Drag Strip Deaths

Subtitle

       1975-1979 Fatalities
David Ayers

Born:  September 19, 1956

Died:  August 17, 1975

Buried: 

Age: 18

Full Name:  David Preston Ayers

Nickname: 

Drag Strip: Lancaster National Speedway, Cheektowaga, New York

Event: 

Accident Date:  August 17, 1975

Car:  Ford Mustang

Biographical: He was fatally injured when his car went off the end of the race track and overturned. He was transported to St. Joseph Intercommunity Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was from Buffalo, New York.

Sources

"Dragster dies," Dunkirk Evening Observer, Aug. 18, 1975

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Photos

John Blaha

Born:  July 23, 1950


Died:  August 22, 1976


Buried:   Fairview Cemetery, Scottsbluff, Nebraska


Age:  26


Full Name:  John Edward Blaha


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  Black Hills Dragway, Belle Fourche, South Dakota


Event:  


Accident Date:  August 22, 1976


Car:  348 c.i. Chevy-engined Jeepster


Biographical:   He had just finished a time trial run at a speed of 82.49 MPH and had started slowing the car when the front wheels began swerving wildly. The car whipped from side to side out of control. The car then veered off the race track and rolled over five times at about 45 MPH. The open bodied car had a roll bar, but Blaha somehow slipped out of the seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was transported to Belle Fourche Health Care Center, then transferred to Rapid City Regional Hospital East where he was dead on arrival.


Sources


"Scottsbluff racer killed at Belle," Rapid City Journal, Aug. 23, 1976


Social Security Death Index


U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index


Photos

Gary Brantley

Born:  March 13, 1949

Died:  August 22, 1976

Buried:   Sunset Lawn Cemetery, Harrisburg, Illinois

Age:  27

Full Name:  Gary Bruce Brantley

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Owensboro Raceway Park, Kentucky

Event:  

Accident Date:  August 21, 1976

Car: 1967 Chevy II

Biographical:   He was dead on arrival shortly after midnight at a hospital in Owensboro, Kentucky.  The fatal accident occurred on Saturday at the 1/8th mile track. He lived in Harrisburg, Illinois, and was a miner. He was survived by his wife, Terri, and a son, Rhett. There is scant pulished information about the accident (see Forum section for eyewitness recollection).

Sources

"Gary Brantley dies in accident," Harrisburg Daily Register, July 23, 1976

Kentucky Death Index (Ancestry.com)

Social Security Death Index

Rick Bivins, e-mail communication to site administrator, Sep. 3, 2015

Photos

Frank Bruckman

Born:  August 21, 1944

Died:  May 9, 1975

Buried: 

Age:  30

Full Name:  Frank E. Bruckman, Jr.

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Not on a dragstrip, on a public county road in Knox, New York.

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 9, 1975

Car:  dragster

Biographical:  He was operating an unlicensed "slingshot" dragster on a county road when he lost control and went off the side of the road.  He struck a culvert and drainage ditch before flipping over.  He was transported to Albany Medical Center Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  He was from Altamont, New York.

Sources

"Drag racer crash kills area man," Troy Times Record, May 10, 1975

Social Security Death Index (Frank Bruckman, died May 1975, born Aug. 21, 1944, SS# issued in New York)

Photos

Don Carlton

Born:  August 4, 1940

Died:  July 5, 1977

Buried:  Blue Ridge Memorial Park, Lenoir, North Carolina

Age:  36

Full Name:   Don Maynard Carlton

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Milan Dragway, Michigan

Event:  Chrysler Corporation test

Accident Date:  July 5, 1977

Car:  1977 Dodge Colt

Biographical:  Chrysler rented the Milan race track for testing.  Carlton lost control of the car at the end of his run and the car flipped several times.  It was thought that the excessive summer heat may have caused him to pass out from dehydration.  He was transported to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where he died.  He lived in North Carolina.  His wife and son witnessed the accident.  He was best remembered for being the driver of the Motown Missile and Mopar Missile pro stock cars.

