Sprint-car driver King dies
Friday, August 11, 2006
Sprint-car driver King dies
Knoxville report: Broken part sent car into a fence
By ROB GRAY
DES MOINES REGISTER STAFF WRITER
August 11, 2006
Knoxville, Ia. — Don Droud Jr. spoke about his car, then bowed his head and spoke from the heart.
"I just want all you fans to be praying for the Steve King family," Droud said after setting quick time in Thursday's Knoxville Nationals events. "I really didn't know what happened last night until I got to the track. I just want them to know I'm praying for them,"
Solemnity overshadowed speed-driven accolades in Droud and the minds of fellow drivers and fans, as they silently paid tribute to King, who died at 3:32 p.m. Thursday at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines of head injuries incurred in a crash during Wednesday's Nationals preliminary feature.
King, 33, was a 17-time NCRA 360-cubic-inch sprint car feature winner and a fourth-generation farmer from Jetmore, Kan. He won NCRA 360 Division titles in 2002 and 2003.
Initial reports from Knoxville Raceway indicate the wreck involved only King and happened when a part broke, sending his No. 88 ethanol car into the Turn 3 fence late in the qualifying feature.
King was taken by helicopter to Mercy late Wednesday night to undergo treatment for a brain injury, according to his Web site.
Knoxville race director Ralph Capitani said Nationals races would go on as scheduled.
"Our hearts, our souls, our prayers are certainly with the family," Capitani said. "He was a fine young man — a great loss to sprint car racing."
Ryan Pace of Arroyo Grande, Calif., saw King's crash from the pit area.
"All I saw was the chassis was twisted over to the right, so it had to be a left front impact into the wall," said Pace, a sprint car driver recovering from a broken neck sustained last month in a non-wing race at Kokomo, Ind. "I didn't see what made the crash happen. I just saw him hit it and it was a hard hit."
Pace said drivers are cognizant of the dangers inherent to the sport.
"You just try not to think of it, I guess," he said.
P. J. Chesson, who ran 14th in Wednesday's preliminary feature, expressed shock when hearing the hews of King's death, but did not see the crash.
"I was in Homestead this year when (IRL driver) Paul Dana was killed in the ethanol car, and last night, (King) was driving an ethanol car, wasn't he?" said Chesson, who also ran in this year's Indianapolis 500. "I feel really bad for his family, I feel really bad for everyone at ethanol. "It's unfortunate. These things happen, but it's never a nice day when it happens."
There have been 15 racing-related deaths at Knoxville, according to Capitani and Des Moines Register research.
The most recent death was June 16, when Courtney Roger Schuur of Fridley, Minn., was killed during a sprint-car exhibition race held as part of a once-a-year "old-timers" event.
King was the first driver killed at the Nationals since 1967, when 27-year-old Dan Krueger, of Kansas City, Mo., died of head injuries resulting from a crash in Turn 3 during a Saturday night consolation event.
"That old cliché," Capitani said. "They were doing what they loved doing."
A passage from King's Web site, www.88king.com, conveyed his love of racing: "Whether it was feeding cattle or plowing fields, Steve was always trying to do it faster."
The family left a message for fans on the Web site as well.
It read: "He loved you all. Thank you so much for your support. Please keep our family in your prayers. Arrangement details will be posted once they have been made."