 1996 a tire assembly that Daytona
FRANK PRESUTTI SR. said Tindall, a Innes, a tour bus Landrum, from had come off
49, driver International
Seattle resident who driver and veteran Hubbard, Texas, was another car at Speedway. He had
Oct. 24, 1993 retired from the Air flagman from helping his son load Rockford (Ill.)
The Beverly, Mass., just sold a
Force, was noted for Berkeley Township, his race car for Speedway. The tire semiconductor
plumber was a year her resolve: She N.J., died after he Even in death, racing can be a family pursuit. Rebel Jackson Sr. was killed home when a tire assembly sailed into
into a racing company and
hated to fly but was hit by an when his car hit a wall at Portland (Ore.) Speedway in 1994. Rebel Jr., who flew through the pit the stands. Aaron retired.
comeback after a overcame it by airborne race car at area and struck him Hodge suffered a
10-year absence getting a pilot’s Wall Stadium in also was in the 22-car field, finished the race. Two years later, Jeff Edwards at Thunderbird broken leg. –––––––
when his car hit a license. New Jersey. (Texas) Speedway. Christopher died
retaining wall at Lee died after a midget car crash in Idaho; his son, 12-year-old Cameron, is Landrum, a retired two days later. LOUIS EDMONDS
USA Speedway in ––––––– ––––––– starting now to race go-karts. Ron Landrum quit racing, however, after his trucker and 46, driver
New Hampshire. PAUL REISDORFER mechanic who had a ––––––– March 9, 1997
father, Edgar, was killed in 1996 by a tire flying through the pits of a Texas Edmonds, a veteran
––––––– 33, track staff 1992 heart bypass,
drag racer from
May 14, 1994 speedway. Edgar Landrum, 71, was helping his son load his race car for had told his son that
Hopewell, Va., died
Reisdorfer, a night: “I feel better
home. now than I have in after he was ejected
1994 mechanic and track
worker from Sioux years.” from his car, which
flipped at Richmond
Falls, S.D., was killed
during warm up laps
at Red Devil
1993-1997 (Va.) Dragway.
Jan. 15, 1994 Speedway near Edmonds Frazier,
NEWMAN PEERY FRANK FILSKOV 28, oldest of three,
Hartford, S.D., when
Dees died when his
car slammed into a a car ran off the
June 18, 1994
34, driver 1996 44, driver
Oct. 12, 1996
races in her father’s
wall during a solo track. Another track A high school shop Sept. 25, 1994 Filskov, a veteran
run at the Sears worker was injured. MIKE COOKE 19, works the
teacher and auto A machinist and driver from Richmond Dragway
Point Raceway drag 49, driver
parts store owner Hawthorne Woods,
strip in California, ––––––– from Lomita, Calif.,
father of three from
West Chester, Ohio,
Feb. 3, 1996
Ill., collided with a
Cooke, from Gilbert,
“Mack” Peery was Hannah died in a Ariz., was killed PERRY YOUNCE
car that had –––––––
semi-retired from race at Salem (Ind.) wrecked ahead of
The Napa, Calif., when his car struck 35, driver
drag racing when he RON BIELLIER Speedway when his MICHAEL DAVID GARY MITCHELL him at Michigan’s
resident suffered a wall during Aug. 3, 1996
drove his ’81 45, driver car clipped another BAKER 52, spectator Hartford Speedway
severe head injuries, qualifying for a Younce, from
Camaro at July 15, 1994 and slammed into a 37, spectator Aug. 19, 1995 Park. “It’s not just
officials said. NASCAR Southwest Canton, Mich., died
Brotherhood Biellier, from Willard, guardrail connected July 22, 1995 Mitchell, a retired the big guys,” said
Tour race at Phoenix when his midget car
Raceway in San to an outside his sister, Donna.
––––––– Pedro, Calif. His
Mo., was racing for
the first time since a concrete wall.
iron worker from
International crashed into the wall “There’s a lot of little
Raceway. The race at Michigan Ideal
LARRY SMITH JIMMY NIX braking parachute heart attack one Hannah’s car bent from Sabetha, Kan., was sitting in guys out there. Why
was to be his last Speedway. Younce
39, spectator 55, driver failed to open, year earlier. During a the rail back, and the died walking to a bleachers at nearby is it that only the
before he retired was a promising
Jan. 29, 1994 May 21, 1994 sending the car into caution at Missouri’s driver’s side hit concession stand at Unity Raceway famous people get JOHN NEMECHEK
from driving to driver, said his
Smith, from Nix, known as “The a concrete wall at Speedway U.S.A., exposed concrete. I-30 Speedway in when he was hit by noticed?” 27, driver
spend more time father, Clyde, who
Fountaintown, Ind., Smiling Okie,” was about 150 mph. Biellier had another North Little Rock, a tire and rim that
died at the finishing a drag race heart attack, this ––––––– Ark., when a tire came off a stock car.
with his children and helped his son race. ––––––– March 21, 1997
then-Hoosier Dome at the Texas ––––––– one fatal. from a track Two fans were
grandchildren. Clyde Younce rebuilt Nemechek, the
brother of Winston
in Indianapolis when Motorplex in Ennis GEORGE MOECKEL accident struck him injured in similar ––––––– his son’s car after
Cup driver Joe
a midget car plowed when his car shot ––––––– 48, driver on the head. His incidents the the crash and sold it.
over a railing and Oct. 30, 1994 wife, Cynthia, still previous two years.
into a pit area. Seven
others were injured. into a pole that held Moeckel’s dragster attends races. “He The track has not
ROBERT PICKERING ––––––– from head injuries
27, spectator when his truck hit
Smith’s widow lost a up a track video rolled several times would still have made changes in March 23, 1996 the wall at
lawsuit against the screen. The and struck a barrier been going if it had response, a track Pickering, a racing Homestead (Fla.)
United States Auto Oklahoma City at New England happened to me,” official said. enthusiast from Metro-Dade
Club when an resident had been Dragway in Epping, she said. Duncanville, Texas, Motorsports
appeals court racing since the N.H., according to a ––––––– was helping a driver CHUCK SILVA Complex. The
upheld the liability 1950s. PAUL GROSSO published report. ––––––– KEN SCHALTENBRAND friend change a tire 44, track staff Lakeland, Fla., native
waiver Smith signed 67, driver The North Andover, 47, driver outside turns 3 and Oct. 13, 1996
before the race. ––––––– June 19, 1994
JOHNSON Mass., mechanic Aug. 19, 1995 4 at Devil’s Bowl Silva, a track worker
was the first driver
killed in a NASCAR
Grosso, from Van 30, driver had four children. Schaltenbrand, from (Texas) Speedway at Bandimere truck race.
––––––– ROBBIE STANLEY
Nuys, Calif., died Sarver, Pa., was when a sprint car JEFF EDWARDS Speedway in
when he hit a stalled
July 22, 1994
Less than a week
––––––– fatally injured when tumbled off the 34, driver Colorado, bent over –––––––
May 26, 1994 Aug. 17, 1996 to pick up debris on
car and flipped his car rolled over in track and killed him,
Stanley’s car was hit
by two others and
after the birth of his
first child, Johnson 1995 the first turn at according to his Edwards, a one-time
kart driver and
the dragstrip when a TOM BOUNE
demonstration race died when his race Challenger Raceway mother. Three dragster backed 33, driver
went out of control former president of over him, track
at Saugus (Calif.) car went airborne NINA MARIE MCINNES MICHAEL CLORE outside Jacksonville, others were injured. April 5, 1997
at Winchester (Ind.) the Idaho Midget officials said. From
Speedway. and landed upside 39, driver 42, driver Pa., track officials Boune, of Rio Linda,
down on a wall at March 5, 1995 July 22, 1995 said. It was the first ––––––– Racing Association, Littleton, Colo., he Calif., died after
who was engaged,
was seeking his
––––––– Speedway U.S.A. in McInnes, an office Clore owned a time he had driven crashed at Magic left a wife and two hitting a wall
NEIL BONNETT at Challenger. DAVID BERGMAN Valley (Idaho) daughters, both of
fourth straight USAC Bolivar, Mo. manager and muffler business in head-on at Madera
47, driver REBEL JACKSON SR. 48, driver Speedway. The race whom worked at
Johnson, from mother of two from Madison, Va. He was (Calif.) Speedway.
Feb. 11, 1994
62, driver Miller, Mo., earned Lodi, Calif., died at killed when his car
––––––– May 3, 1996 was his first in a the track. The His father,
Bonnett was trying June 25, 1994 Bergman, from midget car. His speedway erected a
had just moved from the nickname Sacramento (Calif.) veered at grandfather and
to continue a A 35-year racing Greensboro, was 12-year-old son memorial to him.
Indiana to Concord, “Rollover Rayme” Raceway Park when Winchester (Va.) uncle all raced
comeback after a veteran from Burien, climbing out of his Cameron is starting
after a rough rookie midget cars.
racing accident in
N.C., a hub of stock Wash., Jackson was season during which
her dragster flipped
after a tire blowout.
car after placing to race karts now. –––––––
1990 left him with
car racing, to pursue
a NASCAR career.
killed at Portland he often crashed, Her brother, driver another. Drivers
fifth in a stock car
temporary amnesia. (Ore.) Speedway said his cousin. race at Ace LINDSEY MAYDEN
Dennis Paz, had voted against
The Hueytown, Ala., ––––––– when his car slid introduced her to completing the race, 7, spectator JEFF KRUG
native died in a and crashed into the ––––––– racing. published reports
Altamahaw, N.C., Oct. 13, 1996 40, driver
crash in practice for wall. Jackson’s son, when he collapsed Lindsey, from April 20, 1997
RON BENKER JERRY SIDES said. RUSSELL PHILLIPS
the Daytona 500. 37, driver Rebel Jr., also was in 54, driver ––––––– 26, driver
and died in the pits Sellersburg, Ind., Krug, a construction
Other racers said May 27, 1994 the 22-car field. He Aug. 8, 1994 MIKE HOLMAN
––––––– Oct. 6, 1995
of a heart attack, his was walking with company executive
they had asked continued to run and second. He often put her mother, Dawn, from Venice, Calif.,
Benker, from Alden, Sides, from North 44, track staff A Mint Hill firefighter in 18-hour days at
Bonnett not to drive won the race. JAMES ASHE to an infield died when his
N.Y., was excited Richland Hills, Texas, May 3, 1995 and youth Sunday the track or garage,
again after a wreck 62, driver concession stand at dragster lost
at Talladega in 1993.
about his debut at
––––––– crashed through an
Holman, a longtime Aug. 12, 1995
Phillips was the third
said his son, Johnny.
BLAINE JOHNSON Salem Speedway in traction and flipped
flagman at Fremont Ashe died of a heart Indiana when she
––––––– Speedway in New MARK ROSE crossing the finish (Ohio) Speedway, attack while
driver killed in seven ––––––– 34, driver
was struck by a
over the guardrail at
York and ignored 30, journalist line at Texas died when a car hit years at Charlotte Aug. 31, 1996
competing in a wheel that came off Speedway. His
chest pains two June 25, 1994 Raceway in his flagstand. State (now Lowe’s) Motor Johnson’s car blew a
charity race with a car on the track. brother said Krug
days before, fearing Rose, from Newhall, Kennedale and flew police briefly closed Speedway, in a race tire and crashed into
local legendary Her father, Jeff, was was profoundly
a doctor wouldn’t let Calif., and the into the trees. He a highway to for drivers trying to a wall during
drivers at Riverside helping his brother, affected by the
him race, his sister publisher of died two days later accommodate his gain experience on qualifying at
Park Speedway in Pete, in the race. death of Blaine
said. A husband and Off-Road Magazine, –the second driver 100-car funeral large tracks. After Indianapolis
Massachusetts. The Johnson the year
father of twin
was reporting a
story as a passenger
killed at the track in
procession. Prospect, Mass.,
his death, NASCAR’s
Johnson, from Santa
––––––– before at the 1996
Benker was pulling in the Brush Run 101
––––––– ––––––– business owner
ceased. Maria, Calif., was ROBERT SWARTZ U.S. Nationals race,
off his firesuit after truck race in SCOTT BRAYTON leading one of drag 50, driver which Krug won.
RODNEY ORR the race and went Crandon, Wis. A
MARK GLECKL raced by the name ––––––– 36, driver racing’s top
33, driver into cardiac arrest. truck passed the DON MARSH 40, journalist of “Jim Cash.” He fell
May 17, 1996 divisions. He had
Oct. 20, 1996
Swartz, a mechanic
Feb. 14, 1994 36, driver June 30, 1995 in love with racing
one he was riding in, Brayton, from just completed a and father of three
Orr’s car flipped and ––––––– and the two collided. Aug. 13, 1994 Gleckl, from Dana
Point, Calif., was
when he started
Coldwater, Mich., track-record from Waverly, Iowa,
hit a wall during About a year after driving in the early
The driver of Rose’s working as an ESPN had won the pole for qualifying run. died when his car
practice for his first he began driving ’50s. Ashe had
truck had a broken the veered off Cedar
Daytona 500. Orr, arm. jet-powered cars, cameraman at an
retired from racing
USAC-sanctioned ––––––– Falls (Iowa)
originally from the Webster, Mass., in 1978.
Indianapolis 500 for Raceway and rolled
Robbinsville, N.C., ––––––– racer slammed into race when drivers
bumped, sending ––––––– the second straight
R.C. “ROD” MATHIS
over a guardrail.
died the day driver a concrete wall in his 49, driver
just-purchased one car through a year when a tire Swartz’s daughter
Neil Bonnett was GENE VECCHIO RANDY NIESE HARRY KOURAFAS JR. Sept. 14, 1996 JIM PAGEL
vehicle during an fence and killing deflated during a got married the
buried. 44, driver 37, driver 21, driver Mathis, a retired Las 42, driver
exhibition at Virginia him. Gleckl’s family practice lap, sending following week, with
July 3, 1994 Aug. 12, 1995 Oct. 15, 1995 Vegas police officer, May 2, 1997
––––––– WAYNE MCCARTHY
42, driver Medical personnel Motorsports Park in won a settlement Niese, a Chicago Kourafas, a cook
his car into a wall at
died one day after his widow giving
Rescuers needed an
Petersburg, Va. against one of the 230 mph. “Being away the bride.
THOMAS SHAW June 5, 1994 at the Southern businessman who from Randolph, Las Vegas Motor hour to extract
drivers and used the killed racing wasn’t
35, driver McCarthy was Oregon Dragway
––––––– money to set up a
raced as a hobby, Mass., was driving in a concern of
when his car hit the
––––––– Pagel, a
Feb. 27, 1994 dueling for the lead determined Vecchio, died in a five-car his second race and Scott’s,” said his construction
from Novato, Calif., fund for Gleckl’s wreck at Road was killed in a crash wall along the fourth
Shaw, a TWA in a stock car heat at wife, Becky, at the engineer from
likely blacked out then 5-year-old son, America in Elkhart at Thompson turn. Mathis was
mechanic from Speedway U.S.A. in time. Appleton, Wis., from
due to G-forces Anthony, and Lake, Wis. (Conn.) International driving in a road race
Bayside, N.Y., had Bolivar, Mo., when his stock car after a
raced high-powered his car spun and resulting from his
daughter, Amy. –––––––
Speedway. “I felt ––––––– that was run both qualifying accident
karts for more than slammed into a jet-powered car (racing) was the on the speedway at Wisconsin
and in the infield.
