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Daytona Speedweeks off to somber start

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It doesn't seem TOO strange at all NASCAR's web site hasn't acknowledged this yet, does it? Although...I'm guessing they're gonna wait for the investigation to be complete before they post anything...

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Tragic News at Daytona: A Daytona International Speedway safety worker was killed Sunday afternoon when he was struck by a race car being driven by a paraplegic competitor in a race during activities leading up to next week's Daytona 500. Roy H. Weaver III, a 44-year-old track crew supervisor, was picking up debris in the Turn 2 area of the 2.5-mile track after a crash during the IPower 150 when he was struck by a race car being driven by Ray Paprota. Paprota, 41, is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of injuries he suffered in an automobile crash in 1984. He uses specially modified hand controls to accelerate, brake and change gears in his race car. Sunday's race was the first held under authority of IPower, a sanctioning body that bought what was formerly known as the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series late last year. The race had been slowed under a yellow for a wreck in Turn 4 that required Tony Billings of Pfafftown, N.C., to be cut from his car. Late Sunday, Billings was listed in stable condition at Halifax Medical Center. The cars were stopped on pit road under a red flag while the Dash series garage was cordoned off with security workers and police. The Volusia County medical examiner came to the garage and officials took photos of Paprota's car. More than two hours after the incident took place, but before Weaver's death was confirmed, the race was resumed and shortened from 60 to 40 laps. Danny Bagwell, whose Alabama-based team had helped Paprota prepare his race cars for competition, was the winner.(see full story at ThatsRacin.com)(2-8-2004)

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Here is an article written by David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and published today, 2/9/04 on their website.




Dash series official backs driver

involved in Daytona fatality

Use of hand controls 'second nature' for driver


The Charlotte Observer


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Flags flew at half-staff Monday at Daytona International Speedway as the track's staff mourned the loss of one of its own.

Roy H. Weaver, 44, died Sunday when he was struck on the track by a car driven by Ray Paprota in an IPower Dash series race. Paprota, 41, is a paraplegic who lost the use of his legs in an automobile accident 20 years ago. He controls the car using specially modified hand controls.


Weaver, a safety crew supervisor who'd been working at the track for seven years, was picking up debris under a caution flag when he was hit by Paprota's car, which was apparently gaining speed to catch up to the field as he came off pit road. Weaver is survived by his wife, Linda, and two daughters and a son between the ages of 13 and 18.


Paprota issued a statement Monday through Randy Claypoole, executive vice president for administration for the IPower series.


"I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Roy Weaver," Paprota's statement said. "I can't begin to imagine the grief his family must be going through. I understand from others that Roy loved his role in motorsports as much as I love mine. My prayers go out to everyone involved and I pray that this type of tragic incident never happens again."


Claypoole said Paprota, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., was still in the Daytona area to help IPower officials and the Daytona Beach police with their investigations into what happened in Turn 2 on Sunday. A woman in the records division at the police department said it could be five to seven working days before a report on the incident is completed.


"We have been cooperating fully with the police in their investigation," Claypoole said. "On our end, we are still trying to piece together what happened."


Claypoole said IPower officials had talked to drivers who were on the track, including those who were closest to Ray Paprota's car, at the time Weaver was struck.


"It's too early to draw any conclusions," Claypoole said. "But an incident did happen and our hope would be to find out as closely as possible what exactly did happen and what we can learn so it will not happen again."


Claypoole said IPower, which stands for International Participants of Winning Edge Racing, requires every driver in Sunday's race to have a spotter working with them during the event. The race was the first as a sanctioning body after Claypoole, Buck Parker and Tom Deery purchased the series from NASCAR after the 2003 season. But Claypoole said he was one of three experienced officials controlling the race from the tower when Weaver was struck.


Paprota was to have started 25th in Sunday's race after qualifying at an average speed of 156.185 mph. His car lingered on pit road, however, when its engine would not fire. His team pushed the No. 0 Pontiac behind the pit wall and changed the battery. Paprota made one lap around the track under the yellow flag then came back to pit road. As he was going out a second time, his car struck Weaver.


Claypoole said Paprota's driving skills and the controls he used were both evaluated thoroughly before he was allowed to compete in Sunday's event at the 2.5-mile track.


"The controls were put through a rigorous demonstration," Claypoole said. "They are part of the steering wheel and are positioned in the exact location where any other driver would put his hands. Ray was able to hold the controls in his fingers and work the throttle and brakes as well as anyone who works pedals with their feet. It was second nature."


Paprota had competed in three Dash series events when the series was under NASCAR sanction, all on tracks five-eighths of a mile or shorter. When Paprota applied to IPower for clearance to race at the larger and faster Daytona track, Claypoole said the driver was asked to participate in a rookie test held here last month.


"He got a lot of verbal instruction from veteran drivers about the dynamics of competing on a superspeedway," Claypoole said. "We also put him on the race track with those veteran drivers and observed him as they practiced drafting. No one who observed him, our officials and the other drivers, had any reservation that he would be capable of handling a car at Daytona."


Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications, said NASCAR would stay in contact with IPower officials as the investigation continues.


"We will try to learn from whatever they're able to learn," he said. According to research done by the Observer, Weaver is at least the 17th track staff member to die in a racing-related incident since 1990. Eight of those killed were flagmen.


In 1992, pit steward Carl McCormick was cleaning up after an accident when a car hit him during a race at a track at the Indiana state fairgrounds. In 1996, Chuck Silva died after a dragster backed over him as he was picking up debris at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.


At least 26 people were killed in racing incidents last year, down from 28 the year before and 40 in 2001.

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