Sources

"Names in the news," Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1977

"Crash kills test driver," Ironwood Daily Globe, July 6, 1977

"Pro drag racer dies in crash," Oxnard Press-Courier, July 6, 1977

"Don Carlton dies in crash," Burlington Daily Times News, July 6, 1977

North Carolina Birth Index (son of William Dewey and Lola Belle Icenhour Carlton, born in Caldwell Co., North Carolina)

Michigan Deaths (He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Social Security Death Index  (SS# issued North Carolina 1956)

Photos

Drag RacersReunion website  (http://dragracersreunion.ning.com/photo/carltons-last-ride)

http://www.moparmusclemagazine.com/thehistoryof/mopp_0605_drag_racing_history/index.html

 

Pat Coyle

Born:  October 4, 1947

Died: July 13, 1975

Buried: 

Age: 27

Full Name:  Patrick William Coyle

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Denver International Raceway, Colorado

Event:  Colorado vs. Utah Top Fuel Open

Accident Date:  July 13, 1975

Car:  T/F dragster

Biographical:  He was killed in a blow-over, his car going up and over a guard rail and slamming into a light pole where it burst into flames.  He was transported to St. Anthony Hospital where he died about an hour after the crash. He was racing Bruce Hagestad and was from Denver.

Sources

"Drag racer, 27, dies after crash," Denver Post, July 14, 1975.

Troy Hagestad, e-mail communication to site administrator, June 15, 2017.

Bob Gibson, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 3, 2010

JalopyJournal.com (http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=310758&page=9)

http://www.coloradodragracing.com/showthread.php?t=1874  (accessed 12/26/10)

DragList.com

Dave Sorenson, e-mail communication with site administrator, Sep. 30, 2011

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Death File

Social Security Death Index:  Patrick Coyle, b. 4 Oct. 1947, d. July 1975, residence, Denver, CO

Photos

Steve McDuff, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 1, 2016

 

Pat Coyle goes into wheelstand at start of his fatal run

 

After the crash

John Dalton

Born:  

Died: ca. May 5-7, 1979

Buried: 

Age: 

Full Name: 

Nickname: 

Drag Strip: Santa Pod Raceway, Podington, Wellingborough, Northants, United Kingdom

Event: International Festival of Speed

Accident Date:  ca. May 5-7, 1979

Car: "Disco Motion" altered

Biographical: He was paired with the "Pumping Iron" altered on the track. Shortly after launching, he passed the tree, narrowly missing the other car. He crashed into the barrier, dying instantly.

Video:

Sources

Ian Jupp, e-mail communication with site administrator, May 19, 2015

Photos

Bob Edwards

Born:  June 21, 1950

Died:  May 15, 1977

Buried:  Pipe Creek Cemetery, Carroll County, Maryland

Age:  26

Full Name:  Robert Wilson Edwards  

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Maple Grove Dragway, Reading, Pennsylvania

Event:  Pennsylvania Dutch Classic

Accident Date:  May 15, 1977

Car:  Edwards Brothers T/FD

Biographical:  When his car broke a front axle after a wheelstand, it went under the Armaco metal guard rail. He was instantly killed with a fractured skull.  He had been competing in top fuel eliminations and had made a 220 MPH speed on his prior run.  He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Reading.  His death was a lesson to track operators that these common metal guard rails were unsafe because they were too high from the track to the bottom rail.  He was survived by his wife, Pamela, parents, two sisters, and two brothers.  He was runner-up in T/F to Shirley Muldowney in the 1976 NHRA Springnationals.  His best time in the Keith Black-powered car was 6.245 and 239.68 MPH. He was a farmer in Union Bridge, Maryland.  Three spectators were slightly injured, but none seriously.

Video:

Sources

"Accident fatal to dragster," Corpus Christi Times, May 16, 1977

"Driver killed as axle snaps," Hamilton Journal News, May 16, 1977

"Racer killed as axle snaps," Ironwood Daily Globe, May 17, 1977

"Axle snaps, dragster dies," Long Beach Independent, May 16, 1977

"Union Bridge auto racer killed," Frederick News, May 16, 1977

Eureka Times Standard, May 16, 1977

"Services arranged for driver," Reading Eagle, May 16, 1977

Natromater.com website (http://www.nitromater.com/nhra/8645-who-bob-edwards.html)

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=5706)

Photos

Find a Grave website

 

Paul Glenn

Born:  July 18, 1945

Died:  July 23, 1978

Buried: 

Age:  33

Full Name:    Paul Rodger Glenn

Nickname:  Dodger

Drag Strip:  Maple Grove Dragway, Pennsylvania

Event:  NHRA Division 1 points meet

Accident Date:  July 22, 1978

Car:  "Frantic Arrow" Plymouth Arrow FC

Biographical:  He was competing in a second round match against Bruce Larson.   His engine exploded and he crashed.  He died the following day from his injuries.  He was a machinist from New Castle, Delaware, and was survived by his wife and two daughters.  He bought the "Frantic Ford" funny car from Jim Fox and Fred Frey in 1977.  In June 1978, he took delivery of a new chassis with a Plymouth Arrow body.  He was driving this Plymouth Arrow funny car when he crashed.  At the 1975 Summernationals, when he was driving the "Frantic Ford" for Fox and Frey, he clocked the second fastest speed at 230.80 MPH, but lost in the semi-finals to Don Prudhomme.