12 years when he concrete wall. The traveling more than
200 mph. Vecchio, a
––––––– JOHNNY RAY JOHNSON
safest sport,” said
his mother, Marjorie.
crashed into a Raceway in
concrete wall during
from Tahlequah, husband and father 39, spectator “I wouldn’t let him ––––––– Kaukauna. He died a
practice on a Miami of two sons under 4 BILLY JOE PRESSLEY Aug. 19, 1995 play football VICKIE LYNN FOSTER few hours after the
Okla., loved the thrill
street course. at the time, crashed 43, driver Johnson, a roofing because I thought it 36, spectator accident. A
of racing, said his
into a tree 200 feet Sept. 24, 1994 contractor from was too dangerous.” Nov. 10, 1996 memorial fund
brother, Donnie, also
––––––– a driver. beyond the track. A minister and Springfield, Tenn., Foster, from raised more than
cousin of NASCAR was a spectator in ––––––– Chancellorsville, Va., $6,000 for his
––––––– ––––––– driver Robert the bleachers at RANDY STICKLEY was hit by an church.
Pressley, he died Tennessee’s Duck 34, driver out-of-control
after his car hit two DANNY YOUNG River Speedway May 18, 1996 dragster after trying –––––––
walls and a car at 25, driver when a car on the Stickley, from to shove her
New Asheville July 19, 1995 track hit a wheel Fairmont, W.Va., husband and
Speedway. He left Young, from Des that had come off in died when his 5-year-old son from
Sept. 15, 1996
four kids, a wife and Moines, Iowa, made an accident. The dragster flipped harm’s way at
a congregation in a contact with wheel sailed 30 to after hitting a sand Sumerduck (Va.)
JOHN “JACK” construction worker
church he created another car and 40 feet, clearing the embankment at Dragway. “She
MCGREGOR JR. and Vietnam War
from a nightspot. He flipped nine times grandstand fence KENNY MINTER Kanawha Valley (W. would do anything
52, driver veteran from East
ROY HARTLEY PAT RAND once waved a during a sprint car and killing Johnson, 39, driver Va.) Dragway Park. for her family,” said
March 11, 1994 Lyme, Conn., had a
50, driver 29, driver checkered race at Knoxville said a track official. Oct. 29, 1995 husband Rickie, who
McGregor, a heart attack – his TERRY EGNER
June 11, 1994 July 11, 1994 handkerchief while (Iowa) Raceway. An Minter’s car was injured along
Springfield, Ohio, second – in the final 36, crew
Hartley, from The Michicot, Wis., singing “Victory in annual memorial bumped with with son Matthew.
auto parts plant laps of a race at May 4, 1997
Pembroke Pines, machinist died after Jesus” during a race for Young is another in an
owner, struck a Waterford (Conn.) Egner, a county road
Fla., died of a heart his race car flipped service. held at the Iowa open-wheel race
concrete wall while Speedbowl. supervisor from
attack during a race over on its side and State Fairgrounds, and crashed into a
practicing at Calvert City, Ky., was
at Hialeah (Fla.) was struck on the with proceeds going wall at Caraway
Florida’s Moroso killed at Barren
Speedway. A top of the roll cage to a fund for his Speedway in
Motorsports Park. County (Ky.)
sergeant who spent by another car at daughter, Nicole, Asheboro, N.C.
His son said Speedway when a
20 years with Sheboygan (Wis.) who Young’s Minter was from
McGregor died car crashed into the
Miami’s Metro-Dade County Fair Park. parents adopted. Martinsville, Va.
participating in his pits where his crew
police force, he The car was owned Racers raised
lifelong passion. was working. Egner,
wanted to be the by Rand’s father, money for his young
“You see so many a father of two, and
next Glenn “Fireball” Neil, who since has son and wife when
people suffer or in the car’s driver,
Roberts, a NASCAR worked to get other insurance problems
pain,” Ross Terry English, were
great who died after racers to install a arose.
McGregor said. “I friends and
get some comfort a crash at Charlotte reinforcing bar on
from this.” (now Lowe’s) Motor top of roll cages.
Speedway in 1964.
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 7N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
1997 STEVE HALL
38, track staff
JOHN LEGAT Oct. 4, 1997 May 2, 1999 Aug. 7, 1999
50, driver Hall, from West A truck driver and Whitling’s car hit
May 18, 1997 Alexandria, Ohio, father of three from the wall at
crashed his dragster Canton, Ill., Meads Sportsman’s
Legat, from Carol
Stream, Ill., died on a creek bank at worked as a pit Speedway in
when his car the edge of Kil-Kare steward at Spoon Pennsylvania after
slammed into a tree CARRIE NEAL Speedway at River (Ill.) Speedway. swerving to avoid a KEVIN GOBRECHT
and split in half as he 25, driver Dayton, Ohio. Hall’s He was killed by a wreck. He was a 30, driver
tried to pass another July 25, 1997 father, Lonnie, car that careened off foreman on the Sept. 24, 1999
car at Summit Point Neal, from Poway, renewed his own the track as he second shift at a Gobrecht, from New
Raceway in West Calif., was heating racing career after stepped into the pit paper mill in Oxford, Pa., died
Virginia. up her tires at Sears his son’s death. He entrance. Titusville, Pa. Cousin after his sprint car
Point Raceway in still races at 60. The racing community grieves: Thousands of mourners stood in the streets Bobby Whitling won crashed at I-80
––––––– Sonoma, Calif., ––––––– a race later that Speedway in
when her dragster ––––––– of Montevideo, Uruguay, to honor Gonzalo Rodriguez, a CART rookie who RON LITTLE week and dedicated Greenwood, Neb. A
shot forward at 200 his victory to Tom. piece of another car
DEAN HUBBS died at a California speedway in September 1999. Two weeks later, hundreds 42, driver
mph and smashed May 9, 1999 came loose, striking
May 23, 1997 into a hillside. Neal, waited in the rain to say goodbye to local legend Kevin Gobrecht, an Oxford, Little, from Adel,
––––––– Gobrecht and killing
in her eighth race, Iowa, crawled out of him. The night
was the daughter of
Pa., driver who died at a Nebraska track. The next month, in October, Bill before the funeral,
Chittenango, N.Y., his car after finishing
suffered fatal injuries Chuck Neal, known Knisley Jr. of Owensville, Ohio, died in a crash at an Ohio speedway. His third in a race at hundreds waited up
in a crash at as “The Fastest Man Stuart Speedway in to four hours in the
on the Sand” father visits his grave twice a week. Iowa. Minutes later, rain to say goodbye
Speedway, because he has held he died of a heart to “the G-Man.”
almost every major attack. In his last
published reports. drag racing record
Oct. 24, 1997 race, Little reached –––––––
He had just begun on sand. one of his goals –
Wilson was testing a
racing again after a
––––––– Formula Mazda he 1997-2000 cars he built finished
first through fourth.
was working on for
CHARLES ELLIS Aug. 14, 1999 Sept. 25, 1999
another driver when
––––––– ––––––– Witkum, a Cowherd, from
Aug. 17, 1997
he crashed into a
barrier near the pit
AUG. 30, 1997 1999 mechanic from Phoenix, died of
Ellis, from Crosby, Jolley, a Forest City, N.C., Westford, Mass., head injuries after
32, driver lane at Sears Point
Texas, was avoiding veterinarian, began racing after heart died when his his car collided with
May 25, 1997 Raceway in
a spun-out car when open-wheel car another and
Fell, from Sun Prairie, California. The problems forced him to stop flying slammed into a wall slammed into a wall.
Wis. died after a another hit his on longtime, planes, his wife said. He had a fatal
the driver’s side, at at Jennerstown (Pa.) His death was the
crash at Wisconsin’s award-winning heart attack while racing at the
Battleground Speedway. His twin second in six
Angell Park mechanic, who had
Speedway in Texas. a shop at the track, CRAIG MCCALLUM
Rutherfordton’s Green Hill Motor brother, who also months at Irwindale
and driver Brandon He told his wife was considering 49, driver Speedway. His car then veered into a was in that race, has Speedway in
RAY KENNEDY given up the sport. California.
Waelti switched to before the race, “I’m resuming his driving June 21, 1998 JOHN JOLLEY spectator area, where it hit Parker, a 52, driver
Fell’s car number going to win tonight career. McCallum, from 53, driver Spindale, N.C., man who had just TOMMY BOWLES May 16, 1999 ––––––– –––––––
after his death. or they’re going to Rutherfordton, N.C., pushed his girlfriend out of the way. An engineer who
take me out.” ––––––– was traveling 180 THOMAS LEE PARKER Parker’s family considered a suit but Feb. 9, 1999 had retired to Hilton
––––––– ––––––– mph when his car 63, spectator dropped the idea after being told the “Ten-Grand Tommy” Head Island, S.C.,
veered off the drag Aug. 20, 1999
was a popular racer Kennedy drove his
TIM TURNER 1998 strip at Beech Bend
(Ky.) Raceway Park
track had little, if any, insurance. The
track is closed. from Grand Blanc, Jaguar off Summit
Pole, from Canada,
was struck by a
44, driver Mich., who earned Point (W.Va.)
and became sprint car that spun
Aug. 27, 1997 RICHARD his nickname Raceway at 100
airborne, sailing out of control in the
Turner, a mechanic COLHOUN JR. because he drove mph and ran into an
upside down pits at Grays Harbor
from Avoca, Ind., 50, driver full-out at 10,000 embankment.
died of a heart through a guardrail JULY 18 AND AUG. 23, 1998 revolutions per
Raceway Park in BILL KNISLEY JR.
May 9, 1998
attack during a Colhoun, from
and smashing a minute. He was ––––––– Elma, Wash. Pole 38, driver
scoring tower. “He was a spectator Oct. 2, 1999
practice run at E.T. Millbrook, N.Y., was killed after his car
JERRY BURKE died on Father’s Day, with little racing Knisley collided with
Speedway in racing his Porsche was hit by another MEL BRESAW
50, driver and the kids really background, said another car and
Bloomfield, Ind. His 911 when his car slid at Charlotte County 50, driver
June 7, 1997 miss him,” said his Walter Bachman, struck a wall at
son, Matt, now drag on the track at Lime (Fla.) Speedway. May 22, 1999
As Burke passed his wife, Bobbie. “They one of two others Ohio’s Eldora
races; he built the Rock (Conn.) Park Bresaw, a Ford
wife, Veronica, in the dragster his father and flipped. A lover
still can’t talk about ––––––– dealership parts
injured in the
stands during a was driving when he it.” manager from father of three from
of fast cars, he gave Owensville, Ohio,
hobby stock race, he
gave her a
died. his sons ––––––– JOHN DAVIS PHIL KANE
Gresham, Ore., was ––––––– died of a broken
driving-school going about 130
thumbs-up. “Then ––––––– lessons as birthday PAUL JONES 48, driver 42, track staff mph when his car SUSIE WELLS
two laps later the ran off the Southern members said.
MELANIE RACHELLE presents. 41, driver 47, driver
car just veered into Oregon Speedway in Knisley’s father
MITCHELL July 11, 1998 Aug. 21, 1999
the infield,” she said. ––––––– Jones, a motocross
Davis, from Fort Myers, Fla., died instantly after his car Medford, Ore., and Wells, from Tooele,
visits his son’s grave
16, spectator twice a week.
Burke, racing at his
Aug. 31, 1997 veteran in his spun off Turn 1 at Moroso Motorsports Park in Florida and into trees. He left a Utah, had raced
hometown Boone TONY MONK hit a concrete barrier. The barrier fell, injuring two track
second year of stock
wife and three dragsters for years, –––––––
Kennedale, Texas, car driving, pulled off workers, including Kane. Kane, a Miami real estate children, including a often in the popular
had a heart attack May 16, 1998 23, driver son who still races.
was standing with
Monk, a New York
Orange County (N.Y) appraiser known as “PK,” died after five weeks in a coma. March 27, 1999
funny car division.
and crashed into a Fair Speedway She called her
her boyfriend in a
investment banker Davis’ brother is using parts from the Corvette for his own Diemert’s car hit the –––––––
restricted area at during a sportsman dragster “Beauty
and father of three, land-speed race car. wall during practice
race and collapsed in and the Beast” and
––––––– Cowtown (Texas)
died when his the pits after a heart
at Irwindale (Calif.) JASON BETWARDA
was celebrating a
Speedway when a Speedway, but the 28, driver
Indy-style car hit a attack. The South new sponsorship on
flying tire pushed a race went on with June 12, 1999
RICK BALDWIN wall during a race at Salem, N.Y., the night her car
fence into them. Her no announcement of Betwarda, from
41, driver boyfriend, a novice
Connecticut’s Lime landscaper had won JULY 26, 1998 crashed into a wall
June 12, 1997 Rock Park. his death. He was a Scarsdale, N.Y., had GREG MOORE
driver injured in the a division title in his built cars for years, and she died at
Baldwin, from KENNETH FOX SHERYL ANN LASTER MICHAEL TAUTKUS safety officer from 24, driver
incident, returned to ––––––– first year of stock
car racing. 38, spectator 40, spectator 49, spectator Roseburg, Ore. “He then decided to Rocky Mountain
Raceways in Salt Oct. 31, 1999
racing the next was the most drive. He died when
Texas, spent 11 years Lake City. Moore was traveling
in a coma before he ––––––– Fox, Laster and Tautkus were killed when a tire and
sensitive and warm his 1993 Mustang 220 mph when his
died in June 1997. ––––––– debris from a crash flew into the stands during a CART
man I’ve ever crashed at New
––––––– car slid on the 10th
His car spun into a JACK ROGERS known,” said father lap of a race at
wall at Michigan 53, track staff race at Michigan International Speedway. Six others were Jim. Valley Dragway. California Speedway.
RICK GWIN DELMAR RIGGINS
International July 18, 1998 injured. Laster, a travel consultant, and Tautkus, a plastics ––––––– A racing prodigy
Speedway. His wife,
Rogers, from worker, were friends from Milan, Mich., who attended the
––––––– 44, driver
from Canada, he
Sept. 5, 1997 Sept. 1, 1999
Debbie, Gwin, from Lakeland, Fla., was race together. Fox, a corporal at a state boot camp for Riggins was making was the youngest
unsuccessfully sued Mansfield, Ohio, working as a his way through an driver to compete in
NASCAR for MARIO CARBUCCIA Michigan felons, later was honored by friends who took a CART race and the
died of multiple flagman at accident at his
negligence. 45, driver Auburndale up a collection for the care and education of his youngest to win a
injuries when he hit hometown Enid
a wall at Baer Field
May 29, 1998 Speedway in Winter then-7-year-old son, Christopher. (Okla.) Speedway race before this year.
