A sudden crash during a drag race Saturday killed veteran driver Ronnie Davis, 66, and seriously injured a journalist.
Davis died on Sunday of his injuries, while photographer and writer Ian Tocher, 55, was injured and underwent surgery; he is now recovering, the Associated Press reported.
At the time of the crash, Ronnie was driving a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette during a qualifying run at the PDRA Spring Nationals at the Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina, the Richmond County Daily Journal reported.
He had just completed the final run when, as the AP described it, the Corvette “turned left and shot across the track in front rival Mark Malcuit’s car. Davis’ car cleared the right-side guardwall and barrel-rolled.”
At one point, Davis’ car shot into the right lane before being launched into the air and above a retaining wall. According to Bleacher Report, Ronnie finished the lap in lap “in 4.130 seconds at 178.19 miles per hour” before the wreck.
The crash was being filmed live, and the reaction from commentators was shocked and immediate, warning spectators not to crowd the track.
Medical staff and local firefighters and medics rushed to the crash to provide first aid on scene, according to the local sheriff’s office.
Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge said, “Everyone went into action very quickly.”
Tocher was struck by debris from the violent crash; the AP reported that the car hit him. He was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Ronnie Davis was sent to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst and was then transferred to the Chapel Hill hospital. He died there Sunday.
Both men are from Georgia; Davis from Suwanee and Tocher from Roswell. The journalist had covered the drag racer for several publications, including Drag Illustrated.
Both have been described as “two friends with close ties to the Professional Drag Racers Association.”
— FayObserver.com (@fayobserver) April 11, 2016
Drag racing champion Ronnie Davis died Sunday as a result of injuries sustained in a crash at Rockingham Dragway https://t.co/Ue8jtliHeG
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) April 11, 2016
The fatal injuries suffered by Ronnie Davis were not specified, and in a Facebook post on Monday, Drag Illustrated offered an update on their reporter’s condition. He required surgery to his pelvis and his left leg to set the bone and cover the wound and bone with skin. Luckily, he is said to have a “strong pulse to the left foot, which is encouraging.”
He’s been able to speak briefly with his wife, Sue, and nod yes to a few questions, including one about whether he was in pain.
Foul play is not suspected as a cause of Ronnie’s crash, which has been deemed a racing accident.
Ronnie Davis is survived by a longtime companion, Micki Dearing, and two daughters, Michelle Seger and Bridgett Medina, of Texas.
Ronnie Davis’ nickname was “The King,” earned because he was nearly undefeated at the Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway. He dominated a competition there called “King of the Hill” early in his drag-racing career, which has lasted for 25 years. Others have said Ronnie earned the nickname before he won a national event.
He was a five-time International Hot Rod Association world champion and a Top Sportsman class champion in the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA). According to Drag Zine, he owned Davis Golf Carts in his native Suwanee. The business was the PDRA’s pit vehicle provider, and many of his competitors were customers.
“The entire PDRA community is deeply saddened by Saturday’s incident and offers its most sincere condolences and prayers to Ronnie Davis’ family, teammates and friends,” said PDRA president Bob Harris. “Ronnie was a fierce competitor, a spirited and kind-hearted human being, and he touched the lives of many during his drag racing career.”
A crash in February at another track half-way across the world ended in minor scrapes for a French motorcycle racer named Loris Baz. His wreck was also caught on video and was just as dramatic. At the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, Baz crashed during a test run while driving 180 mph.
[Photo by Robert Estiandan]