Sources

Jim Fox, e-mail communication to site administrator, March 12, 2010 

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=5192)

FranticFord.com (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=5192)

Photos

FranticFord.com (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=5192)

Ray's Drag Racing Photos (http://www.draglist.com/drlphoto.htm)

 

 

 

Ray Graves

Born:  August 3, 1954

Died: June 26, 1977

Buried: 

Age: 22

Full Name:    Raymond John Graves, III

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Beeline Dragway, Arizona

Event:  Midnight Drag Races

Accident Date:  June 26, 1977

Car: pickup truck

Biographical:  He veered off the race track, but in overcompensating, lost control of the pickup truck, and flipped over. The accident occurred at 2 AM during the Midnight Drag Races. The vehicle he was racing against was not involved in the crash. He lived in Scottsdale and was a yard foreman at a lumber company. He was survived by his parents and four siblings.

Sources

"Doctor's wife dies in Mexico," Scottsdale Progress, June 28, 1977

"Obituaries," Scottsdale Progress, June 28, 1977

Social Security Death Index


Photos

John Halicki

Born:  December 6, 1951


Died:  September 21, 1976


Buried:  St. Patrick Cemetery, Wapella, Illinois


Age:   24


Full Name:    John Harry Halicki


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  a street in Clinton, Illinois


Event:  


Accident Date:  September 18, 1976


Car: 


Biographical:  Halicki was helping James Staton, both car mechanics from Clinton, try to start his race car. They were trying to push-start Staton's race car to test it. Halicki was riding on the side of the race car when it started, but it became uncontrollable. When the gas tank exploded, Halicki was thrown from the vehicle, which crashed into a tree. Staton suffered serious burns, but survived. Halicki died from his burns three days later in Springfield Memorial Medical Center. He was survived by his wife, Toni, and a daughter.


Sources


"Dragster mishap fatal to Clinton man," Decatur Daily Review, Sep. 22, 1976


"Clinton man, 24, dies after racer explodes," Decatur Herald, Sep. 22, 1976


"Blast victims critical," Bloomington Pantagraph, Sep. 20, 1976


"Mechanic dies of burns from race car explosion," Bloomington Pantagraph, Sep. 22, 1976


"Deaths," Decatur Herald, Sep. 22, 1976


Social Security Death Index


Social Security Applications and Claims Index


Photos

Ray Hassebrock

Born:  November 2, 1938


Died:  August 24, 1975


Buried:  Mount Pulaski Cemetery, Illinois


Age:   36


Full Name:    Ray Alan Hassebrock


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  street located 1 1/2 miles southeast of Chestnut, Illinois


Event:  


Accident Date:  August 24, 1975


Car:  dragster


Biographical:  He was testing his dragster on a blacktop road. When he was trying to find his racing helmet, he lost control of the steering wheel. The dragster went airborne for several hundred feet before landing in a ditch. Hassebrock was thrown from the cockpit. He was transported to Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital where he was dead on arrival. He was a carpenter and lived in Mount Pulaski, Illinois. He was survived by his wife, Dolly, and two sons.


Sources


"Man killed in dragster," Bloomington Pantagraph, Aug. 25, 1975


"Central Illinois deaths," Bloomington Pantagraph, Aug. 26, 1975


Family Tree (Ancestry.com)


Photos

Jerry Hehn

Born:  October 1, 1946

Died:  April 20, 1977

Buried: Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Age:  30

Full Name:  Jerry D. Hehn

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  gravel pit near Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Event:  test

Accident Date:  April 20, 1977

Car:  "American Dream" rocket dragster

Biographical:  Vern Anderson and Jerry Hehn took the rocket dragster to a gravel pit to try and unravel a fuel problem they were having with the engine.  The hydrogen peroxide had been passing through the engine unburned.  They had planned to turn on the engine only for a second with the brakes set, but the throttle stayed open and the car took off and slammed into the gravel pit wall.  The car was traveling in excess of 140 MPH when it hit a rock, flew into the air and smacked into an embankment.  Jerry was instantly killed, having been impaled on the steering column from the force of impact.  He lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The car reportedly held eight different world speed records.  After the crash, the car was sold to Fred Goeske.  It was powered by a 3500-lb. thrust hydrogen peroxide motor.