––––––– Speedway in Fort
Carbuccia, a Haven when a car, when his car was hit
Wayne, Ind. Gwin
mechanic from the jockeying for by another one,
Dominican Republic, position, swerved off
was driving for Sam causing his fuel cell BILL REVARD
died when his car the track and hit M AY 1, 1999 EDWIN RITCHIE to explode. Riggins, 34, driver
slammed into a 50, driver ROGER PAULSON
considered him, according to who had been Nov. 13, 1999
concrete wall at April 24, 1999 45, driver
retirement after published reports. DEXTER MOBLEY racing 24 years, died
Baton Rouge (La.) The Vietnam veteran
Patton, Pyatte and Mobley were Ritchie, from June 18, 1999 Revard, a popular
Gwin’s death. 41, spectator from burns suffered local driver from
Raceway. The owned a killed when debris from a three-car Snohomish, Wash., Paulson, a
in the accident. Pinellas Park, Fla.,
––––––– accident was his car-detailing ––––––– IRL wreck flew into the Lowe’s Motor was midway sheet-metal worker
was known for his
second of the day.
His car was named
business and had Speedway stands. Eight others were through a race when from San Jose, Calif.,
died at Delta
––––––– fearless racing style
worked as a race injured. he had a heart
54, driver “F13” for his wife, Speedway in and nicknamed
director and flagman attack at Evergreen
June 22, 1997 Fifa, and the date Patton was a rest home food Speedway in Stockton, Calif., “Wild Bill.” He died
Wollesen, a legal for more than 15 server from Hickory, N.C. “My baby’s after a crash
they met. Monroe, Wash. The when his car rolled.
administrator from years, reports said. knocked him into
face had to be wrapped like a annual “60 Minutes Popular in California
Clarkston, Mich., ––––––– ––––––– mummy for his funeral,” said his of Fear” race he died racing circles, his the grandstand wall
died in a crash at JOSEPH SMITH SR. funeral drew at Sunshine
Wisconsin’s Road mother, Judith Patton of Mooresville. in is now named
Speedway in Florida.
60, driver CHARLIE PERKINS after him. hundreds.
America. She had DEREK ISRAEL 30, track staff
JEFF PATTON “Oh, how I wanted to see him one He delivered pizzas
May 29, 1998
raced for 11 years. 28, driver Smith, from July 31, 1998
32, spectator more time.” ––––––– ––––––– GONZALO RODRIGUEZ and ran a forklift,
Sept. 14, 1997 Manhattan, Kan., Perkins, a state ––––––– Pyatte worked in the warehouse of 27, driver and was considering
––––––– Israel’s 1972 Datsun was killed when his trooper from New Synthetics Finishing in Hickory. On TIMOTHY VOUAUX LONNIE BOSTROM
Sept. 11, 1999 retirement from
42, crew 48, driver
510 was hit by dragster failed to Lebanon, N.Y., and the first anniversary of his death, his Rodriguez, a CART racing to spend
April 30, 1999 June 19, 1999
another car at slow down and hit a volunteer at rookie from more time with his
family visited the track from Connelly While working on a Bostrom, an
son, Billy Jr.
California’s Sears wall after a time trial Lebanon Valley electronics Uruguay, died in
Point Raceway. His Speedway, was
Springs with balloons, silk flowers, a pit crew at Tri-City practice at
at Heartland Park
parents say he was Topeka in Kansas. killed helping a porcelain angel and a poster that (Mich.) Motor technician from
California’s Laguna –––––––
Speedway, Vouaux Meridian, Idaho,
killed when a piece He got into drag driver after a crash. read: “Randy We Love You.” crashed his dragster Seca Raceway when
of debris came
through the driver’s
watching his son
Another car, driven
Mobley was a Georgia native who
lived in Statesville, N.C. At a
was struck by a car
at a trackside at Firebird Raceway his car crashed into
a tire barrier,
RANDY PYATTE, guardrail. His in Emmitt, Idaho. He
side window. An race. brother-in-law, hit memorial, friends remembered him had loved vehicles launched into the air
KEVIN FLEMING Oakland car repair Perkins, according to 21, spectator brother, who was and landed upside LARRY DEATON
25, driver shop owner, he was ––––––– the family’s
as a low-key appliance repairman driving in the race, since before 41, driver
rebuilding a truck at down. Thousands of
July 2, 1997 considering studying attorney. who never hesitated when someone has quit the sport. mourners stood in Jan. 22, 2000
Fleming’s car spun in Israel to become a needed help. Vouaux, from the streets of the Off-road racing was
while trying to avoid rabbi. ––––––– Saginaw, Mich., was
––––––– Uruguayan capital, a chance for Deaton
an accident and was the father of young Montevideo, during to take his wife and
hit by another driver ––––––– CHAD COLEMAN triplets. WILLIAM “PAT” RILEY his funeral daughter on
at the New York 30, driver JASON BENTON BRIAN RASMUSSEN 40, driver mini-vacations. The
State Fairgrounds in Aug. 28, 1998 23, journalist 35, driver ––––––– July 17, 1999
auto repair shop
Syracuse. Fleming, Coleman, from Sept. 6, 1998 Oct. 11, 1998 Riley crashed his ––––––– owner from Clovis,
an auto mechanic Greenville, S.C., Benton, from Grand “Raz,” a business stock car into a wall Calif., died when
DAN HERMAN dreamed of Rapids, Mich., was owner and former at New Paris (Ind.) EDWARD CRAY another driver hit his
from Evans Mills,
48, driver becoming a Winston videotaping races at police officer from Speedway, track 59, driver stalled car broadside
N.Y., who also
June 5, 1998 Cup driver and made Great Lakes Wichita, Kan., had officials and Sept. 18, 1999 at a Laughlin, Nev.,
helped work the
Herman, a Bismarck, a promotional video Dragway in Union been racing a few published reports Cray, an electrician desert course.
family farm, was
N.D., heating and for potential Grove, Wis., when a CARL MERRILL months when his said. The Union, Ind., from Trenton, N.J.,
PEGGY PAWLOWSKI cooling business sponsors. He owned car flew over a 62, driver car crashed into a mechanic, worked died when his –––––––
––––––– 37, track staff owner, died a sign company and guardrail, according Oct. 3, 1998 dirt embankment at TIMOTHY sound and lights for dragster struck
following the family was engaged to be to track officials and Merrill, the owner of his hometown 81 local rock bands. another car and
Sept. 27, 1997 CUMBERLAND MATTHEWS
tradition. “My married when he hit published reports. several Maine hotels Speedway. He died went over a
Pawlowski was 29, driver
working near the great-grandpa and the wall at Atlanta and restaurants, of a broken neck.
May 1, 1999
––––––– guardrail at Atco
Feb. 20, 2000
pits of the Waterford my grandpa and my Motor Speedway. ––––––– suffered a heart Cumberland, an DARRELL SARSYCKI Raceway in New
Hills (Mich.) Road dad raced,” said his CHRIS BRADLEY attack during the ––––––– auto mechanic in 46, driver Jersey, police said.
Inola, Okla., had
son, Steve. “I race.” first stage of an July 24, 1999 He died of massive
Race Course when a 40, crew JIMMY DAVIES Gulfport, Miss., was finished a test run of
Herman suffered a off-road rally in Sarsycki, a railroad internal injuries.
car jumped the Sept. 7, 1998 40, crew hit in a practice lap a friend’s Chevy
barrier and landed heart attack during a Bradley, from Spring Arizona. The month inspector from
Oct. 17, 1998 at Jackson (Miss.) Nova dragster when
on top of her. A caution period at Lake, Mich., was the before, he had given Midwest City, Okla.,
CARL DALO Davies, a Canadian Motor Speedway, the car left the track,
cancer survivor from Dacotah Speedway crew chief for Adam his wife a yellow died when his
51, driver working the pits, causing his car to hit hit a ditch and rolled
Waterford in Mandan, N.D. Petty’s minor league Volkswagen Beetle high-powered kart
July 19, 1997 was struck in the the wall, flip and over several times at
Township, Mich., she circuit stock car and plane tickets to head and chest by a catch fire. Married, collided with Tulsa International
Dalo, a Henrietta,
had volunteered to racing team. Bradley join him in Arizona. piece of guardrail he left behind son another and struck a Speedway. His
N.Y., food service
help terminally ill was run over while Despite several that flew 70 feet Kyler and his wife, tree at the Lake brother stopped
patients with pain making an heart procedures, after an accident at Tracie, then Garnett track in racing and sold his
management. adjustment under “he lived on the Lime Rock Park in pregnant with son Kansas. His twin dragster.
after his stock car
Petty’s car during a edge all the time,” Connecticut. Davies Timothy Cole. brother, David, says
hit a wall on the last
pit stop at the Barbara Merrill said. cleaned cheese he still drives karts
lap of a race at
Minnesota State Fair barrels for a living. because he wants to
Speedway. win a national event
Motorsports Park in
- for himself and for
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 8N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
APRIL 1, 2000
Wehrlen were DEATH AT
sprint cars at
Bronson (Fla.) RAY GASTELU MICHAEL JOSSELYN JIM DEEL
43, driver 45, driver 53, driver
Speedway when Aug. 25, 2001
June 30, 2001 Sept. 15, 2001
their wheels Gastelu, a Jackson, Josselyn, a Deel, a Green
THOMAS SEMANS III CHARLES WEHRLEN tangled and the N.J., satellite system heavy-equipment Springs, Ohio,
66, driver 62, driver cars went over installer, had a heart operator from mechanic, died
an embankment attack while Alamogordo, N.M., when his sprint car
Tragedy doesn’t discriminate by age. At 68, Del Quinn was the oldest driver warming up for a died after breaking crashed into the
that circled the track. Semans was a retired public works
to die at a U.S. track since 1990. Known as “The Mighty Quinn,” he suffered a weekly stock car his neck in a race at second-turn wall at
supervisor from Beverly Hills, Fla. Wehrlen was retired the Sertoma
race at New Jersey’s Fremont (Ohio)
from running a New Jersey marina. He was, said his heart attack after an April 2001 race in California. At 15, Jimmy Olson was the Wall Stadium. His Speedway in Speedway. The race
brother, Drew, “a cautious person.” wife said he was Tularosa, N.M. His was Deel’s second.
youngest to die; he crashed a truck in June 2000 in Wisconsin. Dale father watched the
feeling sick that “I didn’t want him to
Earnhardt, 49, died in February 2001 at the Daytona 500. That night, night. She said wreck from the drive,” said his
nothing would have stands, and one of father, Clyde. “The
NASCAR president Mike Helton, his voice breaking, read a statement from kept him out of the his three brothers, race track is a good
Chairman Bill France Jr. “Today,” the statement said, “NASCAR lost its car; he was one win all of whom race, place for someone
away from a track cut him from the to get hurt.”
2000 JAMES “J.W.”
greatest driver in the history of the sport.” record. car.
57, driver ––––––– –––––––
July 30, 2000
The owner of an
Irvine, Calif., real
firm, Mitchell died of HOWELL C. JONES III
DANNY BURNS complications from 29, driver
52, driver a brain injury after a Oct. 15, 2000
June 3, 2000 1999 midget car Jones, from Sheldon,
CHRIS ABBLETT Burns was knocked crash at California’s S.C., died after his
20, crew unconscious when Kings Speedway. car’s suspension CHUCK SENNOTT
Feb. 26, 2000 his car hit a guardrail ’’He was always broke, sending him ALEX KOPE FRED PSCHOLKA 46, driver
Abblett, the only but soon seemed very conscious into a wall during a 38, driver 20, track staff Sept. 23, 2001
child of Don and fine, joking with about safety,’’ said DWIGHT WRICH race at Hardeeville AL PAPINI III GORDON LEMONS RODNEY SCHADT July 20, 2001 Aug. 25, 2001 Sennott, from
Shelley Abblett of medics at New his brother, 38, driver (S.C.) Motor 41, driver 54, driver 53, driver Kope, a former Air A car detailer, cook Gilbertsville, Pa.,
Lakeland, Fla., died Castle’s Hickory Nicholas, who quit Oct. 1, 2000 Speedway. “To say I April 1, 2001 April 21, 2001 June 2, 2001 Force arms and volunteer was found
from debris when (Pa.) Speedway. An racing after his Wrich, a bank vice wish he hadn’t Papini’s car struck Lemons, an Aurora, Schadt died after his technician from firefighter, Pscholka, unresponsive after a
his car’s tire Imperial, Pa., bus brother’s accident. president from raced, that would be the wall at Rockford Ore., business stock car slid down Bellingham, Wash., of DuBois, Pa., was 15-car pileup at
exploded in the pits driver, he died five Omaha, Neb., who saying I wish he had (Ill.) Speedway after owner, died after his the track on its side had a heart attack working as a Delaware
at USA International days later of head, ––––––– co-hosted a weekly been different. And I he had a heart car hit a barrier and was hit by and hit a wall during flagman in the third International
Speedway in neck and trunk financial-planning don’t feel that way,” attack while chasing during time trials at another driver at a sprint car race at turn of Central Speedway. He was
Lakeland, Fla. His injuries. “We closed radio show, died his father said. his first late-model Oregon’s Willamette Eldon (Iowa) Deming Speedway Pennsylvania known at the track
parents later held a the track,” said after his car stock car title. The Speedway, Raceway. Schadt, in Washington. He Speedway when a as “Chuckles.” His
21st-birthday party co-owner Regina crashed, flipped and ––––––– Machesney Park, Ill., according to from Brighton, Iowa, got to know his wife, sprint car hit him motto: “No matter
for their late son. Mayerchak. “It was caught fire at resident had no published reports. had recently Diane, by spending and threw him 30 what happens
Sunday afternoons feet. His mother and tonight, the beer’s
––––––– just too hard to
45, driver previous health
problems, said ––––––– returned to racing
after giving it up together, watching grandfather both cold at the end.”
Oct. 20, 2000
races on television. raced stock cars.
At his funeral, his
children, Morgan, 9,
Winne had a heart George Bohn, a
longtime friend who
years before when
he and his wife
April 10, 2000
29, crew and Carsten, 7, practice. That day, won the race. started a family. ––––––– –––––––
Whitehouse was Aug. 5, 2000 played “We Three he had told family
about to sell his Beaufeaux, from Kings” and “Love and friends he ––––––– –––––––
Oklahoma City Midwest City, Okla., Me Tender” on the wasn’t feeling well
machine shop to was tightening lug piano. because he was
start a race-engine nuts on a stock car nervous about a
business when his between races at ––––––– close championship JOE FABRIZIUS
car crashed during Oklahoma’s State RICHARD KIRK chase at New York’s 69, track staff
the season’s first SCOTT BAKER Fair Speedway when 48, driver Orange County Fair April 25, 2001 BLAISE
sprint race at State 43, driver the car accidentally Oct. 8, 2000 Speedway. The Fabrizius, the owner ALEXANDER JR.
