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(Now We Really Know There’s A “Big Track In The Sky”)

Tragic Stats

Drivers who have died on track . . .

Found this at The Philadelphia Daily News site in Feb 2001:

NASCAR drivers who have been killed on tracks since 1952, including the setting, location and the date:

Driver During Location of Accident Listed By Date
Larry Mann
Frank Arford
Lou Figaro
John McVitty
Clint McHugh
Thomas "Cotton" Priddy
Bobby Myers
Gwynn Staley
Marshall Teague
Joe Weatherly
Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
Jimmy Pardue
Billy Wade
Buren Skeen
Harold Kite
Billy Foster
Talmadge Prince
Friday Hassler
Larry Smith
Tiny Lund
Ricky Knotts
Terry Schoonover
Rick Baldwin
Bruce Jacobi
Grant Adcox
J.D. McDuffie
Clifford Allison
Neil Bonnett
Rodney Orr
John Nemechek
Adam Petty
Kenny Irwin
Tony Roper
Dale Earnhardt
race
qualifying
race
qualifying
qualifying
race
race
race
sports car test
race
race
tire test
tire test
race
race
practice
qualifying
qualifying
race
race
qualifying
race
qualifying
qualifying
race
race
BGN practice
practice
qualifying
truck race injuries
BGN practice
practice
truck race
Daytona 500

Langhorne, Pa.
Langhorne, Pa.

North Wilkesboro, N.C.
Langhorne, Pa.
LeHi, Ark.
LeHi, Ark.

Darlington, S.C.
Richmond, Va.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Riverside, Ca.
Charlotte, N.C. (crash in May '64)
Charlotte, N.C.
Daytona Beach, Fla.

Darlington, S.C.
Charlotte, N.C.
Riverside, Calif.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Daytona Beach, Fla.

Talladega, Ala.
Talladega, Ala.

Daytona Beach, Fla.
Atlanta, Ga.
Michigan (died in 1997)
Daytona Beach (died 4 yrs after crash)
Atlanta, Ga.
Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Brooklyn, Mich.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Homestead, Fla.

Loudon, New Hampshire
Loudon, New Hampshire
Fort Worth, Texas
Daytona Beach, Fla.
 
Sept. 14, 1952
June 20, 1953
Oct. 25, 1954
April 21, 1956
June 9, 1956
June 10, 1956
Sept. 2, 1957
March 23, 1958
Feb. 11,1959
Jan. 19, 1964
July 2, 1964
Sept. 22, 1964
Jan. 5, 1965
Sept. 13, 1965
Oct. 17, 1965
Jan. 20, 1967
Feb. 19, 1970
Feb. 17, 1972
Aug. 12, 1973
Aug. 17, 1975
Feb. 14, 1980
Nov. 11, 1985
June 16, 1986
Feb. 4, 1987
Nov. 19, 1989
Aug. 11, 1991
Aug. 13, 1992
Feb. 11, 1994
Feb. 14, 1994
March 21, 1997
May 12, 2000
July 7, 2000
Oct. 14, 2000
Feb. 18, 2001

Deadliest Tracks

Track Location  -  Year(s)

# of Deaths

Daytona Beach, Fla. ('59, 64, 65, 70, 72, 80, 87, 94, 94, 2001

10

Langhorne, Pa. ('52, 53, 56)

3

Charlotte, N.C. ('64, 64, 65)

3

Lehi, Ark. ('56, 56)

2

Talladega, Ala. ('73, 75)

2

Riverside, Ca. ('64, 67)

2

Michigan ('82, 86)

2

Darlington, S.C. ('57, 65)

2

Atlanta, Ga. ('85, 89)

2

North Wilkesboro, N.C. ('54)

1

Richmond, Va. ('58)

1

Watkins Glen, N.Y. ('91)

1

Homestead, Fla. (2000)

1

Loudon, New Hampshire (2000)

2

Fort Worth, Texas (2000)

1

Total

Total

15 Locations

35 Tragic Deaths

Notes from Readers (Thanks for the input!)