Sources

"Driver killed," Ironwood Daily Globe, April 22, 1977

"Record holder dies," Northwest Arkansas Times, April 22, 1977

"People in sports," Modesto Bee, April 22, 1977

"Dragster owner killed in mishap," Amarillo Globe-Times, April 21, 1977

"Test session kill dragster," Manitow Two Rivers Herald Times Reporter, April 21, 1977

Drag News, May 7, 1977

Minnesota Marriage Collection (Jerry D. Hehn, age 30, md. Jane C. Corrigan, age 29, on Oct. 1, 1974, in Hennepin Co., Minn.)

Wisconsin Death Index

Social Security Death Index (SS# issued South Dakota 1963)

Photos

"Drag racing story of the day" (http://www.draglist.com/stories/SOD%20Dec%202001/SOD-121001.htm)

 

Vern Anderson installs the canard wings on the "American Dream" rocket dragster in 1973, four years prior to the fatal crash that killed Jerry Hehn.

Lee Jones

Born:  July 22, 1946


Died:  August 2, 1975


Buried:  Lincoln Memorial Park, Carson, California


Age:  29


Full Name:  Lavernia Lee Jones


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek, Maryland


Event:  


Accident Date:  August 2, 1975


Car:  "Strip Blazer" Camaro FC


Biographical:  He purportedly died of an apparent heart attack while match racing, crashing into the woods.  He was young and trying to get a start in racing.  He had joined into a consensual business arrangement with Malcolm Durham.  By using Durham's name on his car, he benefited from Durham's popularity to obtain more race bookings.  Durham was a smart businessman and both drivers benefited financially from this arrangement.  He was from Los Angeles.


Sources


Tracy Carter, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 25, 2010


Norman Hechtkoff, e-mail communication with site administrator, March 9-10, 2010


Baltimore Sun, Aug. 4, 1975


Photos


70s Funny Cars (http://www.70sfunnycars.com/FunnyCars6.html)


More Fan Fotos (http://www.nhra.com/blog/dragster-insider/2009/11/24/more-fan-fotos-east-coast-action/)


 

 

George Lavigne

Born:  August 10, 1953

Died:  July 24, 1976

Buried: Resurrection Cemetery, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

Age:  22

Full Name:   George E. Lavigne

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Wisconsin International Raceway, Kaukauna, Wisconsin

Event:  

Accident Date:  July 24, 1976

Car:  "Thunderbolt" rocket-powered go-kart

Biographical:  His vehicle went out of control and hit a guard rail at the end of the race track at a speed estimated at 160 MPH.  He was about half way to the finish when his vehicle drifted toward the center, then back to the other side and off the pavement to a grass strip.  The vehicle then slid sideways, slammed into a steel guard rail and four wood posts, then flipped end over end.  He was thrown from the vehicle.  Death was caused by massive bleeding from severed limbs.  He was unmarried from St. Paul, Minnesota.  He was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital where he died about a half hour after the accident.  He had been racing for two years.

Sources

"Driver of go-cart is killed in crash," Ironwood Daily Globe, July 26, 1976

?Go-cart race driver killed at Kaukauna,? Fond du Lac Reporter, July 26, 1976

"Racer dies at WIR," Neenah Menasha Northwestern, July 26, 1976

"Driver of jet go-kart killed in track crash," Appleton Post Crescent, July 25, 1976

Wisconsin Death Index (George E. Lavigne, died July 24, 1976, Eton, WI, age 22, born about 1954)

Find a Grave (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=lavigne&GSfn=george&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=180479149&df=all&)

Photos

http://www.nhra.com/blog/dragster-insider/2012/02/03/turns-out-youre-all-rocketmen/ 

 

Malcolm Lee

Born:  August 12, 1947

Died:  September 3, 1977

Buried: 

Age: 30

Full Name:  Malcolm John Lee

Nickname: 

Drag Strip: Andalusia Drag Strip, Alabama

Event:  

Accident Date:  September 3, 1977

Car: Vega

Biographical:  He was testing a car on the 1/8th-mile track on Saturday night, when he lost control at over 100 MPH and slammed into a utility pole. He was from Montgomery, Alabama.

Sources

"Labor Day weekend toll is eight in Alabama," Athens News Courier, Sep. 6, 1977

"City man dies in racing wreck," Montgomery Advertiser, Sep. 4, 1977

Social Security Death Index

Photos

Ray Lewis

Born:  June 25, 1945

Died:  April 11, 1976

Buried:  Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California

Age:  30

Full Name:  James Raymond Lewis

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Fremont Raceway, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  April 11, 1976

Car:  Chevrolet Vega

Biographical:  Clocked at 138 MPH, he had just finished a qualifying run when his car veered off the pavement and rolled three times.  He was ejected from the vehicle.  He was transported to Washington Hospital in Fremont where he was pronounced dead.  A resident of San Jose, California, he was survived by his wife, Dinah, and two children.  They witnessed the crash. He was a plumber by profession.