VIRGINIA WHYEL TIM BARLOW
Fair (Okla.) June 23, 2000 was put in gear. A Kirk, an electrician Kingston, N.Y., of Sycamore (Ill.) 25, driver
DARRELL BOYD 64, spectator 55, driver
Speedway. He died Baker, from Holland, wrench struck the from Burleson, collision repairman Speedway, was Oct. 4, 2001
WAYNE GREEN 55, driver July 22, 2001 Aug. 26, 2001
17 days later. Mich., was killed Navy veteran in the Texas, hit a was known as sitting in a golf cart Alexander was vying
61, driver June 9, 2001 A sister, wife, mom Barlow spun out to
after his car hit a tire head, and he died concrete retaining “Fonzie” for his when a crash in with Dale
––––––– barrier near the hours later. His wall at Cowtown resemblance to the April 7, 2001 practice sent a Boyd collapsed in and grandmother,
“Ginny” died when
avoid a wreck at
California’s Sears Earnhardt’s son,
brother, competing Speedway, near TV character. Green’s dragster wheel flying off the the pits minutes Kerry, for an ARCA
start-finish line at cars ran off Lorain Point Raceway and
in the race when the Fort Worth. He’d crashed in practice track. The wheel after race-night race lead when their
the Toledo (Ohio)
Speedway. Baker accident happened, been racing about a ––––––– at Kansas City struck him in the practice at St. County (Ohio)
Speedway and hit
collided with other
cars. The print shop cars collided,
has stopped racing. year, but didn’t International head and neck, Francois County sending Alexander
was a father of two the stands. Thirteen owner from
and the son of
––––––– discuss his hobby
much with his
2001 Raceway. Owner of
according to his
wife, Carol. “Keep
(Mo.) Raceway, said
his son, Darrell Jr. others were injured Petaluma, Calif., was head-on into the
wall at Lowe’s
business from Lee’s Another son, Chris, in the incident. a lifelong racing fan
Midwest racer Ralph mother, Betty Baird. racing in Heaven,” Motor Speedway.
Summitt, Mo., was racing at the Whyel, from Lorain, in his second year of
Baker. “He didn’t want me the track’s Web site The Montoursville,
Green left a wife, track that night and had watched her driving
to worry too much says. Pa., racer had
SEAN KOVACS JR. son race and was competitively.
––––––– about him,” Baird two daughters and had the pit stall next worked for free in
said. three grandchildren. ––––––– to his father. A sitting in a
––––––– Felix Sabates’ race
May 6, 2000 Friends raised barbecue and raffle wheelchair on a
platform. shop to get the
Kovacs, a Norwalk,
––––––– $10,000 and raised $7,000 in attention of a
donated a Jaws of memory of the
and volunteer Life rescue device to Desloge, Mo., driver.
––––––– big-time NASCAR
firefighter, was car owner.
GREG RUSSAKIS the track.
navigating a DOUG CHILTON
31, driver ––––––– –––––––
Pennsylvania road 33, driver
Aug. 26, 2000 Feb. 8, 2001 –––––––
rally in his Toyota Russakis’s car hit
when it went off After Chilton’s tire
KENNY IRWIN blew out at New 311 fluid on the track
course and struck a 30, driver and skidded off the DEL QUINN
tree. The driver had Speedway in STEVE HAMAN
July 7, 2000 Madison, N.C., drag strip at Moroso 68, driver 43, driver
minor injuries. Irwin, from Motorsports Park in April 28, 2001
another car hit WAYNE BAILEY Sept. 5, 2001
Indianapolis, died at
––––––– the same corner of
Chilton’s door. 47, driver Florida, police said.
An avid hunter and
Quinn, a retired
electrician, had a
JOHN BANKSTON Haman was known
Married just two Oct. 14, 2000 61, driver to fans as “The
BILL GNEGY the New Hampshire months, the son of a prominent fatal heart attack in DOUG MATHENY Racing Farmer”
Bailey, nicknamed Aug. 2, 2001 BILLY ANDERSON
41, driver International Reidsville man was Fort Pierce citrus JIMMIE CHILDERS his car after 47, driver because he raised
Bongo, died after Bankston’s sprint 28, driver
May 11, 2000 Speedway where an electrician. “He grower, he left a 52, driver finishing fifth in a June 9, 2001 corn and soybeans
his dragster car struck the Oct. 19, 2001
Gnegy, from Adam Petty crashed was my best friend,” wife and infant son. April 14, 2001 race at Kings Matheny had a heart in Egan, S.D. His car,
crashed into a wall third-turn wall at Anderson’s sprint
Colleyville, Texas, two months earlier. says father Ben Childers had a heart Speedway in attack, his fourth, numbered 23 for his
and split in half at Eldora Speedway in
died four days after “He was so much Chilton, weeping as Red River Raceway
––––––– attack during a race Hanford, Calif. while a race was Rossburg, Ohio. The two boys and three
car crashed and
his dragster hit a fun to be around,” and pulled into the Known as “The under caution at rolled end-over-end
he described his son. in Shreveport, La. Beaumont, Texas, girls, crashed after
wall, flipped and Felix Sabates, his car infield of Ohio’s Mighty Quinn,” he Washington’s South down Knoxville
His memorial businessman, who running over the
caught fire at Red owner, said at the ––––––– service included Lorain County was the oldest Sound Speedway. also loved to ski and wheel of another car
(Iowa) Raceway in
River (La.) Raceway. time. “He was very Speedway. The race driver in the The auto repair shop 1998. A
music by Led scuba dive, was at Huset’s
Gnegy, who drove a kind. I could RON DUSHEK SR. continued several Northern California manager from house-siding
Zeppelin, Iron buried in his driving Speedway in
car called “Star understand better if 55, driver laps. The Brook Park, Modifieds Olympia, Wash., had installer in Dayton,
Butterfly and The suit. Brandon, S.D.
Fighter,” was it were somebody Sept. 2, 2000 Ohio, auto body Association. triple bypass surgery Minn., he was
Doors. Bailey, from
engaged when he rough-and-tumble. Dushek, from North
Leonard, Mich., left repairman died later. in 1999, but his wife, ––––––– ––––––– paralyzed and lived
died. But why him?” Fort Myers, Fla., was
behind teen-age DALE EARNHARDT His wife sued, ––––––– Diane, said his for three years after
an electrician who alleging inadequate doctor cleared him the accident. His
––––––– ––––––– often did small daughters, 49, driver
Feb. 18, 2001 medical response. to race. “He drove wife filled the den
electrical jobs free of Harmony and with racing
LARRY BOWEN Melody, whose Earnhardt, the Track officials said his car to heaven,”
46, driver charge for people they thought he had she said. memorabilia and
mother died when Kannapolis, N.C.,
July 9, 2000 down on their luck. mechanical hung a sign: ’’The
they were young. native who won
Bowen, a 20-year He had a heart
seven NASCAR problems, and ––––––– Wreck Room.’’ He
racing veteran from attack at Charlotte
––––––– championships, died responded when died from
Marble Falls, Texas, 300 yards from the they recognized PAT KNIGHT
died of a heart Speedway, crashed GREG OLHAVA trouble. 43, driver DEAN ROPER BILL LOCKHART complication from
47, driver Daytona 500 finish 62, driver
attack during a drag and died. RALPH W. RIDGE III June 17, 2001 52, driver the crash.
line after his car
ADAM PETTY race at Lone Star Oct. 14, 2000 ––––––– 54, driver Knight, from Eagan, Aug. 19, 2001 Sept. 8, 2001
19, driver Raceway Park in
––––––– Olhava, a 20-year slammed head-on
May 26, 2001 Minn., was driving Roper suffered a Lockhart’s stock car
drag racing veteran into a wall. His heart attack – his
May 12, 2000 Sealy, Texas, hard-driving style Ridge, a funeral between 135 and ran off Lake City
Petty, from according to from Salem, Wis., home owner in 150 mph at Rock second – on lap 17 of (Fla.) Speedway and
was testing brakes earned him fame an ARCA race at the
Randleman, N.C., published reports. well beyond the Michigan, had a Falls Raceway in struck a guardrail
was the fourth He won many races in the pits when his heart attack and Wisconsin when his Illinois State about 140 feet from
car accelerated and track. Fans traveled Fairgrounds. The
generation of in the red hundreds of miles to crashed into a wall car crashed. He was the track, shearing
stock-car racing “Bubbaland flipped over at during the last lap at a production longtime stock car off the car’s top. His
Indianapolis an impromptu driver from Fair
drivers. He died in an Express” dragster. memorial at his Michigan’s Grattan manager for a ashes were
accident during Raceway Park. The Raceway Park, said company that Grove, Mo., had lost scattered at the
practice at New ––––––– data processing
race shop. “No one MARK WILSON friend Phaeton Bird. makes cell phone a son 10 months track. “I’ve seen Bill
Hampshire consultant had four 30, driver Ridge was mounts for driving. earlier in a truck go through balls of JIMMY JONES
TIM TODD will ever replace racing accident.
International children. April 14, 2001 diagnosed with fire; I’ve seen him go 26, driver
52, driver him,” said racer
Speedway. At his Sept. 3, 2000 ––––––– Rusty Wallace, A grandson of sprint cancer two years ––––––– ––––––– through clouds of Oct. 21, 2001
funeral, attended by Todd, the owner of a car legend Bob earlier and dirt,” his wife, A graphic artist in
“neither in our sport
more than 1,000 Bay Village, Ohio, Trostle, Wilson died apparently had Melanie said. “I don’t Indianapolis, Jones
or in our hearts.”
people, his sister industrial when his car’s beaten the disease, know how this could died in a crash
promised to name a engineering firm, ––––––– suspension broke, Bird said. have happened.” during the Fall
child after Adam. had a heart attack sending him into the Festival race at
during a race at the wall at his ––––––– Indianapolis
––––––– PETE FRAZIER Mid-Ohio Sports Car hometown track, Raceway Park.
JIMMY OLSON 42, driver Course. Knoxville (Iowa) Hundreds attended
15, driver July 23, 2000 Raceway. Wilson, his funeral. “The
A father of two from who left a wife, son CHANDLER BRUNING people at the funeral
June 2, 2000 TONY ROPER TIM BOSWELL
Broken Arrow, Okla., and four 31, driver home said they’d
Olson, a rising high 35, driver 35, driver
Frazier made his stepchildren, had June 28, 2001 never seen anything
school sophomore, Oct. 14, 2000 Aug. 25, 2001
living building car returned to racing in Bruning, from like it,” said his
lost control of a Roper’s truck MICHAEL ROBERTS Boswell, from
frames and racing. 2000 after a Colorado Springs, father, James. “They
pickup truck and hit collided with two 50, driver Copley, Ohio, died
He died when his car five-year absence. WALTER BAILEY Colo., died during said it was like the
a concrete wall at others, then struck March 24, 2001 after his car hit a
slammed to the 43, driver Pikes Peak president died.”
Lake Geneva (Wis.) a wall at Texas Roberts died track wall, then
ground after June 2, 2001 International Hill
Raceway, police Motor Speedway, practicing for his crashed through
colliding with The car driven by Climb qualifying
said. Olson, from killing the Fair first race when his trees and billboards
another at Dutton’s Bailey, a mechanic when his car missed
Woodstock, Ill., had Grove, Mo. driver. car hit a wall at outside Barberton
(Okla.) Speedway. from Dillon, S.C., a turn, went
been racing His father, Dean, a Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway in
His funeral drew who loved to fish, airborne and was
high-speed go-karts well-known driver Speedway. The Norton, Ohio.
more than 1,500 flew off the track impaled on a tree. A
since he was 8. in the Midwest, died Milwaukee Boswell was a
people. during a stock race year earlier, his
in a race 10 months businessman spent substitute driver
at Carolina father, also a driver,
later. more than that night and died
Speedway near his had died of cancer.
$100,000 for a car at the track where
hometown. His neck Bruning had spread
and training, said his he and his wife,
broke when the car his father’s ashes on
sister, Kathy: “I don’t Libby, his
landed on its nose the same hill on
think he knew the high-school
by a ditch. which he died.
danger of this.” sweetheart, had
their first date.
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 9N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[WHO’S WATCHING ]
DEATH AT THE TRACK There’s little agreement on standards, and who should set them
Who’s in charge of safety?
By Liz Chandler
TRAGEDY AT A SMALL TRACK IN OHIO
When 36 people died from inju-
ries playing football in 1968, the
multiple groups running the sport
decided that was intolerable.
They came together to study in-
juries and deaths, improved the
helmets and changed the rules.
In 1990, no one died from foot-
ball injuries. On average, four a
year die now.
Today, auto racing faces a death
count that most opinion-makers
agree is intolerable. But disagree-
ment clouds what to do next.
At least 33 people have been killed in
racing this year. Its rate of death is more
than five times that of football’s.
Pressure to improve racing’s safety
record has never been greater, intensi-
fied mostly by NASCAR superstar Dale
Earnhardt’s death in February. Outside
safety advocates – doctors, engineers
and firefighters – are pushing for im-
provement, as are some racing insiders.
“There have been too many tragedies
during races that may have been pre-
vented by utilizing new safety initia-
tives...to better protect drivers, the audi-
ence and the crew,” said a January letter
to NASCAR from the American Society
of Safety Engineers, a workplace safety
group that offered its expertise.
Racing has resisted efforts to centrally
collect and share information on injuries
and deaths. A fear of lawsuits and the
price attached to liability underlies the JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTOS
resistance. Ginger Jakupca’s family went to its first race, at Lorain County Speedway, in July. She never imagined it might be unsafe. In the accident, two of her children’s legs
“We’re into safety a little bit, but with were broken – and her youngest son, Tommy, was barely yanked to safety. “I almost lost my children at a sports event,” she says. “There’s just no excuse for that.”
our lawsuit-crazy society, we can only From left front are her children, Candace, Tommy and Steven; middle rear is the oldest son, B.J.; and in the middle are Ginger and husband Tom.
recommend things. We can’t make them
mandatory or we might get sued if
something happens,” says Bert Emick, a
sprint-car race organizer, whose group
relies on insurers and tracks to keep
13 injured on July night
Some influential racing leaders say
their overall approach to safety works.
