IRL: CHAMPCAR/CART: Stan Fox dies in New Zealand traffic accident

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000 - Indianapolis 500 veteran and former USAC open-wheel standout Stan Fox suffered fatal injuries in a traffic accident Dec. 18 in New Zealand, where he was visiting friends and attending races. ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000 - Indianapolis 500 veteran and former USAC open-wheel standout Stan Fox suffered fatal injuries in a traffic accident Dec. 18 in New Zealand, where he was visiting friends and attending races. The van that Fox was driving and another van apparently collided head-on while driving on a desert road approximately 200 miles south of Auckland, New Zealand. Fox was 48. Fox, from Janesville, Wis., made eight starts in the Indianapolis 500 between 1987 and 1995, with a best finish of seventh in his debut in 1987 in an A.J. Foyt-owned backup car. He also finished eighth in 1991. Other owners for whom Fox competed at Indianapolis included current Indy Racing Northern Light Series team owners Ron Hemelgarn and Jonathan Byrd. "I'll remember Stan as a friend, first," Hemelgarn said. "I think Stan had tremendous ability as a race car driver. He could figure out what a race car was doing in a very short period of time and didn't need many laps to get up to speed or qualify. He was a very, very talented driver as far as setting up a car." Fox's driving career ended in a Lap 1 crash in the 1995 Indianapolis 500 in which he suffered severe injuries. Since his recovery, Fox worked tirelessly on behalf of head-injury victims with his Friends of the Fox organization and support group. Fox personally led head-injury victims on garage tours of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every May and also led similar groups to racetracks around the country. "Stan never knew an enemy, Stan never knew a stranger," Hemelgarn said. "The guy was always upbeat, always jovial, always cutting up with anyone. He just had that natural ability to be with people, and people liked him. "When he had his accident (in 1995), it was very hard on him. He wanted to drive, and he wasn't able to drive. It was very hard to see a guy who wanted to do something and couldn't for medical reasons. And then for him to take that energy and turn it into Friends of the Fox and still be around racing and the racetrack, it was pretty neat how that all worked out. He could enjoy racing and be part of racing, and share that with people and keep the celebrity status that he had."

Fox also stayed close to the Indy Racing community through his ties with Hemelgarn Racing. He celebrated with the team in Victory Lane after Hemelgarn driver Buddy Lazier won the 1996 Indianapolis 500, and he was at Texas Motor Speedway last October when Lazier and Hemelgarn Racing clinched their first Northern Light Cup.

"I have so many memories of him," Hemelgarn said. "All great memories. All the fun times, jokes and laughter. Stan was Stan. He had a way about him. People loved him. Sponsors loved him. He was always cracking jokes. He's got fans all over the world who followed his career." Fox also was a standout driver in United States Auto Club and Badger Midget Auto Racing Association short-track competition, with more than 60 overall feature victories during his career. Fox won 19 USAC National Midget features in 184 career starts, capturing the prestigious Copper World Classic midget race at Phoenix three times, in 1980, 1990 and 1993. He also won the Turkey Night Grand Prix in 1990 and 1991 and the 4-Crown Nationals in 1990. His best finish in a USAC Silver Crown Series feature was second in 1990 in Milwaukee.

Fox finished a career-best fourth in the USAC National Midget point standings in 1990 and 1991. The affable Fox was voted the most improved driver in USAC in 1979 and won the Wisconsin state midget championship in 1979 and 1980. He was a diversified driver, also competing in CART, the American Racing Series and Super Vees.

"Stan was a pretty fun-loving guy, with not too many cares," said Bob East, who raced against Fox in short-track events and then built and maintained midgets driven by Fox and owned by Steve Lewis. "People liked being around him."

"As a driver, there was probably none better. He was always a threat to win, but he never took it that serious (because of business success outside of racing). Who knows how good he could've become? He was as tough as they came."

Fox is survived by his children, Marie and Alex; two brothers and a sister. Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Schneider Funeral Directors in Janesville, Wis., is handling the arrangements.

-IMS-

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Series INDYCAR , MIDGET , USAC