Sources

"Drag racer killed at Fremont," Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1976

"Drag racer killed when car crashes," Long Beach Independent, April 12, 1976

"Drag racer dies," Ironwood Daily Globe, April 12, 1976

California Death Index:  Jimmie R. Lewis:  b. June 25, 1945, Oklahoma, died Apr. 11, 1976, in Alameda
 
U.S. Veterans Gravesites: Jimmy R. Lewis, b. June 25, 1945, d. Apr. 11, 1976, buried Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, Calif.

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=2794) 

Photos

Find a Grave website

 

Lawrence McCard

Born:   September 15, 1932

Died:  June 8, 1975

Buried: 

Age:  42

Full Name:    

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Atco Dragway, New Jersey

Event:  

Accident Date:  June 8, 1975

Car:  Super Stock Camaro

Biographical:  He lost control of his vehicle and it flipped over three times.  He was transported to West Jersey Hospital in Berlin, New Jersey, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  He suffered skull fractures.  He was from Norristown, Pennsylvania, and was survived by his wife, Chasella, and two sons.

Sources

Social Security Death Index

"Drag racer killed Sunday," Gettysburg Times, June 9, 1975

"Race car driver killed at Atco," Camden Courier-Post, June 9, 1975

eman, email communication to site administrator, Nov. 20, 2017

U.S Dept. of Veterans Affairs Death File

Photos

Jerry Malone

Born:   March 5, 1947


Died:   March 25, 1979


Buried:  Old Shongaloo Cemetery, Louisiana


Age:  32


Full Name:    Jerry Randall Malone


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  Haynesville Drag Strip, Louisiana


Event:  


Accident Date:  March 25, 1979


Car:   1948 vehicle


Biographical:  He lost control of his modified car during a time trial, due to some apparent mechanical failure. The car overturned four times. He was from Haynesville.


Sources


"Race crash fatal," Shreveport Times, Mar. 26, 1979

Social Security Death Index


Photos

Russell Mendez

Born:   March 16, 1940

Died:  March 16, 1975

Buried:  Garden of Memories Cemetery, Tampa, Florida

Age:  35

Full Name:    

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Gainesville Raceway, Florida

Event:  NHRA Gatornationals

Accident Date:  March 16, 1975

Car:  "Free Spirit" rocket dragster

Biographical:  At the time of the crash, he had just crossed the finish line on an exhibition run at a speed of 268.65 MPH in 4.8 seconds.  He veered from the left to the right lane at the time his parachute began opening.  Upon hitting a guard rail post, he was thrown from the car by the tremendous impact and died at the scene.  The car scattered debris along the length of the shutdown track as it slid along the guardrail.  His exhibition run occurred during the final day of eliminations at the Gatornationals.  He was a resident of Tampa, Florida, and the accident occurred fatefully on his birthday.

Video:

Sources

"Drag racer killed in exhibition run," Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1975

"Driver killed," Delta Democrat Times, March 17, 1975

"Dragster Mendez hits 265, then dies in vicious crash," Lima News, March 17, 1975

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=1407)

Photos

Duane Mendez, e-mail communication to site administrator, Mar. 10, 2011

Schrey Anker, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 10, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 Orlando, Florida, May 1973

 

Mexico City 1974

 

 

 

 

Rick Metts

Born:   December 31, 1948

Died:  March 4, 1976

Buried:  Hope Cemetery, Salem, Ohio

Age:  27

Full Name:    Richard David Metts

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  DeSoto Memorial Speedway, Bradenton, Florida

Event:  testing

Accident Date:  March 4, 1976

Car:  Pro Stock Plymouth Duster

Biographical:  He was instantly killed while testing his pro stock car.  He lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a guard rail.  He was traveling about 100 MPH when the car began fishtailing.  It sped across the adjacent lane, slammed into the guard rail, then bounced up and cut a utility pole in half.  When it came back down the car burst into flames.  His body was engulfed in flames.  Track personnel tried to extinguish the fire, but were driven back by the intense heat.  He lived in Salem, Ohio.