Within their own organizations, they
pay attention to deaths and, sometimes, By Liz Chandler
react with changes. For most groups, in- Staff Writer
cluding NASCAR, the safety network CLEVELAND — From her wheelchair just 30 feet from the
amounts to word-of-mouth among
teams, engineers and manufacturers. track, Virginia Whyel watched the races at Ohio’s Lorain
The 200 groups that organize racing County Speedway. Near midnight on July 21, two cars sailed
events, generally, don’t collect or share
over a guardrail, through a fence and into spectators.
safety information. Most groups know
James Harsh was killed by a car as he watched a 1990 race from the track’s pits. “I saw a big cloud in the area where my family was sitting,”
who died within their ranks, but they Virginia
His family marked the 11th anniversary of his death with flowers – the same
don’t collect details of how they died. says Scott Whyel, who had raced earlier that night. “I ran to- Whyel, 64,
night the track held a memorial for Virginia Whyel, killed there a week earlier.
Police collect more information in traffic used a wheel-
accidents than most racing groups. ward them and I started looking for my mother. I couldn’t find
In the 1980s, the International Council her. Then I saw her lying on the ground.” hip surgery.
for Motorsports Sciences – a group of Kathy Williams,
Whyel, 64, was killed and 13 others injured. She was
doctors and engineers affiliated with one of 13 injured at
racing – voted to collect accident in- Lorain, was “The guardrail acted as a ramp,” says detective Shawn Hada-
formation from leading racing organiz- hospitalized with a way. “Whether things were up to specifications, that’s between when she
ers. broken leg and
NASCAR, the track, and the insurance company.” NASCAR was killed.
Most groups declined to participate. gashes after one
Some said they lacked the staff. Others of the race cars sanctions 90 such short tracks, charging a $1,200 fee per race
worried about lawsuits – including pinned her in the
and allowing tracks to use the NASCAR name.
NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., who stands. “I thought
I was going to The week after the crash, workers raised and strengthened
called a bank of information “a fishpond
for plaintiffs’ attorneys,” the Orlando die,” says the the guardrail and fence, only at Turn 4 where the cars crashed.
Sentinel reported. 55-year-old motel
Racing resumed the next Saturday, the day the family memo-
The effort failed because insurance housekeeper.
companies feared industrywide acci- rialized Virginia Whyel. Track fans raised $2,400 for her family.
dent data could be used against racing
groups in court, said Dr. Steve Olvey, di-
rector of medical affairs for CART.
“They were afraid it would lead to set- “We all choose different things to do that Mo., insures 60 percent of small tracks. pany demands. It begins with cooperation, Mueller
ting standards, and that if you couldn’t have an element of risk in them, whether “We do our best to make sure that we “How high does the fence have to be, said.
live up to standards – that might be a lia- you drive to work, go on a vacation, ride insure a good risk, a profitable risk, that to be safe? To be completely honest, no- “If nobody is collecting information
bility issue,” said Olvey. on a plane or work in a building.” won’t result in claims.…(But) agencies body knows,” Hatlem said. “Ten years you don’t know what’s causing these cat-
The fragmented racing world and its Racetracks lack a standard blueprint are reluctant to get into safety standards, ago, people decided an 8- to 10-foot fence astrophic injuries, and whether there’s
fears of being sued have so far stifled col- on safety. CART and IRL demand some because that makes us liable.” was fine, but it’s not that way any more.” anything you can do to prevent them,”
laboration and unity. safety measures at tracks. NASCAR en- Insurers push the use of liability waiv- Speedway Motor Sports chose not to said Mueller.
Some organizations inside and out- courages tracks to have “adequate” and ers to guard against lawsuits from driv- raise its 15-foot fence at Lowe’s Motor Based at UNC Chapel Hill, the center
side racing want national standards for “reasonable” fences and barriers, but ers and those working in or watching Speedway – despite a wreck in Michigan played a key role in collecting data about
tracks and a central clearinghouse for in- isn’t specific. Track owners rely on com- from garages and pits. that sent a tire over a 141⁄2-foot fence, kill- injuries and deaths in football. It also
jury statistics and research. mon sense and insurers. Courts typically uphold those liability ing three fans. In 1999, a similar wreck keeps statistics on most college and high
Others say that’s not necessary. Insurance companies, however, say releases, which state that participants with the same fenderless cars killed school sports.
NASCAR, among the largest groups, they’re not safety experts either. They waive their rights even if tracks are neg- three fans at Lowe’s. Mueller says the center would act as a
gives safety top priority and reacts after set minimum requirements for such ligent. That shield also reduces incen- “We thought what we had was repository for racing death and injury in-
crashes, President Mike Helton said. He things as fence heights, barriers and age tives to improve safety. enough, but it wasn’t,” said Lowe’s formation – if the sport wants the help.
said the informal information network is of participants. Periodically, they also in- Fans in the stands, however, don’t sign speedway president H.A “Humpy” “When you’re driving over 100 miles
“adequate and appropriate.” spect tracks. But even insurance stan- waivers. Claims are high when fans get Wheeler. Speedway Motor Sports, per hour, there are probably always go-
After Earnhardt, however, Helton ac- dards vary widely. hurt, so agents say they focus on fences which owns Lowe’s, has since installed ing to be some catastrophic injuries and
knowledged that NASCAR had to “take “We have minimum standards, but we and other fan protections. 21-foot fences at its four large ovals. deaths,” he says. “But there are probably
the (safety) deal to a new level.” So it or- don’t profess to be safety experts,” says The larger tracks, generally, carry be- International Speedway Corp., the na- ways to make things safer.”
dered drivers to use head restraints and David Hatlem of K&K Insurance Group tween $10 million and $100 million in in- tion’s largest racetrack company, won’t Other safety advocates are pushing
decided to install crash data recorders in in Fort Wayne, Ind., one of the nation’s surance to protect them in fan accidents. divulge fence heights at its 12 tracks, in- for changes too.
its national racing series cars, as CART largest racetrack insurers. “We won’t is- Small NASCAR tracks carry a minimum cluding Daytona International Speed- The National Fire Protection Associa-
had done. sue a policy if a track doesn’t meet our of $2 million. But some small tracks way, except to say they range from 16 to tion wants rescue standards at tracks.
NASCAR also plans to open a re- minimums, but that doesn’t mean carry far less coverage – or none, said Al- 22 feet. ISC and NASCAR are both con- The American College of Sports Med-
search center in Conover, 40 miles they’re not going to get someone else to lan Brown, publisher of the National trolled by the France family. icine is studying the sport and expects a
northwest of Charlotte. Engineers will insure them.” Speedway Directory. ISC considers its fence sizes propri- report before the 2002 racing season.
focus partly on safety, partly on compet- Hatlem says K&K closely follows loss “The frequency is not that dramatic, etary. “One thing we don’t talk a lot Racing insiders worry if the industry
itive strategies. claims at its tracks and suggests im- but the severity is,” K&K Insurance about is safety,” said David Talley, ISC fails to address safety, the government
Race organizers, such as Helton, say provements. Racing, he says, presents “a Group’s Hatlem says of fan injuries. spokesman. “That’s always something will intervene.
their primary job is to put on races. It’s potent mix” of risks with high speeds, “When you get one, they are very, very we talk about in generics.” “The day a car goes into the stands
up to drivers and tracks to ensure safety. flying parts and fans close to the action. large claims.” Football reduced its risks by devel- and kills a bunch of people is the day that
NASCAR distances itself from re- Other insurance companies aren’t Still, with no universal standards, oping a system, said Fred Mueller, who Congress will look at this sport and pass
sponsibility in its rulebook: “NASCAR comfortable making suggestions. They fence heights vary from about 9 feet at directs the National Center for Cata- legislation,” says Jon Potter of the In-
cannot be and is not responsible for all simply write policies based on the risks. small tracks to 22 feet at some – but not strophic Sport Injury Research. ternational Council for Motorsports Sci-
or even most aspects of the safety ef- “We’re salesmen. We’re just putting all – large tracks. Some variance is ap- The various groups that ran the sport ences. “Until then, you’ll keep seeing
fort.…The risk of serious injury or death together an insurance program in the propriate, agents say, depending on a shared information and studied injuries. these things that happen around the
cannot be eliminated and, in fact, will al- racing industry,” says George England, track’s design and the type of cars racing. Then they banned head-first blocking country – unless the industry comes to-
ways be present at a high level.” who says his North American Racing In- Track owners rely on what seems to and tackling, and raised standards for gether to tackle these problems we all
Helton said drivers know the risks. surance Co., based in Independence, have worked or what the insurance com- helmets. know exist.”
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 10N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[ WHO’S WATCHING ]
DEATH AT THE TRACK ‘It’s a tough course,’ says track president Wheeler
Death toll highest at Lowe’s
By Liz Chandler Wheeler phoned him weeks later and
asked whether the Sportsman should
Since 1990, more people have continue. Phillips told him: “You don’t
want to hear what I think. I’ve lost my
died at Lowe’s Motor Speedway brother and my best friend.”
than at any other U.S. track. Phillips’ death ended the Sportsman
Seven people were killed in at all three tracks that staged it.
“The three deaths we had, you can
races at the Charlotte-area speed- look at that as the most unlucky things
way, including three spectators in in the world,” Wheeler said. “I’ve
the grandstands, and three drivers thought and thought about that Sports-
man race. If hindsight were foresight,
killed in an experimental division you certainly wouldn’t have done that.”
for racers trying to gain experi- Lowe’s next death didn’t happen in a
ence on large tracks. race, and is excluded from the Observ-
er’s study of deaths in racing. In 1997,
Another death came in Octo- Charles McNish – a 57-year-old glass
ber, when up-and-coming driver company owner from Missouri –
crashed during a racing school event.
Blaise Alexander Jr. hit the wall. In 1999, Wheeler brought the Indy
Racing League to Lowe’s. The race fea-
“It’s a tough course,” said track Presi- tured cars with no fenders, and wheels
dent H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler. “I think that jut from the car’s body. Faster than
we’ve reacted strongly to try to make it stock cars, they top 200 mph and disin-
safer...but at the same time you’re al- tegrate on impact to carry the energy
ways on the edge in racing.” away from the driver.
The track’s size, D-shape and high A year earlier, three spectators were
banks require more maneuvering by killed at a similar event in Michigan,
drivers than most tracks, Wheeler said. when a tire flew over the 141⁄2-foot fence
In the mid-1960s, three drivers – in- into the stands.
cluding renowned racer Fireball Rob- Lowe’s examined its 15-foot fence and
erts – were killed. Three more people decided it was high enough to protect
died in the 1970s. Nobody died in the fans. It wasn’t.
1980s. During an accident, a car knocked a
The speedway vastly increased the loose tire into the stands – killing three
number of events during the 1990s. people and injuring eight.
Some of them proved riskier than its tra- Randy Pyatte of Connelly Springs
ditional stock-car events. died at 21. Hickory’s Jeff Patton was 32.
Wheeler created the Sportsman race Dexter Mobley, 41, of Statesville, also
in 1989 to give short-track racers experi- was killed.
ence on large, fast speedways. COURTESY OF JOHN PHILLIPS Since then, Speedway Motor Sports –
“We don’t want to lose sight of a po- Driver Russell Phillips wanted to move up in racing. He was unfazed by the spectacular crashes in NASCAR’s Sportsman which owns Lowe’s – has raised fences
tential young Dale Earnhardt, a hungry, division, designed for drivers trying to gain experience on large speedways. “He wanted to make it big, run with Earnhardt,” to 21 feet at its four large oval tracks.
no-money driver who wants to win, his brother, John, said. “He wanted to be famous.” Phillips was the third fatality in seven years of the Sportsman division. The most recent death at Lowe’s
win, win,” Wheeler said at the time. came in October, when Blaise Alexan-
Sanctioned by NASCAR, the race “God knows I’ve seen enough of them. and even flashed a thumbs-up. The fire, In 1995, he became the Sportsman’s der Jr. crashed during an ARCA (Auto-
drew a range of talent and equipment. It’s the dark side of what we do.” however, consumed him. third fatality in seven years. mobile Racing Club of America) race –
The only requirement was a driver’s li- In 1991, one driver broke his neck and At the hospital, Batson looked at his As Phillips rounded a turn, his a developmental division for drivers.
cense and some short-track experience. another was badly burned. Phil Ross of close friend, Roy, and began to cry. “He brother radioed that he should steer to Alexander, 25, died from a skull frac-
The results were chaotic – and Greer, S.C., still has his charred fire suit knew. You could tell he knew where the outside to avoid a wreck. Phillips re- ture much like the one that killed Dale
deadly. and scars. He quit racing that day. things were headed,” said Roy Barrett. sponded but another car veered into Earnhardt in February. Neither racer
In 1990, David Gaines, 27, died during “I wanted to be here to raise my kids Gary Batson, 40, died the next day. him, flipping his car onto its side and wore head restraints.
practice after his spinning car came to a and be with my wife,” said Ross. The Sportsman race became known sending it scraping along the catch “These deaths really take a toll on the
stop, and was broadsided by another Gary Batson bought Ross’ car. He was for spectacular wrecks: A 12-car pileup fence, shearing off the top. Phillips, 26, families and friends and the townships
driver with little large-track experience. a short-track racer who ran a restaurant in 1992. A nine-car crash in 1993. A fiery was killed instantly. Workers cleaned where they’re from,” said Roy Barrett,
“There was too much inexperience,” in Travelers Rest, S.C. He wanted to crash and an eight-car wreck in 1994. the track, and the race resumed. among the last people to talk to Gary
said Gaines’ father, Jerry, a race-car move up in motorsports, so in 1992, he Russell Phillips, of Mint Hill, dodged “The stage was set for disaster from Batson as he lay dying from burns. “Ev-
owner who financed his son’s hobby. entered a Sportsman race. most of the mayhem. He raced in 16 Day 1,” said Phillips’ brother, John, who erybody remembers Gary and what
“Anybody could have raced. You didn’t Batson’s car collided with another, Sportsman events and had one crash urged Russell to stick with short tracks. happened to him. They still talk about it
need any credentials.” flipped onto its side and burst into that damaged his car severely enough Wheeler said he decided that day to around here. Stuff like that, you can’t get
Wheeler called it a racing accident. flames. He wasn’t injured in the impact, that he missed a race. stop the series. John Phillips said over.”
