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'A brutal sport sometimes'

Martin killed after being broad-sided in practice session

Posted: Wednesday October 09, 2002 2:10 PM
Updated: Friday October 11, 2002 7:38 PM
  Eric Martin's car Workers remove the body of ARCA Series driver Eric Martin from his car at Lowe's Motor Speedway. AP

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- A driver on the minor league ARCA series crashed into a wall Wednesday and seconds later was broad-sided by another car, killing him and injuring the other driver.

Eric Martin radioed his team, "I'm all right" after he spun and rammed the wall backward coming out of the fourth turn during practice at Lowe's Motor Speedway. But the other car, driven by Deborah Renshaw, came around the turn going at least 160 mph and plowed into Martin's car on the driver's side.

"The first hit, I guess he just kind of lost his breath," said veteran driver Ron Hornaday. "The second one, a driver is never ready for that second impact and that's the one that got him. It's nobody's fault, it's just a brutal sport sometimes."

The 33-year-old Martin died instantly of massive internal injuries.

Track Tragedies
For a list of recent tragic events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, click here

The 25-year-old Renshaw was taken to University Hospital in Charlotte, where she was in fair condition and being examined for possible ankle injuries.

She has had a tumultuous racing year, beginning in July when fellow drivers plotted to ruin her Late Model Series title chances at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway. They pooled their money together, had a driver intentionally finish behind her during a race and paid for him to protest her finish.

She was disqualified when her car failed inspection. But the protest led to a ton of attention and caught the eye of Rick Goodwin, who planned to put Renshaw in a Busch series car next season.

The wreck happened during practice for the EasyCare 150, the final race of the season for the Automobile Racing Club of America, a 50-year-old training series for drivers hoping to move up to NASCAR.

Qualifying was canceled following the wreck, with the field for Thursday night's race being set by season points.

Martin's team tearfully circled the back of their hauler, with crew members wiping their eyes as they talked on their cell phones. Renshaw's truck was packed up, the back door pulled shut.

A dozen drivers went to the track's media center and stood behind ARCA president Ron Drager as a show of support.

ARCA drivers are required to wear head and neck restraints. They usually drive old Winston Cup cars and the safety requirements are not as strict.

At issue in this wreck is why Renshaw either didn't see Martin's disabled car or was unable to avoid him.

Spotters are not required to climb onto the grandstand roof during practice to help a driver navigate the track. Instead, the spotters watch the race from the top of the haulers inside the infield, giving them several blind spots.

Car owner Bob Schacht, a three-time ARCA series champion, was spotting for Renshaw on top of the team hauler, but Drager would not speculate if he saw Martin's car or not.

Wayne Hixson, Martin's team owner, said he started working with the driver about four years ago, and they had run in all the ARCA races this year.

"He was learning real good with the car and he either got in some oil or blew a right front [tire]," Hixson said. "He hit the wall. He came on the radio and said, 'I'm all right.' And then the 75 [car] just came around and broad-sided him.

"It was just a racing accident, that's all."

After the crash, the engine and a part of the wheel assembly sat on the track as the wreckage was lifted onto a tow truck and covered with a blue tarp.

Martin was from Hixson, Tenn. He is survived by a wife and two children. His wife, Tammy, is a naval officer aboard the USS Gettysburg, which is in port in Jacksonville, Fla.

He had 40 career starts and was 20th in the points standings in ARCA, which competes on many of the same tracks used for Winston Cup and Busch events.

Martin's death is the 15th at Lowe's, the eighth involving a stock car driver. Blaise Alexander was killed last October at an ARCA race in a wreck involving Kerry Earnhardt.

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