Sources

"Crash kills drag racer," Hillsboro Press Gazette, March 5, 1976

"Drag racer killed," St. Petersburg Independent, March 5, 1976

"Ohio driver killed," Lima News, March 5, 1976

Photos

Drag RacersReunion website (http://dragracersreunion.ning.com/photo/rick-metts-mighty-mopar-1974)

Don Bowles, e-mail communication to site administrator, Aug. 29, 2012

 

 

Kjell Näsberg

Born:  March 28, 1953

Died:  May 6, 1978

Buried:  Sättna Kyrka, Sundsvall, Sweden

Age:  25

Full Name:  Kjell Eric Näsberg

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Hudik Raceway, Sweden

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 6, 1978

Car:  T/FD

Biographical:  He lost consciousness when he hit his head on the rollbar.  The back wing collapsed and he veered off the track into a swamp where he drowned.

Sources

YouTube--In Celebration of Life!!! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oin0mGYJtcE)

Births from Swedish Death Index (in Sundsvall Parish, Vasternorrland, Sweden)

Lillemor Näsberg-Sjöberg, e-mail communications to site administrator, July 19 & July 22, 2010

Photos

Johnny "Goat" Osborn

Born:  March 4, 1949

Died:  August 4, 1979

Buried:  Calvary Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Age:  30

Full Name:  John Dean Osborn

Nickname: "Goat"

Drag Strip:  Kansas City International Raceway, Missouri

Event:  AHRA Summer Nationals

Accident Date:  August 4, 1979

Car:  "The Tulsa Oiler" F/C

Biographical:  Traveling at more than 200 MPH, he died about 45 minutes after slamming into a guard rail.  After his engine blew, he slammed head-on into the end of the guard rail by the turn-off road.  He was transported by helicopter to a Kansas City hospital where he died from massive internal injuries.  He was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was shop foreman at a machine shop.  He had only recently returned to racing after a two year hiatus, driving for Dick Moritz.

Sources

"Drag racer is killed," Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 6, 1979

"Drag driver dies in crash," Lawrence Journal-World, August 6, 1979

Social Security Death Index (John Osborn, born Mar. 4, 1949, died Aug. 1979, SS# issued in Oklahoma)

Rick Balentine, e-mail communication to site administrator, May 28, 2011

Keith Washburn, e-mail communication to site administrator, Nov. 22, 2011

Photos

Kenny Perry

Born:  

Died:  October 1975

Buried: 

Age: 28

Full Name:  Kenneth Perry

Nickname: 

Drag Strip: U. S. 30 Dragway, Gary, Indiana

Event:  

Accident Date:  October 1975

Car: "Beautiful Rabbit" Pro Stock Camaro

Biographical:  Driving a UDRA Pro Stock circuit car owned by Bobby Parker, Perry blew his engine in the lights while racing Joe Satmary in the final eliminations.  He had a horrible crash and died from his injuries. The car had been built by Phil and Fred Zobel as a backup car to their "Tuff Rabbit" pro stock car.

Sources

Norman Hechtkoff, e-mail communication with site administrator, Jan. 19, 2013

Drag News, Nov. 1, 1975

http://sports.dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/StockSSDragRacing/message/21451?var=1  (accessed 1/20/13)

Photos

http://www.quartermileclassics.com/US30Dragstrip/US-30-Dragstrip-2/2026008_cSjGdr/107333716_izCY9#!i=108202493&k=KwxXXLc   (accessed 1/20/13)

Jim Plummer

Born:  January 4, 1950

Died:  May 20, 1978

Buried:  Siskiyou Memorial Park, Medford, Oregon

Age:  28

Full Name:   James Lincoln Plummer

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Orange County International Raceway, East Irvine, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 12, 1978

Car:  "Battleborn" T/F dragster

Biographical:  When the car was traveling about 70 MPH, it suffered some violent shaking.  An autopsy later discovered that this violent shaking caused multiple lacerations in his brain.  He was found unconscious after his run.  He was transported to Saddleback Community Hospital in Laguna Hills, California.  After nine days in a coma on life support, he died.  He lived in Gold Hill, Oregon.  Plummer had not been driving his own Top Fueler, but was driving for another racer.

Sources

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=6950)

Photos 

"Ron's cousin Jim Plummer," (http://www.ron-karpinski.com/photo-archive/pages/archive-pg-06x2.htm)

 

 

 

Tommie Ray

Born:  May 30, 1952


Died:  September 17, 1978


Buried:  Colquit Cemetery, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana


Age:  26


Full Name:   Tommie Clyde Ray


Nickname: 


Drag Strip:  Hallsville Drag Strip, Texas


Event: 


Accident Date:  September 17, 1978


Car:  dragster


Biographical:  He was timed at 144 MPH when he apparently threw the transmission into park, locking up his brakes, and causing the car to go out of control.  The car flipped over several times before hitting a telephone pole. He had only driven the car twice before and his lack of experience may have contributed to his crash. He was a mechanic, residing in Shreveport.