Q UICKER ACTION COULD SAVE LIVES
Tracks’ ﬁre, medic response often lacking
––––––– firetruck, he says. died. Martin Bond, who managed the
“There’s nobody governing what track then, says he had fire extinguish-
In 18 cases, including 15 racetracks have to have or racetracks ers and an ambulance.
deaths, victims and families don’t have to have,” Pikron says. “May- “It’s an accident that happened and it
be there should be.” happens every night in the country and
say rescue wasn’t adequate Emergency response administered it’ll keep happening,” says Bond. “If you
––––––– quickly by well-trained and properly have 19 firetrucks, it’ll keep happening.”
equipped workers is critical to saving Sprint-car legend Doug Wolfgang
By Diane Suchetka lives and reducing injuries. was driving in a practice session at
Staff Writer “There is definitely a golden hour, Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City,
On Aug. 12, 2000, two laps into a where it is very important that a person Kan., April 3, 1992, when his car hit a tire
150-lap stock car race outside Tacoma, who is severely injured, particularly at the edge of the track, and he crashed
Wash., driver Mike Easley slammed on with an internal injury, get to a trauma into a concrete wall.
his brakes to avoid a two-car wreck. A center,” says Dr. Kathleen Clem, a Wolfgang sat in his car, unconscious,
third car crashed next to Easley. A spokeswoman for the American Col- as methanol fuel pooled at his feet, then
fourth slammed into the third and lege of Emergency Physicians. . “Some ignited. Two firefighters – not the
crushed metal and fuel exploded into a very critical procedures need to be track’s usual five to seven – struggled to
three-story ball of fire throwing burning done right away.” extinguish the blaze.
gasoline onto Easley. The National Fire Protection Associ- No firetruck was on the scene. And,
The driver burst into flames. ation in Quincy, Mass., agrees some- according to a lawsuit Wolfgang filed,
The first person to come to his rescue thing should be done to reduce the risk SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER the firefighters had only pry bars to ex-
was a photographer who told reporters of death and injury in racing. It is one of Mike Easley’s face shows scars from burns he suffered in a race accident last year tricate him, instead of a more sophis-
that Easley’s helmet had melted into his at least two organizations writing safety at a speedway outside Tacoma, Wash. There was no firetruck at the race. ticated tool such as Jaws of Life.
face, that he could see the driver’s eyes and rescue recommendations for Fellow drivers freed Wolfgang from
through the fire, that he could hear him tracks. able attending.” copter if the closest trauma hospital is his car. But not before he burned for
scream: “Please save my life. Save my “The typical track owner is not a safe- The amount tracks spend on safety more than 10 minutes away. more than eight minutes.
life.” ty person,” says the association’s Carl varies from free admission for firefight- “All of these things have evolved be- In a rare situation for racing, a jury
No firetruck was at the race. And Peterson. “Not that they’re ignoring ers who agree to help, to $250 for an am- cause there were problems in the past,” found the conduct of the track and the
news accounts described drivers pull- safety, it’s just not high on the list of bulance, to hundreds of thousands of says Dr. Stephen Olvey, CART’s direc- sanctioning body, World of Outlaws,
ing extinguishers from their cars and things they’re thinking about.” dollars for sophisticated mini-hospitals. tor of medical affairs, who helped im- wanton and reckless. A judge ordered
fans throwing water bottles and ice Most of the tracks that the injured About 300 firefighters, paramedics plement the standards in the 1980s. them to pay Wolfgang $1.2 million.
chests onto the track to help. and their families said were lacking in and other emergency workers staffed “You have to keep these tracks honest.” The verdict, Wolfgang says, shows
The accident put Easley in the hospi- equipment were small. And smaller each of the big races at Lowe’s Motor Before CART instituted the regula- that what happened to him was wrong.
tal for more than a month with third- tracks, experts say, often have less mon- Speedway last month. Among the phy- tions, Olvey says, one track had a retired “What it didn’t do was force anybody to
degree burns over 42 percent of his ey coming in and less to spend on safety. sicians at the track were four – each OB/gyn as a medical director. Another actually do anything.”
body. But he survived. “Often there’s not even an ambulance with a different medical specialty – who had a dentist. There are things that can be done to
His case is one of at least 15 deaths on site,” says Chief Craig Clarke, found- manned the infield-care center, a fully Many complaints from families cen- improve emergency response at tracks,
and three serious injuries in which vic- er of Track Rescue Fire Department equipped emergency room run by Car- ter on the lack of firetrucks. While ev- safety experts say. Those include estab-
tims or their families claim emergency Motorsports Safety Team, a private olinas Medical Center. Also ready to ery situation is different, a vehicle with lishing and enforcing national stan-
response was inadequate, The Observer company that supplies emergency help were 30 ambulances, 15 firetrucks at least 100 gallons of water and 150 dards, hiring only trained firefighters
has found. equipment and workers to tracks and 500 extinguishers. pounds of chemical fire-fighting mate- and medical workers and requiring rac-
Those who were injured, as well as throughout the Eastern United States. The cost of emergency services at rial, is generally the best minimum de- ers to wear safety gear.
their families and safety experts told Insurance companies generally insist Lowe’s Motor Speedway exceeds $1 mil- fense against a large fuel fire. But, ex- “I am living proof that if you have
The Observer of tracks that have staged on ambulances and trained rescuers at lion annually, track officials say. perts say, the truck should be one part of good safety equipment, you can sur-
races with no tools to cut drivers free, races, but not firetrucks, says Jeff Poz- Championship Auto Racing Teams an overall fire protection plan. vive,” says Easley, who wore a triple-
no trained rescue workers, no fire- mantier, president of Wisenberg Insur- Inc., which runs one of the nation’s two There was no firetruck at Enid Motor layer fire suit.
trucks, no ambulances ance + Risk Management, which insures prominent Indy car leagues, requires all Speedway in Oklahoma on Aug. 28, But someone, he says, ought to re-
Track owner Dan Pikron says he had more than 150 tracks. 20 tracks that host its races every year 1999, the night Delmar “Junior” Riggins’ quire tracks to provide decent medical
an ambulance, two firefighters and 37 “Ultimately the racer needs to decide to meet five pages of safety require- car was hit from behind. His fuel tank and rescue care too.
extinguishers – and every one of them if he or she is comfortable competing at ments. All tracks, no matter their size, cracked and burst into flames. “Even horse tracks are regulated,”
was used – the night Easley burned. The a track,” Pozmantier says, “and specta- must have a licensed physician who More than three-fourths of Riggins’ Easley says. “They have to have a veteri-
company that insures him required no tors need to decide if they are comfort- serves as medical director and a heli- body was burned. Four days later, he narian or they can’t race.”
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[ ON THE TRACK ]
DEATH AT THE TRACK The ill, the reckless and the young can get behind the wheel
Few tracks limit drivers
By Ames Alexander
Ron Biellier was in no condition
to drive a race car.
The 45-year-old Missouri sales-
man had already had a massive
heart attack. It left him so weak,
his brother said, he could barely
walk across a room without pant-
ing. His doctor warned him not to
do anything physical. His brother
pleaded with him to stop racing.
But Biellier wasn’t about to quit.
In July 1994, he headed to Speed-
way U.S.A. in Bolivar, Mo., for his
first race since the heart attack a
year earlier. Minutes into the race,
his car came to a stop near a wall.
A second heart attack had ended
“He shouldn’t have been doing
what he was doing,” said Biellier’s
brother, Don. “He knew that. But
that was his love.”
Every weekend, at tracks around the
nation, racing officials open the gates to
potentially dangerous drivers. They
sometimes allow competitors so unfit
they couldn’t pass a physical, so young
they couldn’t get a driver’s license, so
reckless they’re not allowed to drive on
By doing so, some experts say, they
endanger not only their own lives, but
also those of track workers, other driv-
ers and spectators.
Damaged hearts are danger in race JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTO
David Barnhardt, 15, prays with his father, David Sr., before a race at East Lincoln Speedway. About a third of tracks surveyed by The Observer allow youths to race
Only a handful of states nationwide before they’re old enough to get a driver’s license. Experts wonder if minors have enough judgment and experience to handle high-speed competition.
regulate racing, so it’s largely up to
tracks and racing associations to deter- ries to take annual physicals. The state police officers who investi- plans to reintroduce it next year. His ar- drivers this year. He comes to North
mine who can compete. But tracks But thousands of drivers who race on gated the wreck didn’t blame Willet or gument: Racers ordinarily don’t need a Carolina because New Jersey law
rarely turn away drivers. smaller tracks are never asked to take a anyone else for the wreck. driver’s license to compete on such doesn’t allow people his age to race.
Racing can be addictive, drivers say. physical. An Observer survey of nearly Willet said the accident wasn’t his tracks anyway. Some safety experts and driver’s edu-
And some keep at it despite poor health. 100 race tracks nationwide found that fault. One driver had pinned him against Others contend tracks should turn cation instructors question whether
Since 1990, more than 30 drivers – at more than 90 percent don’t require the wall, he said, and another hit him away racers convicted of drunken driv- most minors have enough judgment
least eight this year alone – have died of physicals for any drivers. from behind. ing because lives depend on the quick and experience to handle the demands
heart attacks during or immediately af- Carl Merrill, a 62-year-old innkeeper “I can’t change the situation, what reflexes and good judgment of drivers. of high-speed competition.
ter races, The Observer found. from Maine, insisted on staying active happened,” said Willet, who owns an “If your driver’s license is suspended “You have to learn how to harness
Many of them, including Jay Alan despite a previous bypass surgery and auto repair shop. “They blamed it all on for drunken driving, you have no busi- your exuberance,” says Potter, of the
Luecke, had prior heart attacks, but three prior angioplasties. After his last me because I was driving on the re- ness in a race car,” says Jon Potter, direc- Championship Drivers Association. “I
raced at tracks that didn’t require driv- angioplasty in 1997, both his cardiolo- voked list.” tor of the Championship Drivers Asso- don’t think a person who hasn’t at least
ers to submit to physical exams. gist and his wife, Barbara, urged him to Still, Innes’ daughter, Shirlene Tasko- ciation, an Indianapolis-based group obtained a driver’s license has that abili-
In March of 1993, Luecke, 33, of Pinel- stop road racing and to start taking it witz, wonders why track officials were that lobbies for safety improvements. ty.”
las County, Fla., was still recovering easy. But that wasn’t Merrill’s style. He so easily fooled. “Why couldn’t Wall “…It shows irresponsibility in life.” Says Karl Logan, who coordinates
from a head-on crash that left him with kept racing, jogging, skiing and roller- Stadium find out all these things about driver’s education for Charlotte-Meck-
blading. their drivers?” she asked.
Too young for licenses lenburg Schools: “As a general rule, I’d
24 broken bones. He had told friends he
was having chest pains, but he refused Two weeks before an October 1998 The license that Willet presented to In many states, youths too young to say they’re not anywhere near ready. … I
to see a doctor. Days later, as Luecke road rally in Arizona, Merrill was at a the track had no photograph. New Jer- drive on highways legally roar around don’t think they’ve experienced enough
pulled off the track after a practice run, a conference when he began sweating sey doesn’t require photo identification tracks at speeds that would scare most to understand the importance and final-
heart attack killed him. profusely, a sign that he was probably for race drivers, but Wall Stadium adults. ity of a potential crash or collision.”
“I kept saying, ‘You’re not ready for having another problem with clogged owner Tucker Nicol said he thinks it Fifteen-year-old Jimmy Olson loved Only a few states set a minimum age
this kind of stuff,’ said Rick Litka, a fel- arteries, his wife said. She urged him to should. Nicol declined to comment on wrestling, Roller-blading and, above all, for privately owned tracks. Roughly a
low driver and a close friend of see his cardiologist, but he refused. the accident. racing. He’d been driving go-karts since third of the track managers interviewed
Luecke’s. “He just wasn’t in physical “He didn’t want to miss that race in In many states, it would have been he was 8, and dreamed of becoming a by The Observer said they don’t require
shape to drive a race car.” Arizona and he knew (his doctor) even easier for Willet to race. New Jer- championship driver. drivers to be at least 16.
By measuring the amount of oxygen would lay down the law,” Barbara Mer- sey, Connecticut and Vermont are With his parents’ consent, the Wood- At age 11, David Lucas told his mother
consumed by drivers, researchers have rill said. among the few states that set require- stock, Ill. boy began racing a pickup he wanted a race car. At 12, he got one –
found racing for two hours on a road During the first phase of the road ments for drivers. No Southeastern truck last year. On June 2, 2000, Olson a beat-up Toyota Corolla, which he took
course – an asphalt course that typically rally, Merrill suffered a heart attack. His states regulate racing or require a valid was in the final lap of a race at Wiscon- to Carolina Motor Speedway in Gasto-
has multiple left and right turns – re- car veered off the road and into a tree. A driver’s license for those who race on sin’s Lake Geneva Raceway when he nia last year and promptly flipped. The
quires about as much effort as running day later, he was dead. private tracks. Not all tracks require, or lost control and his truck plowed into a pillow Lucas had been sitting on so he
15 eight-minute miles. Clearly, experts The Sports Car Club of America, regularly check, a driver’s license. concrete wall at 60 mph. He died from could see over the dashboard flew out
say, drivers should be in top physical which sponsored the race, does ask This year, Davidson resident Ron head injuries before emergency work- the window during the wreck. But Lu-
shape – and in elite racing circles, they drivers in such races to answer an annu- Tornatore raced at East Lincoln Motor ers could get him to the hospital. cas emerged from the car laughing and
usually are. But that’s not always the al health questionnaire and divulge any Speedway in Stanley, despite a license Afterward, a Wisconsin state repre- unhurt. From then on, he had a nick-
case on minor-league tracks. serious medical ailments, according to suspension for driving while impaired. sentative talked about proposing legis- name: “Flipper.”
Medical experts for Championship Peter Lyon, who is in charge of the club’s It was his second drunken driving con- lation to set a minimum age for race car Now 13 and a seventh-grader at Char-
Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the insurance program. (The club wouldn’t viction, and his N.C. driver’s license has drivers. But the lawmaker abandoned lotte’s Wilson Middle School, Lucas has
Indy Racing League (IRL) say those disclose how Merrill answered those been suspended repeatedly since 1995. the idea after parents of young racers improved his driving skills. This year,
with significant heart damage generally questions.) But if drivers fail to admit The clay oval, northwest of Charlotte, lobbied against it. he ranked fourth in the track’s stock
shouldn’t race. Dr. Paul Colavita, a car- health problems, there’s little the orga- doesn’t require drivers to have a valid Jimmy Olson’s father still believes his four class. He typically drives about 60
diologist who heads Charlotte’s Sanger nization can do, Lyon said. driver’s license, and Tornatore sees no son had the right to race. “Some parents mph, and hopes soon to try faster cars.
Clinic, agrees. He and others say the “We’re not their mother,” he said. reason why it should. Driving on the do what they can to try to help their His mother, Toni, supports him, but
physical and psychological stress driv- “…It’s the driver’s responsibility.” street and on a track are “totally differ- children reach their goals,” said James worries. Before each race, she recites a
ers experience during races can prove ent things,” Tornatore says. Olson. “Anything less than that is unac- silent prayer: “Lord, please watch over
Checkered driving records “When you’re out on the track, there ceptable.” my little boy. Keep him safe while he
fatal to those with heart problems.
