By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online DALLAS (Oct. 14, 2000) Second generation stock car racer Tony Roper, 35, of Fair Grove, Mo., was pronounced dead at 11:55 a.m. ET Saturday at Parkland Hospital. Roper, the son of former ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde...
By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online
DALLAS (Oct. 14, 2000) Second generation stock car racer Tony Roper, 35, of Fair Grove, Mo., was pronounced dead at 11:55 a.m. ET Saturday at Parkland Hospital.
Roper, the son of former ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series stock car champion Dean Roper, was critically injured in a crash in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 400 presented by Valvoline DuraBlend at Texas Motor Speedway in nearby Fort Worth.
"From the France family and all of NASCAR, our thoughts and prayers are certainly with Dean and Shirley, Tony's wife Michelle and sister Kim," NASCAR senior vice president and chief operating officer Mike Helton said from Talladega Superspeedway, where he was attending the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Winston 500.
Roper had been listed in critical condition since he was airlifted by helicopter to the hospital following a multi-truck accident on the 1.5-mile speedway's frontstretch.
Track officials said Friday night that Roper, who was making his fourth start of the season for truck owner Mike Mittler in his No. 26 Mittler Tool Ford, was "unconscious and unresponsive" when he was brought to the track's Lonestar Health Infield Care Center. He was placed on a ventilator to assist his breathing before being transported to Parkland.
Dean and Michelle Roper were at the race and joined the injured driver at the hospital Friday night. The driver's mother Shirley and sister, Kim, later joined them.
Roper was injured when he crashed after coming into contact on Turn 4 with the No. 43 Dodge Motorsports Dodge driven by Steve Grissom. Information released at the track said Grissom and Roper were involved with the No. 44 Maurice Petty and Associates Dodge driven by Mark Petty.
Roper's truck slammed head-on into the frontstretch wall after making contact with Grissom; then it was struck a second time by Grissom's truck. Roper was initially taken by ambulance to the infield care center before being airlifted.
The fatality was the second in the six-year history of the NCTS and the first since driver John Nemechek died of head injuries suffered in a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., in March 1997.
Tony Roper had raced since 1986 in a variety of Midwestern stock car divisions, including International Motor Contest Association Modified and Late Models. He moved to the American Speed Association ACDelco Challenge Series in 1992.
He made his first start in the NCTS in 1995, ironically for the Mittlers. He had made 60 career starts in the series with his best start of third coming at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1997. His best finish of second also came at the half-mile short track at which he had raced in the ASA, in 1998.
Roper moved to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division for the 1999 season with Xpress Motorsports. He made 16 starts in the NBS that season and finished 41st in driver points. Ironically he was fourth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings behind former NCTS pilot Tony Raines. He had three top-10 finishes, including a career-best fourth at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
In the 2000 season, he moved to the third-year Washington Erving team, but the combination struggled with its Dr. Pepper Chevrolets. The team had difficulty qualifying for races and after making only three of the first nine events Roper was released as the team's driver. The team shortly after suspended operations.
Roper then returned to the NCTS with the Mittler Brothers Racing team. The operation, which also operated with a shortage of funds, qualified for four of five races with Roper. His best start for the Mittlers was 16th at Nashville Speedway USA and his best finish was 21st at Richmond International Raceway.
[The editors thank Dave Rodma, Editor of NASCAR.com, for the use of this article. Ours condolences are also extened to the family of Tony Roper]