Sources


"Deaths," Shreveport Times, Sep. 19, 1978


"Racecar driver killed," Shreveport Times, Sep. 18, 1978


Photos


Ernie Rife

Born:  September 24, 1953

Died:  September 1, 1979

Buried:  Beavertown Cemetery, Montgomery County, Ohio

Age:  25

Full Name:   Ernest L. Rife, Jr.

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indiana

Event:  25th Annual NHRA U.S. Nationals

Accident Date:  September 1, 1979

Car:  T/F motorcycle

Biographical:  His front wheel came off his top fuel motorcycle during a qualifying run as he crossed the finish line.  He had been clocked at a speed of 180 MPH prior to hitting the guardrail.  He was from Dayton, Ohio, and died during surgery at Methodist Hospital.  Only hours after Rife's accident, Frank Rupert from California crashed his Top Fuel dragster.  The supercharger came off the engine and struck Joe Rooks, an ABC Wide World of Sports cameraman, in the back. He died on the way to the hospital. He was from Bowling Green, Ohio. 

Sources

"Cameraman, cyclist killed at national drag races," Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1979

Ron Tursovsky, e-mail communication with site administrator, Mar. 25, 2011 

"Cameraman killed," Elyria Sunday Chronicle Telegram, September 2, 1979

Social Security Death Index ( last SS benefit in Dayton, Ohio, SS# issued Ohio in 1967)

Photos

Find a Grave website

 

Jerry Studnicka

Born:  April 12, 1952

Died:  June 15, 1977

Buried: Fairmount-Willow Hills Memorial Park, Willow Springs, Illinois

Age:  25

Full Name:   Gerard Joseph Studnicka

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey

Event:  exhibition

Accident Date:  June 15, 1977

Car:  "Compulsion" jet dragster

Biographical:  When his parachute failed to deploy properly, the jet car crashed through a steel guard rail, struck a fence, and slammed into a pole.  He lived in Chicago, Illinois.  His best 1/4 mile time on the J-46 Westinghouse-engined jet dragster was 6.70 at 238.48 MPH.

Sources

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=6073)

Photos

Chuck Turner

Born:  1941

Died:  October 5, 1975

Buried: 

Age:  34

Full Name:  Charles Turner, III

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Riverside Speedway, Nashville, Tennessee

Event:  

Accident Date:  October 5, 1975

Car:  T/F dragster

Biographical:   He was traveling about 200 MPH when his dragster went out of control and flipped over at the finish line.  The accident happened during eliminations when he was racing Spivey Williams.  The chassis in his dragster had come from Pete Robinson's car and the engine had been borrowed from Bob Amos.  He was from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He reportedly crewed and drove Tom Lehman's "The American Way" streamliner in 1974.

Sources

Tom Stinson, e-mail communication to site administrator, Nov. 2, 2011

"Fourmile resident dies in auto," Middlesboro Daily News, Oct. 6, 1975

North Carolina Death Collection:  Charles Turner, III, born 1941, age 34, resides in Fayetteville, NC, died Oct. 5, 1975, in Tenn., burial out of state

Social Security Death Index:  ?poss. Charles Turner, born June 17, 1941, died Oct. 1975, SS# issued in Maryland in 1957

http://www.americanwaytopfueler.com/evolution.html

Ron Tursovsky, e-mail communication to site administrators, Mar. 29, 2011 

DragList.com  (http://www.draglist.com/draglist/search.php?FNAME=chuck&LNAME=turner&CITY=&LIC=&SORTBY=&ASCDESC=ASC&search=Search&VIEW=Extended&ENTRY=&OWNFNAME=&OWNLNAME=&OWNCITY=&CCFNAME=&CCLNAME=&ET=&ETTRK_DATE=&MPH=&MPHTRKDATE=&EMET=&EMETTRKDAT=&EMMPH=&EMMPHTRKDT=&TFET=&TFETTRKDAT=&TFMPH=&TFMPHTRKDAT=&CID=&YR=&SHIFT=&PHOTOG=&NOTES=&SUBMITTER=&LASTUPDATER=&RACERWEBSITE=&PHOTOLINK=)

Photos

Ray Twomey

Born:  May 11, 1950

Died:  March 6, 1977

Buried: Floral Park Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana

Age:  26

Full Name:  Kenneth Ray Twomey

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Indianapolis Raceway Park, Indiana

Event:  March 6, 1977

Accident Date:  Mar. 1977

Car:  1970 Dodge stock

Biographical:   He was in the pits getting ready to make a run in time trials on the drag strip season opener.  He was leaning over the engine at the front of the car adjusting the timing and revving the engine.  The fan broke loose and struck him in the chest.  He was from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Sources

