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Speed Weeks '04 at Daytona

Worker killed on track during race

Roy H. Weaver III was removing debris during a caution when he was hit.

By BRANT JAMES
Published February 9, 2004

Off to the races:

Check out the blog by Times sportswriter Brant James as he reports from Speed Weeks in Daytona Beach.

DAYTONA BEACH - Daytona International Speedway's supervisor of track crew was struck and killed by a car competing in a DASH series event Sunday as he removed debris during a caution.

Roy H. Weaver III, 44, was standing in the middle of the track when he was struck by the No.0 car of Ray Paprota, a paraplegic driver racing off pit road to catch the field. Weaver, who had been with the speedway for seven years, died instantly. He was the 36th person to die at the speedway - the first since Bryan Cassell was killed while practicing for a motorcycle race Oct.18 - since it opened in 1959.

Paprota was loaded into a wheelchair-accessible van and, before he left the track, said: "I'm sorry. I can't say anything."

Though the accident occurred on the 18th lap, Paprota was making his first turn around the track. Paprota, who drives a car equipped with hand controls, could not start because his battery failed. His crew borrowed one and sent him out during a lengthy caution.

An accident on the opposite end of the track forced the caution on Lap 8. Tony Billings, awake and moving, was cut from his car and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Several drivers said it is typical for DASH cars exiting pit road to reach speeds in excess of 120 mph. DASH executive vice president of administration Randy Claypool said series rules encourage drivers leaving the pits to catch up with the closest line of cars as quickly as possible at safe speeds.

Competitors made one pass through the accident en route to pit road as emergency workers rushed to cover the body. The race was red-flagged for about 11/2 hours, finishing under the lights after police investigated the scene and took pictures of Paprota's car, which was then released to the Alabama-based team.

Although the race was shortened from 60 to 40 laps, several drivers expressed surprise that Claypool decided to continue.

"How do you finish this race? I won't go back out there," said driver Roger Moser, who pulled out. "This is disrespectful to the family."

Claypool defended his series' decision to let Paprota, who lost the use of his legs in a 1984 car wreck, compete, saying he was properly certified.

Race winner Danny Bagwell defended Paprota's racing skills: "I think he's a capable race driver and I think everybody deserves an opportunity."

- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified February 9, 2004, 01:05:23]


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