John Jolley, a 53-year-old veterinarian Many drivers are skilled and safety- are no laws,” Tornatore said. Across the nation, thousands of runs his 20 laps.”
from Forest City, had suffered a previ- conscious. But some keep racing even Ryan Jamison agrees that license re- youngsters are strapping themselves David Barnhardt, 15 and in 10th grade,
ous heart attack, and in 1990 had sur- after they’ve been ruled unfit to drive on vocations shouldn’t keep drivers off the into race cars. Children as young as 5 has been racing since last year, mostly
gery to replace two heart valves. Be- public highways. track. A star sprint car driver at 34 Race- compete in go-kart and quarter-midget in a small four-cylinder car that rarely
cause of his heart condition, the Federal By 1994, Jeffrey Willet’s driver’s li- way in Burlington, Iowa, he was ar- races. Kids 7 to 17 race in “junior drag- exceeds 65 mph. But at a September
Aviation Administration told him he cense had been suspended more than rested for drunken driving last year. His sters” that can travel more than 70 mph. race at East Lincoln, Barnhardt climbed
could no longer fly his small plane. 20 times – four times for drug violations license was suspended for a year after And some as young as 12 move up to into a faster car – an eight-cylinder late-
Jolley began driving a race car in 1997. or drunken driving. A central New Jer- he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. full-size race cars. Many are inspired by model, the most powerful class of cars
On Aug. 29 that year, during a race at sey resident, Willet had been barred But he kept racing, saying he didn’t drivers like NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, at the track. As other cars sped around
Green Hill Speedway in Rutherford from driving on public roads since 1985. know state law forbids it. who got his start racing quarter-midgets the track at 85 to 95 MPH, Barnhardt
County, Jolley had a fatal heart attack. New Jersey, which does regulate rac- Jamison, 33, contends he never drove at age 51⁄2. trailed the pack and spun out twice.
His car veered off the track and sailed ing, requires racers to have a valid driv- while drunk, but pleaded guilty to driv- One indication of the sport’s growing A Superman logo adorns the hood of
over a guardrail. Watching from behind er’s license. But Willet began racing at ing under the influence because prose- popularity: Officials with the World Barnhardt’s new race car. He earned
the guardrail, spectator Thomas Lee Wall Stadium near Asbury Park in the cutors had threatened to charge him Karting Association estimate the num- that nickname driving four-cylinder
Parker pushed his girlfriend and cousin early 1990s by using a false name and with driving while revoked if he took ber of go-karters under 16 has roughly cars. “I got a name for doing crazy
out of the way. Jolley’s Ford Thunder- submitting an acquaintance’s driver’s li- the case to trial. doubled during the past decade, to things,” he says. He says he’s been in
bird hit Parker, 61, a retired truck driver cense instead of his own. Jamison and his father didn’t think a about 20,000 nationwide. about 10 or 12 wrecks.
from Spindale, and threw him into the On June 18, 1994, Willet was on the drunken-driving conviction should Some youths outpace far older driv- When Barnhardt switched to a faster
air. Parker died of massive head and first lap of a race at Wall Stadium, jock- keep him from racing. So they called on ers. In 1998, 12-year-old Gerald Miller racing class, some people told him he
chest injuries. eying for the lead, when his stock car an acquaintance in the Iowa legislature won the championship in the pure stock didn’t have enough experience to drive
“It was a freak accident, but it was collided with another vehicle and was – Rep. Dave Schrader, who also happens four class – four-cylinder cars that usu- such a big car and warned that he could
avoidable,” says Parker’s son, Dale. “If launched into the air. Willet’s front, to be a race car driver and an employee ally go about 60 to 80 mph – at North be killed in a crash, he said. But he never
you have any kind of heart problem, you right wheel hit flagman Dave Innes in at a track where Jamison has raced. Carolina’s East Lincoln speedway. And hesitated.
shouldn’t be allowed to race.” the head, knocking him from the flag Schrader this year introduced a bill that 14-year-old Jon Denning, from New Jer- “Don’t let anybody tell you that you
A number of racing groups – in- stand. Innes, a tour bus driver with a tal- would have made it legal for drivers sey, regularly drives over 100 mph at can’t do anything,” Barnhardt says.
cluding CART, IRL, Formula One and ent for making people laugh, soon died with revoked licenses to race on private Hickory Motor Speedway, where he — STAFF WRITERS LIZ CHANDLER, ANDREW SHAIN
NASCAR – require drivers in major se- of massive head injuries. tracks. The bill didn’t pass, but Schrader was one of the top late-model stock car AND PETER ST. ONGE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
S U N DAY , N O V E M B E R 1 1 , 2 0 0 1 12N T H E C H A R L O T T E O B S E RV E R
[ ON THE TRACK ]
pit crew hurries
to get him back
on the track at
areas at small
tracks can be
cars speeding in
and out, some
JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTOS
The viewing is good – but also more dangerous – from the pit and infield areas at small tracks. Here, a chain-link fence stands between children and the action at Carolina Speedway near Gastonia.
Near pit road, the path drivers take to get off the track,
children play tag in the dark.
Cars speed through the pits as spectators and crew mem-
bers leap out of the way.
A driver runs from his vehicle to jump up and down on
the hood of a car that just hit him.
Gritty, unpredictable and often dangerous, this is racing
on a Saturday night at small tracks in the Carolinas and
East Lincoln Speedway official Corky Linder directs cars after a minor wreck. On this night, some races didn’t go more than
five laps without a wreck. across America.
Above, Carolina Speedway workers help right a car that overturned on
At left, workers free Bryan Dean from a one-car wreck on the
backstretch at Lancaster Speedway. Lancaster, unlike some
speedways, has emergency medical workers and ambulances on
hand. Dean suffered minor injuries.
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[ SOLUTIONS ]
INS I D E TH E CU LTU R E DEATH AT THE TRACK As fatalities rise, so does pressure for safer racing
Speed, fury and competition
add up to who they are
By Peter St. Onge
will change follow?
When he’s running wide open, that’s
when the young driver feels most alive.
It’s the speed, Robby Benton says, but
By Ames Alexander significance. NASCAR wanted to discuss events in 2001, and some are questioning
Peter St. Onge, Liz Chandler
it’s more than the speed. It’s him and safety with its drivers, who have long com- whether the sport finds itself at a crossroads.
and Diane Suchetka
the car, forging something greater than Staff Writers plained the organization didn’t involve them “The mere fact that we’re killing, disabling
the sum of both parts. It’s the team, the
effort, his life. Earlier this month, on a nondescript enough in discussions about their livelihood. and seriously injuring so many people
“When all that comes together,” he Thursday morning, NASCAR drivers, team “That has never changed,” said legendary would indicate we need to do something,”
says, “that’s the biggest high.”
owners and officials gathered at the Hunters- driver Richard Petty with a laugh, two days said Samuel Gualardo, a past president of
He is 22 years old, and he loves rac-
ing, simple as that. He loves the broth- ville offices of Joe Gibbs Racing. For more after the meeting. “But every step we take is the American Society of Safety Engineers,
erhood of drivers and the familial than two hours, the participants talked safety better than what we have.” who has pushed for racing safety improve-
warmth of fans. He loves building and
rebuilding cars in the 40-by-40-foot
– specifically about changes, aerodynamic Certainly, NASCAR had impetus to listen. ments.
shop behind his parents’ house in and otherwise, to make racing less hazard- A February crash claimed its biggest star, Said NASCAR driver Jeff Burton: “We
northern Mecklenburg County. He ous at Winston Cup’s two biggest super- Dale Earnhardt, in what has been a troubling have to as a community collectively make it
loves going fast.
It is, as for many racers, an affection speedways, Talladega and Daytona. year for the racing industry as a whole. At better. There’s no doubt about it. We have to
passed down through generations. His The meeting, however, carried a larger least 33 people have died at U.S. racing make it better.”
grandfather raced, and his uncle raced,
so no one was surprised when young
Robby started in go-karts at 14. Perhaps
it was inevitable, too, that one weekday
morning last month, he asked himself if The Observer interviewed drivers, team
he should race at all.
The night before, on Oct. 4, Benton
owners, mechanics, safety experts and
officials with top racing organizations.
Protecting Drivers Energy-absorbing track walls
was part of a wreck that killed ARCA Here are some of their recommenda- Technological advances can help protect race car drivers. Here are
some key devices and materials in use or under development: GLANCING BLOWS DIRECT HITS
driver Blaise Alexander, his friend, at tions on how racing – an inherently If not carefully designed, “Soft” walls can
Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Benton drove dangerous activity – can be safer. DRIVER HEAD RESTRAINT HARNESS ‘BLACK BOX’ CRASH DATA RECORDER “soft” walls can snag a reduce stress on
one of two cars about to be lapped by HANS (head and neck support) device, Onboard recorders already in use on car and cause it to stop drivers’ bodies during
Alexander and Kerry Earnhardt, the worn over driver’s shoulders; helps Indy-style and Formula One cars; abruptly or spin it into crashes.
leaders late in the race. Alexander and Require drivers at all prevent whiplash during a crash. recordings can help engineers the path of oncoming
Earnhardt bumped, sending Alexander levels to wear up-to-date HANS device
determine what caused a wreck.
into the wall. Some thought Benton’s
slower car prompted the wreck. helmet to limit
No, he told a reporter the next morn- head movement.
ing; he had done everything right. “I’m PROBLEM: Since 1990, more than 100
at peace with what happened,” he said. drivers nationwide have died after hit-
But another question lingered: Why ting their heads or snapping their Concrete
drive? necks in crashes. Others were badly track wall
It is a question that has forever burned in wrecks while wearing inade-
floated around racing. Why tempt dan- quate fire-retardant clothes. INSIDE A
New seat design protects Larger window “SOFT” WALL
ger? It’s the speed, drivers say. It’s the
driver's head, shoulders opening lets driver This barrier design,
competition. The fury. RECOMMENDATION: Research sug- and knees. escape faster. called PEDS-2, is
“It’s addictive,” said John Phillips, a gests head restraints can save lives, and Harness holds driver and HANS attached to an
longtime Winston Cup crew member experts advocate them for drivers at all device to seat. existing concrete
and older brother of Russell Phillips, levels. track wall; installed Rigid
who was killed in a 1995 race at then Championship Auto Racing Teams CAR DESIGN, FRAME MATERIALS on a small section of impact
Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I’ve seen (CART) began requiring drivers to Crushable materials wall at Indianapolis plate
Motor Speedway. Hard plastic
marriages and whole families ruined. wear head-and-neck restraint devices collapse at a predictable cylinders
“I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, or on oval tracks this year. NASCAR last rate and absorb
the brotherhood or the satisfaction of month mandated restraints for drivers energy in a
being able to do it.” in its three national series but hasn’t crash. MEDICAL TEAMS
Robby Benton offers another theory. decided on its short-track series. Other FRONT CRASH BOX Aluminum • NASCAR: Plans to hire a medical liaison —
Racing, he believes, is not merely some- racing groups merely recommend that Aluminum foam tube as well as four doctors — to consult with
thing you do. “My whole life revolves drivers wear them, and few drivers on local physicians and emergency personnel.
square tubes; Aluminum
around it,” the young driver says. “It’s small tracks do. collapses and foam • Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART):
who I am.” The cost can be an issue. One brand absorbs energy Seven physicians travel the race circuit with
The old driver understands this. of head restraint, known as the Hutch- in a front-end a $1.5-million mobile surgical and intensive
Dave Marcis started racing in 1957, ens device, costs $300; another, known Humpy Bumper made of crash. care unit.
when the automobile was just becom- as the HANS device, costs $1275 ($675 lightweight graphite fiber.
ing the great social equalizer - and rac- for children’s models). Those who SOURCE: HANS, TEAM SIMPSON RACING INC., HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, INDY RACING LEAGUE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA, ORLANDO SENTINEL KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE
ing cars for sport a fledgling rural recre- wear restraints say all drivers should
ation. It happened more intensely in the be required to do so. NASCAR drivers
South, but the story everywhere was Jeff Gordon, Mike Skinner and Elton gins, burned to death after a 1999 acci- New York’s Watkins Glen Interna- dretti, talking about soft walls.
the same: Racing was, for both drivers Sawyer credit the HANS device with dent. tional, already have installed styro- • “If we can put a man on the moon,
and fans, an accessible pastime. saving their lives. foam or tire barriers along walls. But we should be able to come up with a
“Basically, you had drivers who came Experts also recommend drivers researchers have found that such wall soft wall... They just haven’t made it a
from working in a saw mill or with cot- equip their cars with on-board fire ex-
Cushion the impact materials can catch or snag cars, caus- priority. It’s the sanctioning bodies that
ton,” says Marcis, at 60 the oldest active tinguishing systems and wear one- of crashes. ing them to stop abruptly or spin into need to lead the way.” – Jerry Gaines, a
Winston Cup driver. “(Racing) was piece driving suits and other protec- the path of other cars. former short-track racer whose son,
probably a better way of living.” tive gear made from a material such as PROBLEM: Since 1990, more than 60 Energy-absorbing materials in cars David, was killed in a 1990 wreck in
Still, Marcis says, racers drove as NOMEX, which can protect drivers drivers died after hitting track walls. also hold promise. NASCAR officials Concord.
much for the competition as the payoff. from serious fires. are encouraged by the development of
Even now, with big money enticing • “If I could send one message to ev- RECOMMENDATION: Some drivers porous aluminum, which could be
some drivers to the sport, the hook ery racer, it would be don’t even do a want racing officials to speed up re- placed between the engine and the
Require substantial fences
comes from elsewhere: “When you take practice lap without some sort of head search into energy-absorbing materi- front bumper to reduce the impact on to protect spectators.
that green flag, and you’ve got 43 race restraint on. Those things are life sav- als for walls and cars. The Indy Racing drivers. The so-called “Humpy Bum-
cars out there, it’s pretty damn exciting. ers.” – Mike Skinner, a Winston Cup League and NASCAR are sponsoring per,” made of carbon fiber, also could PROBLEM: Since 1990, at least 16 spec-
There’s no feeling like it.” driver who wore a head restraint when research into the development of absorb energy and prevent crash tators have died after cars or debris
Such is true, too, for racing’s fans, he survived a wreck at Chicagoland “soft” walls – a project led by nine engi- deaths and injuries, according to flew over fences into grandstands.
who remain as connected to their ath- Speedway in July. neers at the University of Nebraska. Lowe’s Motor Speedway President Dozens more have been seriously in-
letes as fans in any sport. Perhaps it’s • “People will buy a $79 fire suit and Racing officials aren’t sure when an ef- H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, who has jured, and track owners say car parts
the shared roots, or shared love for cars. think that will save them. I used to fective wall will be ready. The cost of championed the device. NASCAR offi- commonly clear fences.
Perhaps, says sports psychologist Tom think that too. It took a friend’s death to such walls – which likely would cials, however, say they’re not yet con-
Tutko, it’s that racers satisfy a basic hu- change my mind. When it comes to amount to hundreds of thousands of vinced the bumper would be effective. RECOMMENDATION: Safety advocates
man want – to find and stretch our lim- your safety – it’s priceless.” – Curtis En- dollars for a half-mile track – could • “That’s the next huge move that can think racing groups could develop
its. der, an Oklahoma stock car racer present obstacles for all but major- improve our sport tremendously.” – standards for the height and design of
“Race drivers represent the epitome whose mentor, Delmar “Junior” Rig- league tracks. Some tracks, such as Retired racing champion Mario An- SEE OPTIONS |NEXT PAGE
of finding the edge,” says Tutko, one of
the founding fathers of sports psycholo-
gy. “They’re going as fast as you hu-
manly can go in a competitive environ-
ment, and that represents the ultimate
But, Robby Benton knows, conse-
quence is never far from the thrill. His
friend, Kenny Irwin, died in practice at
New Hampshire last year. Now Blaise.
