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Fallen Heroes of Sprint Car Racing

Part of the excitement of sprint car racing is the danger. Clip another car's wheels, or enter a corner too hard, and you may find yourself upside down in short order. More often than not, the driver climbs out of the wreck unaided, and returns the next week or later that same night.

It wasn't always this way. Sprint cars used to routinely maim and kill their drivers. Modern safety devices such as full face helmets, roll bars, multi-point harnesses, fire suits, and fuel cells have made most routine accidents survivable. Major advances in medicine and rescue techniques have saved many who would not have survived similar injuries in the past.

But sometimes the worst happens, and no amount of safety equipment or medical technology can spare the driver. Or even more tragically, the driver survives, but is no longer able to drive, or even to care for himself.

This page is a tribute to the men and women whose lives were claimed or changed by the sport they loved. I regret that I don't have more time and space to post the many tributes that have been sent to me, but write me if you wish to contribute. I hope to have more on display soon.

Helping the survivors

Some of the survivors require constant medical care, notably Brad Doty and Page Jones. Donations to their aid funds will be appreciated, not just by the families, but by all of the racing community. Please give generously if you can.

Gone but not forgotten

Retired due to injuries

These drivers are fortunate to have survived, and for one reason or another have given up the sport. We should be thankful they are still with us.

On the mend

These drivers were injured more recently, and it is uncertain whether or how fully they will recover. My prayers go out to them.

Image: Page Jones doing what he did best
Page Jones in a midget at Bakersfield Speedway, Oildale, CA.

Other racing notables

Not all the Fallen Heroes are race drivers, and not all fall to racing's capricious nature. Here we pay tribute to the others who made dirt track racing great.

Patron of the sport

Though he was not a driver that I know of, the contributions of J. W. Hunt to the sport of sprint car racing -- and dirt track racing in general -- cannot be overstated. A strawberry farmer from Florida by profession, Hunt was perhaps the biggest fan dirt track racing ever had, and he spread his considerable wealth around to practically every driver in the sport. The familiar strawberry logo appears to this day on hundreds of race cars and drivers' helmets across the US.

You never knew when or where Hunt would appear, but when he did he would always spice up the racing by offering a little extra to sweeten the purse. I remember one particular night at Silver Dollar Speedway, when the CRA non-winged tour was in town for a Gold Cup support race. Lealand McSpadden had set quick time, but flipped in his heat race, ringing his bell and severely damaging the car. J. W. stepped up to the infield reporter's microphone and offered to add $1000 to the winner's purse if McSpadden could come back through the B main and win the main event! The offer met with roars of approal from the crowd. Looking a little shaky in a car that wasn't quite right, Lealand proceeded to run away with the B. A few minutes later, with the car now set up for the always-tacky Chico track, he won the main event to a standing ovation, and a beaming Hunt was there to greet McSpadden on the victory stand!

Hunt passed away in January of 1994 after a long and full life. But I'm sure he smiles down on America's dirt tracks every weekend.

Help me remember the fallen heroes

I'm a relative newcomer to the sport, and don't have a lot of history to draw on. And like most people, my memory is imperfect. Any errors in this page are mine alone. I apologize if these errors offend anyone, and will correct them as soon as I'm made aware of them.

Please help me by sending the names and histories of the departed and injured, or information about driver aid funds, to me at this address. I will add your information to this page at my earliest opportunity.

Credits

Page layout and text copyright © 1994-1998 Chuck Fry. Unless otherwise stated, all photos this page are by Steve Lafond, and are copyright © 1993-1998 Tear-Off Heaven Fotos.

See the full copyright notice for details.

In addition to the contributed biographies credited above, my thanks to the many people who have informed and corrected me. Space does not permit me to name them all, but I appreciate their kind words.


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Fallen heroes of sprint car racing / Copyright © 1994-1998 Chuck Fry / webmaster@chucko.com