Chris Townley writes: OK.. here's where I am a little confused. You have some of the death listings that are a little messed up. Homestead/Daytona/New Hamphire and a couple of drivers have mixed up listings. Please correct.  That's all I saw that was off kilter...  
Lets hope the list never grows any longer...
(Editor:) Chris-- you were correct and we appreciate the update. And you said it all.... let's hope the list stops here forever.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
I don't know what to think of myself for knowing these facts. I guess these are the bad side of remembering racing history.
There were at least two things not right with the tragic stats as listed. First, Jimmy Pardue's accident happened at Charlotte, not at Daytona as listed. (ED: You're right! It's corrected!)
Second, and this has always rubbed me wrong since it happened. And since other BGN accidents are being listed, this one should be too.
I'm not sure of the dates, and I hope someone with the resources will follow up on this. A man by the name of Don Williams was severely injured in a Saturday Sportsman race at Daytona. I believe he was driving a 'late '60's or early '70's Chevelle, so I think that would date this race in the mid '70's. It was a multi car accident on the backstretch, mostly remembered for Joe Frasson's wild ride in a flaming Mercury (Joe escaped that one!). Williams part in the whole thing was that a loose driveshaft came through the windshield, striking Don in the head. As a result of his injuries, Don Williams lived the final 10 years of his life in a semi-coma. His eye were severely crossed and he was unable to speak or move. He lived out the remainder of his life in the care of his mother (bless her) and finally died almost 10 years to the day of his accident. 
So why am I "rubbed wrong"? Simple. Dale Earnhardt dies in a race car, and 6 years later we're still being reminded of it. Some unknown named Don Williams suffers the same fate, no! Wait! Worse because he lingered as he did for those 10 years. So who mourned for him? Who helped his mother, undoubtedly an incredible lady to endure those 10 years. Do you suppose anyone from NASCAR ever sent them a check to help them out, or even some flowers? So if you're going to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this sport, lets not be leaving out the Don William's who gave just as much, and as in this case, family members who also paid such a terrible price in the name of auto racing.
Rod Pruitt   Campobello, SC
 
p.s. If this comes across as preachy or over dramatic, it is only because I do feel very strongly about these matters. A man's worth and his contributions at his death should not be overlooked simply because he wasn't a "superstar", or born into a "royal" family. 

Also Mr. Pruitt Wrote: Sorry. Just remembered Don MacTavish and his horrific accident in the 1969 "Permatex 300", also the Saturday sportsman race. That's the one where his car got cut in half. I'm sure there are others that I have forgotten, but I'm sure you see my point.
Thanks,  Rod Pruitt

Editor's Note to Rod Pruitt: I DO see your point. You have stated the exact reason why I authored Legends of Nascar. The "stars" are mentioned first and the Williams' are forgotten. The Sportsman races and the Permatex races were not Cup or Busch Nascar races, thus they are not listed above. Permatex was ARCA.
I plan to add Jimmy Pardue soon. I will research the others drivers for their NASCAR experience and may add. Also, I have been working on a racing memorial site that will include all racers. It's a pretty big task. I really appreciate bringing this to our attention. R. Via, Webmaster

Statistically Speaking: Death at Daytona    By Dan Beaver, Yahoo! Sports      June 29, 2006

It's an unpleasant side of the sport, but racing fans should give their respects to those who lost their lives at the track. Especially Daytona.

In the history of motorsports, more than 3,000 drivers, mechanics, support staff and fans have died during races. The specter of death or serious injury is felt as much at Daytona as any other track in the world. In fact, in terms of competitor deaths, Daytona ranks fourth worldwide with 24 fatalities, tied with Le Mans in France, and behind Indianapolis Motor Speedway (56 fatalities), the Nurburgring in Germany (48), and Monza in Italy (30).

Serious injury and death have literally been a part of racing at Daytona since the track was first built. When the 2˝-mile superspeedway opened in 1959 it was envisioned to become a multi-use facility, with stock cars, sports cars, and open wheel racers staging yearly events. The track was only a few days old, however, when it claimed its first life, forcing open wheel plans to be reassessed.

The track held its open house on Feb. 7, 1959. Marshall Teague was conducting a speed test four days later in a hybrid open wheel race car. In order to improve the aerodynamics of this machine, the wheels were covered with fenders, but essentially the chassis of his Sumar Special was a champ car like they ran at the Indy 500 in those days. Teague was familiar with the stock car drivers, having won seven NASCAR races in 23 starts, but he hadn't raced in that series since 1952.

Teague was attempting to make an assault on Tony Bettenhausen's closed circuit record of 177.04 mph, set at Monza in 1958. He had climbed as high as 171.82 in earlier tests and said he was just warming up, but this time when he topped the 160 mph mark, air got under his car and lifted it slightly. The Sumar Special literally flew to the bottom of Turn 1. When it hit the apron, the car began to flip. Teague was ejected and died of injuries suffered in the crash before even making the short trip to the hospital.