“I ask myself if it’s selfish to race,” Ben-
ton says. “I have family to think about.”
Yet he, like other drivers, believes
that if he is careful, he’s as safe as any-
one driving to work on crowded in-
terstates. And so last month, Benton
worked on rebuilding a junked race car
with his team of after-work volunteers.
They took the car to the ARCA race at
Talladega, Ala., where he finished sixth.
It was the answer to his doubts. Rac-
ing, he says, is what he wants as his fu-
ture. Wouldn’t anything else be com-
promising his life?
“I’m not going to say it’s worth losing
your life,” he says. “But if it’s worth tak- JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTO
ing a chance on, then it’s worth doing To reduce deaths and injuries, experts say, racing organizations should develop standards for barriers and fences in the infield and pit areas. At Lancaster
it.” Speedway, a shoulder-high chain-link fence separates the track from the pits and infield.
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[ SOLUTIONS ]
What Racing’s Leaders Say
Groups with the most deaths since 1990:
NASCAR, 36 DEATHS
"I strongly believe that the industry as a
whole, particularly as it relates to stock
car racing, is safer than it’s ever been." –
Mike Helton, National Association for
Stock Car Auto Racing president.
NHRA, 22 DEATHS*
“We investigate every case and try to
determine what we can do to prevent the
accident. A lot of rules have unfortunately
come at the misfortune of others.” –
Graham Light, National Hot Rod
Association senior vice president.
SCCA, 13 DEATHS**
“Safety is our number one goal and our
number one concern. I think the
awareness level is probably higher than
it’s ever been.” – Steve Johnson, Sports
Car Club of America president.
USAC, 12 DEATHS
“We quietly are always working in
scientific studies on increased safety in
our series. There’s an accident report for
every accident in USAC that’s complete
and concise.” – James Capels, U.S. Auto
ARCA, 6 DEATHS
“As we’ve gone forward, we’ve made
changes." – Ron Drager, Automobile
Racing Club of America president.
Changes include asking inexperienced
racers to attend driving schools or drive in
more events in other circuits.
JEFF SINER – STAFF PHOTO
Some tracks – such as South Carolina’s Lancaster Speedway pictured above – allow children and spectators in the pits, which tend to be among the most *NHRA officials confirmed 19 deaths at sanctioned tracks
since 1990. Track owners confirmed three others.
dangerous parts of a track. Some safety experts say tracks should ban spectators and children from the pits during races. **An SCCA official said others have died in SCCA races
since 1990, but declined to give identify them.
––––––– scribing the hazards of having specta- ular physical exams, and furnish docu- son you don’t have one.” – Humpy
About This Series
Options from previous page tors mill around the pits. mentation to racetracks. Elite racing Wheeler, Lowe’s Motor Speedway During a nine-month investigation,
Observer reporters and researchers
groups require proof of good health at president.
the start of racing season and again af- • “At 14, 15, even 16, you’d have to be an confirmed racing deaths in the United
track fences. They now range from
Compile accident ter serious wrecks. But smaller organi- exception to the rule to really be able States from 1990 through October 2001
about 9 feet at some small tracks to 21 data and share safety zations and tracks don’t mandate to handle it. Certainly your average kid by searching newspapers and the Internet
or 22 feet at a few major racing venues. them. couldn’t do it.” –Chuck Lehning, direc- and contacting relatives, drivers, racing
With little research to guide them, information. • “There are a lot of drivers who’d tor of operations for Jordan Driving groups and tracks. The study of deaths
tracks tend to build the minimum set love to race, but have a physical impair- School. began in 1990 because reports since then
by insurance companies or build PROBLEM: No one keeps track of all ment that would endanger not only are more available on databases and the
fences similar to those at other tracks. U.S. racing deaths, so officials miss pat- themselves but spectators and other Internet.
Experts say the best fences are an- terns and often dismiss fatalities as drivers as well.” – CART medical di-
Make spectators aware Reporters spoke to family members for
freak accidents. verification, except for deaths that were
chored in concrete, reinforced with ca- rector Steve Olvey. they should be more well-reported. When no family member
bles and designed with a top section • “A thorough physical should be re-
that hangs over the track to keep acci- RECOMMENDATION: Leaders in the quired of everybody. That’s definitely cautious. was available, information came from
dent debris out of the stands. A few sport say tracks and sanctioning bod- my feeling after what I’ve been track officials, friends or published
states, including Connecticut and Ver- ies should thoroughly investigate acci- through.” – Diane Matheny, whose PROBLEM: Since 1990, at least 29 reports. The largest racing groups were
mont, require minimum fence heights. dents, collect detailed information and husband, Doug, suffered a fatal heart spectators were killed – and more than contacted to confirm deaths.
Insurers say variation is expected, de- look for trends. Some suggest report- attack this year during a race at Wash- 70 injured – after they were hit by cars Heart attacks that happened on the
pending on the size and design of the ing the data to a central clearinghouse ington’s South Sound Speedway. Math- or parts. track or within minutes of a driver
track, and the type of cars racing. that would make information available eny, of Olympia, Wash., had three heart finishing a race were included. Deaths at
• “Probably with a better design, you to safety researchers. CART and IRL attacks in 1998 and triple bypass sur- RECOMMENDATION: Be cautious. racing schools were not counted; nor
could have prevented quite a few of share safety information and advances. gery in 1999. Don’t let children roam unattended. were deaths involving motorcycles, youth
those (deaths).” – Safety engineer Car- They also require crash data recorders Stay away from track fences, pits and go-karts, monster trucks or mud racing.
men Daecher, who heads an American in cars, as NASCAR will next year for other risky areas where cars enter and The Observer then created a database
Society of Safety Engineers group its three major national series. Beef up safety inspections exit tracks. Racing officials should edu- and analyzed it for patterns. Reporters
• “The first thing you’ve got to do is cate spectators about track hazards interviewed more than 400 relatives,
studying racing hazards.
collect the data. You’ve got to know
on cars. with guidebooks, signs and announce- drivers, track and racing officials and
what’s happening before you can react ments, safety advocates say. safety experts.
PROBLEM: Mechanical problems
Move the fans back. and prevent things. You have to have a
were cited as a possible contributor in
• “You constantly have to keep people
PROBLEM: At small tracks, fans often
standard collection point that’s univer-
more than 30 fatalities since 1990. Of
back. I think they’d go on the track if On the Web
sal for all tracks. And there has to be no you let them. It just amazes me.” –
the 29 fan deaths, 10 happened after See this special report online, as well as
stand against track-side fences, which fear of reprisals. You should be able to Richard Deaton, general manager of
tires and other parts inexplicably came a searchable database of racing fatalities
can be dangerous in a crash. In 1997, turn in your data without some lawyer Salem (Ind.) Speedway.
off cars. Stuck throttles also are named and an interactive graphic:
Melanie Rachelle Mitchell, 16, died af- digging through to say you’re killing 10
as a possible cause in at least 10 fatal- www.charlotte.com/racedeaths/
ter a wheel flew into the fence she was times more people than any other
standing against at Cowtown Speed- track.” – CART physician Terry Tram-
ities. Be sure track workers are
way in Texas. mell.
RECOMMENDATION: Race tracks and well protected.
• “We could have some sort of non-
sanctioning bodies could eliminate
Special Report Staff
RECOMMENDATION: Tracks should be profit entity whose purpose is to col- PROBLEM: At least 24 crew members
some mechanical hazards by making Lead reporter:
vigilant about moving fans who stand lect data on race injuries and deaths … and track workers – including five flag-
prerace car inspections mandatory Liz Chandler (704) 358-5063
against fences or near track entrances. What we need is something that can men – have died in accidents since
and more thorough, safety advocates firstname.lastname@example.org
After races begin, security workers at bring all these elements together.” – 1990.
say. Most small tracks conduct safety
Lowe’s Motor Speedway try to make Humpy Wheeler, Lowe’s Motor Reporters:
inspections at the start of the season,
sure fans don’t get too close to track- Speedway president. RECOMMENDATION: Experts suggest Ames Alexander (704) 358-5060
but do only cursory safety checks the
side fences. Some experts believe racing should develop an industry email@example.com
day of the race. CART and Formula
tracks should distance spectators from standard for worker safety. Many Peter St. Onge (704) 358-5029
the danger by keeping the first few Provide adequate One require computers systems that
tracks – but not all – put flagmen in firstname.lastname@example.org
automatically shut off the engine if the
rows of the stands empty. In 1994, Dar- emergency medical care throttle sticks. NASCAR officials well-protected platforms high above Diane Suchetka (704) 358-5073
lington Raceway removed the first two the track. Track workers should be email@example.com
rows of seats in its grandstands. at all tracks. worry that such in-car computers cre-
thoroughly trained on how to avoid
ate the possibility of high-tech cheat- Research reporters: Rick Bonnell, Cason
• “Spectators don’t have any concept dangerous situations.
PROBLEM: Some small tracks provide ing. NASCAR requires engine-kill Bufe, Charles Chandler, Ron Green Jr.,
of what the exposure is if they stand • “I feel he died in
poorly trained rescuers or have no fi- switches mounted on the steering col- Greg Lacour, Stan Olson, David Poole, Ron
against a chain-link fence. It doesn’t vain because of what
retruck or ambulance on site. Since umn, but some drivers question Recinto, Richard Rubin, Jennifer Talhelm,
slow down the car at all when you’re he was standing on.” –
1990, at least 18 people have died or whether they could hit the switch in Mike Whitmer, Dan Wolken.
right next to it.” – John Fitch, who owns Gloria Innes, on the
been seriously injured at tracks where time to avoid a wreck. Photographer: Jeff Siner.
a Connecticut company that develops death of her husband,
victims or their families say emergen- • “Every top mechanic has had (a
racing safety equipment. His former Dave, a flagman who Photo research: Davie Hinshaw.
cy response was inadequate. stuck throttle) happen one time or an-
racing partner, Pierre Levegh, was was killed by an air-
other.” – David Ifft, a longtime me- Database editors: Ted Mellnik, Andrew
driving the car that flew into the crowd borne car while
RECOMMENDATION: Tracks should chanic for NASCAR and ARCA driv- Innes Shain.
at Le Mans in 1955, killing more than 80 standing on a wooden
have firetrucks, extinguishers, life-sav- ers, speaking of stuck throttles, a prob-
spectators. 5-foot-high platform. Designers: Jim Denk, John Nalley, Michael
ing equipment and an ambulance for lem he estimates he’s seen about 30
• “If the front row of seats are right up Whitley.
fast transport to a trauma center, ex- times on race cars.
against the fence, then it’s not safe.” – Copy editors: David Vest, Carol-Faye
George Knight of George Knight & As- perts say. Elite racing groups won’t Listen to drivers. Ashcraft.
sociates, which insures small tracks race until those precautions are in
place. In CART, seven physicians trav-
Mandate valid state PROBLEM: Some racing organiza- Graphic artists: David Puckett, Wm. Pitzer.
around the country.
el the race circuit with a $1.5-million driver’s licenses. tions, including NASCAR, have no Research: Sara Klemmer, Christine Landry,
mobile surgical and intensive-care drivers’ safety committee to voice con- Laura Paynter, Kathy Persinger.
Make pits safer. unit. NASCAR plans to hire a medical PROBLEM: Some racers compete even cerns and push for changes.
liaison – along with four doctors – to though their highway driver’s licenses Project editor: Gary Schwab.
PROBLEM: Fans gather in pit areas consult with local physicians and have been suspended for drunken or RECOMMENDATION: With a formal Editors: Cheryl Carpenter; Susan Gilbert
amid working crews and moving cars. emergency personnel. reckless driving. Also, teens too young safety committee, some say drivers (photo); Jo Miller (graphics); Marion
Since 1990, at least nine spectators and • “The most important piece of equip- for a driver’s license are sometimes al- could more quickly and effectively at- Paynter (research); Cory Powell (design);
12 track workers and crew have died af- ment at a race is the firetruck – and it’s lowed to race at speeds near 100 mph. tack safety problems. CART and IRL Tom Tozer (design and graphics).
ter accidents in pit, garage and infield usually the most forgotten.” – Chief drivers use the Championship Driver’s
areas. Fences and barriers protecting Craig Clarke, founder of a private fire RECOMMENDATION: Some leaders in Association to voice their safety con-
pit and infield areas are less substantial company that supplies firefighters, the sport suggest tracks should ban cerns. In April, CART canceled a race Tell Us What You Think
than those near grandstands. emergency medical response and safe- competitors who can’t show a valid at Texas Motor Speedway when driv-
ty advice to tracks in the eastern Unit- driver’s license, a step some tracks take ers complained of dizziness due to What suggestions do you have to
RECOMMENDATION: Experts say ed States. now. high speeds. After a recent drivers’ improve fan and driver safety? How can
tracks should bar spectators from the Driving experts say minors may not meeting, NASCAR officials promised drivers and fans influence safety
pits during races. Tracks make money, have the judgment and experience that changes to rules that tend to keep cars improvements? We’d appreciate your
though, by charging fans extra for pit Require drivers to prove high-speed racing demands. Some rac- in dangerously tight packs at Daytona thoughts on the contents of this special
passes – and protect themselves by re- they’re healthy. ing leaders say youths should race un- and Talladega. investigative section. E-mail us at
quiring those who enter pits to sign re- der close supervision and only against • “Nobody will be more interested in firstname.lastname@example.org.
leases waiving their right to sue. PROBLEM: Since 1990, more than 30 other youths. Others contend some safety than the drivers themselves.” – Write to Racing Project, Charlotte
Tracks should develop standards for drivers have died from heart attacks children are qualified to race against Mario Andretti. Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte,
barriers and fences around the pits. while racing, sometimes endangering adults, as top racers like NASCAR’s Jeff • “I am in big favor of NASCAR, the NC 28230-0308. Fax to (704)
• “It’d be like … trying to get into a others. Gordon did. Driving experts say racing drivers, the car owners, the manufac- 358-5037. Call (704) 358-5063. Please
very crowded gas station and trying to should study the issue. turers, all working together to make include your name, address and
get out as quickly as you can.” – Samuel RECOMMENDATION: Better health • “If you don‘t have your driver’s li- things safer. We’re not where we need telephone number; we’ll publish a
Gualardo, past president of the Ameri- screening could save lives. Doctors say cense, you shouldn’t be able to drive a to be today. But I see us getting there.” selection of responses in next Sunday’s
can Society of Safety Engineers, de- drivers should be required to pass reg- race car. There’s probably a good rea- – Winston Cup driver Jeff Burton. Perspective section.
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