"Car fan breaks, kills driver," Youngstown Vindicator, Mar. 7, 1977

“Race driver killed in Indianapolis mishap,” Amarillo Globe-Times, Mar. 7, 1977

Social Security Death Index:  prob. Kenneth Twomey, born May 11, 1950, died Mar. 1977, age 26, SS# issued in Indiana

Photos

Find a Grave

 

Stan Wilson

Born:  April 12, 1925

Died:  May 14, 1977

Buried:  Rest Haven Cemetery, Eugene, Oregon

Age:  52

Full Name:  Stanley Frank Wilson

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Mission Drag Strip, Mission, British Columbia, Canada

Event:  Winternationals

Accident Date:  May 14, 1977

Car:  "Altered Swinger" B/Altered

Biographical:   He was from Eugene, Oregon, where he had lived for about twenty years.  He had been born in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Sources

British Columbia Death Index

Social Security Death Index

1930 U.S. Census, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Jennifer Wilson-Rumburg, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 12, 2011

Photos

Find a Grave (photo courtesy of Zach Griffith)

 

Tony Wood

Born:  December 7, 1957

Died: March 20, 1977

Buried: 

Age:  19

Full Name:  Anthony Wayne Wood

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  U.S. 19 Dragway, near Albany, Georgia

Event:  

Accident Date:  March 20, 1977

Car:  Pro Stock 1974 Plymouth Duster

Biographical:   During time trials at the 1/8th mile track, he lost control of his car going 130 MPH.  The vehicle flipped over several times and disintegrated as it careened up an embankment.  He was a resident of Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia.

Sources

"Dragster driver killed," Albany Herald, Mar. 21, 1977

Georgia Deaths (in Dougherty Co., GA, age 19, lived in DeKalb Co., GA)

Social Security Death Index  SS# issued in Georgia in 1971, last benefit in Decatur, DeKalb, GA)

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=6305)

Photos

Marshall Wuertley

Born:  January 3, 1942

Died:  June 27, 1976

Buried: Bethel Cemetery, Summersville, Missouri

Age:  34

Full Name:  Marshall Howard Wuertley

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  I-55 Raceway (Missouri International Raceway), Pevely, Missouri

Event:  

Accident Date:  June 27, 1976

Car:  

Biographical:  During time trials on the 1/8th mile track, he lost control of his vehicle near the finish line and hit the middle timing lights.  His car began rolling.  He was traveling 91 MPH at the time of the crash.  He was transported to Jefferson County Hospital in nearby Festus where he was pronounced dead.  He was from East St. Louis, Illinois.  He had been drag racing for five years.  

Sources

"Drag racer killed," Walla Walla Union Bulletin, June 28, 1976

"Drag racer is killed in crash," Gettysburg Times, June 28, 1976

“Driver killed,” Salisbury Daily Times, June 28, 1976

Missouri Marriage Records (Marshall Howard Wuertley, age 22, born Jan. 3, 1942, married Wanda Sue Culpepper (born Jan. 28, 1946) in Howell, MO on July 7, 1964)

Social Security Death Index  (SS# issued in Missouri in 1959-60)

Motorsport Memorial website (http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=6213)

Photos

Darrell Wurban

Born:  1953

Died:  September 7, 1979

Buried:  Glen Park Community Cemetery, Calmar, Alberta, Canada

Age:  25

Full Name:  Darrell Edward Wurban

Nickname: 

Drag Strip:  Edmonton International Speedway, Alberta, Canada

Event:  bracket races

Accident Date:  September 7, 1979

Car:  econo dragster

Biographical: During time trials for bracket races, the car hit a vehicle that had stalled from a previous race.  The stalled car was about 800 feet past the finish line and was mostly off the paved track except for the rear of the car.  Although the car had been there for fifteen minutes from a previous race, it had not been deemed a hazard by track personnel.  The race track had been waiting for a tow truck to haul it away before the accident happened.  The dragster was estimated to have been traveling about 85 MPH at the time of the impact.  The dragster was clocked at 140 MPH at the finish line.  He was from Beaumont, Alberta, and was survived by his wife, Betty, and a son and daughter. 

Sources

"Drag racer killed in speedway crash," Edmonton Journal, September 8, 1979

"Drag racing," Edmonton Journal, Oct. 13, 1979

"Deaths," Edmonton Journal, Sep. 10, 1979

"Mechanical fault ruled out as cause of racing accident," Edmonton Journal, Sep. 10, 1979 

Photos

Find a Grave website

 

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