Driver Kenny Irwin Killed in Crash

Friday, July 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kenny Irwin was killed in a crash during practice for a Winston Cup race Friday, just yards from where Adam Petty died two months ago at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Irwin, 30, died of ``multiple injuries,'' Concord Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Dearborn said.

Irwin, who was NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year in 1998, was entering the third turn when his car went hard into the wall and flipped onto its roof. The Chevrolet was a crumpled hulk.

Petty, stock car racing's first fourth-generation driver, died May 12 after a crash during practice on the same track. The 19-year-old driver appeared to brush the wall on Turn 3 before spinning out and smashing sideways into the concrete. He was taken to Concord Hospital, where he died of head trauma.

Richard Petty, Adam's grandfather, said it was just a coincidence that the two drivers were killed in crashes at almost the same spot on the track.

``Those things are circumstances beyond human control,'' said Petty, the King of stock car racing with a record 200 victories and seven championships.

``There ain't nothing the matter with the race track. These guys run those things 200 mph. It's circumstances with the way you stop that thing so quick. Your body just can't stand it.''

Ward Burton, a driver and friend of Irwin's, disagreed with Petty.

``Two means it's a problem. I think it needs to be addressed,'' Burton said.

He suggested that track officials look into raising the banking in the turn, which is virtually flat and therefore more dangerous.

The Irwin accident occurred during practice before qualifying for Sunday's race, the New England 300. Practice continued after the crash.

``Our thoughts and prayers are with Kenny's family and his teammates,'' said a statement from Irwin's BellSouth Racing Team, which withdrew from competition for the weekend.

In addition to winning the Winston Cup rookie honors, Irwin was Craftsman truck Series rookie of the year in 1997.

In his sophomore season in 1999, he had two top-five and six top-10 finishes.

Although Richard Petty was at the track, Adam's father, Kyle, decided it was too soon to return to the place where his son was killed.

``He just didn't feel comfortable,'' said Jeff Dennison, a spokesman for Petty Enterprises. ``They decided it would be better just to take a week off.''

Veteran driver Steve Grissom will drive Petty's Pontiac.

Adam Petty's death came five weeks after the family buried patriarch Lee Petty, his great grandfather.