Two months later, tragedy struck the open wheel ranks again. George Amick set a qualifying speed of 176.89 mph for USAC's 100-mile race on April 4, 1959. On the final lap of that sprint, Amick was battling Bob Christie for third on the backstretch when he lost control of his car and slammed the wall at an estimated 190 mph. He died instantly.

In June 1960, Martin Every died in a private engineering test. Harold Haberling lost his life while practicing in a 1955 Chevrolet in preparation for the 250-mile support race for the 1961 Daytona 500. In 1969, Don MacTavish died during the running of the Sportsman race, and young superstar Billy Wade died in January 1965 at Daytona during a tire test.

In 1970, Talmadge Prince lost his life attempting to make the Daytona 500 when he crashed on lap 18 of the 125-mile qualifying race after blowing the engine of his Dodge. He slid sideways in front of the snarling pack and was broadsided by Bill Seifert. Prince died of a broken neck.

Raymond "Friday" Hassler was killed in a multicar crash in his qualifier for the 1972 Daytona 500, and Ricky Knotts died in the same event eight years later. Bruce Jacobi suffered life-threatening injuries in the 1983 Daytona 500 qualifier and lingered in a coma for four years before eventually succumbing to his injuries in 1987.

The list of those who died while racing continued to grow until the fateful 1994 season. That year, two drivers were killed while practicing for the Daytona 500.

Veteran Neil Bonnett was trying to stage a comeback from injuries sustained in the April 1990 running of the TranSouth 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. A hard crash in that race left Bonnett with amnesia and a bad concussion that would have ended the career of a lesser driver. Fueled by a strong desire to compete, however, he secured a six-race deal with car owner James Finch that was to start with the 500 in 1994. In the first practice session of the week, Bonnett blew a tire exiting Turn 4 and hit the wall head on, dying on impact.

While the racing world reeled from that tragedy, Rodney Orr was killed just three days later. He was attempting to leap up several divisions of competition after winning the 1993 Goody's Dash championship.

In 2000, the tragic scene shifted from Daytona to New Hampshire International Speedway when Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin were killed in separate accidents. Craftsman Truck Series driver Tony Roper died a short time later in a race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Drivers' and fans' nerves were frayed when the NASCAR season kicked off at Daytona in 2001. After losing three promising young drivers the season previous, this should have been a year for healing.

Instead, tragedy struck for a fourth time in less than a year, this time on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Battling at the head of the pack on the final lap, Dale Earnhardt Sr. got turned into the outside retaining wall in Turn 4 and the sport lost one of its heroes. Earnhardt died immediately from injuries sustained in that wreck, which occurred in almost the same location his long-time friend Neil Bonnett crashed seven years earlier.

 Driver deaths at Daytona

Date

Driver

Event

 

 

2/18/2001

Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Final lap of the Daytona 500

 

 

1/31/1997

Michael Himes

IMSA Endurance race

 

 

2/14/1994

Rodney Orr

Daytona 500 practice

 

 

2/11/1994

Neil Bonnett

Daytona 500 practice

 

 

2/12/1993

Joe Booher

Florida 200 Dash

 

 

2/11/1990*; 2/14/1990+

Julius Johnson

ARCA 200

 

 

2/17/1979*; 5/21/1989+

Don Williams

Sportsman 300 race

 

 

2/13/1987

Joe Young

Dash race

 

 

Feb. 1983*; 2/4/1987+

Bruce Jacobi

Daytona 500 qualifier

 

 

12/15/1985*; 12/26/1985+

Charles Ogle

Testing (stock car)

 

 

2/7/1985

Francis Affleck

ARCA practice

 

 

2/14/1980

Ricky Knotts

Daytona 500 qualifier

 

 

2/17/1972

Friday Hassler

Daytona 500 qualifier

 

 

7/30/1972

David Pearl

SCCA Paul Whiteman Trophy race

 

 

3/14/1971

Rusty Bradley

Daytona 200

 

 

2/19/1970

Tallmadge Prince

Daytona 500 qualifier

 

 

2/21/1969

Don MacTavish

Sportsman 300

 

 

1/5/1965

Billy Wade

Tire test (stock car)

 

 

2/21/1961

Harold Haberling

Daytona 500 practice

 

 

6/18/1960

Martin Every

Engineering test

 

 

4/4/1959

George Amick

USAC 100-mile race

 

 

2/11/1959

Marshall Teague

Daytona 500 practice

 

 

* injured     + died

 

 


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