On April 1, 2001, racer Al Papini III, died from a heart attack during the feature race for the NASCAR Late Model class at Rockford Speedway in Rockford, Illinois. Papini, veteran racer; Papini, age 41; Papini, a family man; Papini, a weekend ...
On April 1, 2001, racer Al Papini III, died from a heart attack during the feature race for the NASCAR Late Model class at Rockford Speedway in Rockford, Illinois.
Papini, veteran racer;
Papini, age 41;
Papini, a family man;
Papini, a weekend warrior;
Papini, a competitor on the short-tracks;
Papini, a friend to many people in and out of racing
Racing has lost another hero. Lately, many have made comments that racing is a dangerous sport. And they wonder why so many people are involved. It is a fact that is faced each and every race. Will they quit being involved? No, not as long as the love for the sport still burns within them. It has no bearing whether the person who lost their life is famous to the world or famous to their friends and family. It doesn't matter if the person is a volunteer worker, a driver, a crew member or a fan. The fact is: Racing is a sport that many love and enjoy.
Today, we mourn the death of a man who we did not know but we knew of his character. It is with sadness that we report his death. He did not die from an on-track accident but of a heart attack prior to losing control of his car. We cannot question why this happened but we accept that he was a man who enjoyed his life and his racing and we know that he was loved by his family and his friends.
According to sources in Rockford, Papini's new Dodge Avenger suddendly veered off the track and into the infield prior to coming back on track where it slammed hard into the wall near turn two. He was third at the time. Their were only 7-laps remaining in the feature race.
The Rockford Speedway emergency/rescue team arrived and immediately began the life-saving techniques. Papini was air lifted to Rockford Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Dr. Spiro Analitis, trauma surgeon, stated, "Papini died of severe chest injuries."
"It is an unfortunate occurrence and our prayers are with Al Papini and his family," remarked Speedway president Jack Deery. "Al was a constant competitor here at Rockford and a great friend of the Deery family, we are all going to miss him. Rockford Speedway and all of our thoughts and prayers are with Al's family during this time." (www.rockfordspeedway.com)
According to the preliminary autopsy report released on Tuesday: "What we found was he had a heart attack. There was no trauma. No ruptured aorta, like the emergency room had thought. And he died as the result of a heart attack," Winnebago County coroner Sue Fiduccia said. "He was dead before he hit the wall."
The final autopsy report will be released in about four weeks, said Fiduccia, adding that Papini, 41, didn't have a history of heart problems.
The finding of a heart attack explained much to track officials and fellow drivers.
"It's sad that we lost a friend, but I'm glad he didn't know what happened," stated Deery.
The track president felt that the 16 other drivers in the feature race would be relieved to learn Papini's accident wasn't the result of something they had done, such as leaking fluids on the track.
Driver Tom Gille, who was two car lengths behind Papini at the time of the crash, said the heart attack finding made perfect sense.
"Al's been racing too long and he's too good at handling his car to do what he did," said Gille. "I knew something had to happen. It was either the steering had broke on the car or Al wasn't controlling it."
Profile: Al Papini III
Hometown: Machesney Park, Illinois Services
Visitation: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5.
Delehanty Funeral Home Ltd., 401 River Lane, Loves Park.
Memorial: 11 a.m. Friday, April 6, St. Bridget Catholic Church in Loves Park
Preceded by visitation from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens in Machesney Park.
On the way to the burial, Papini's hearse will make a special stop at Rockford Speedway.
His hearse and some family members will take a final lap on the track. Papini's car owner and good friend, Denny Lemonds will be at the finish line waving the checkered flag.
Memorials may be sent to:
Al Papini Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 1060
Rockford , Il 61105-1060
Motorsport.com wishes to extend our sympathy to the family, friends and the Rockford Speedway "family" of Al Papini III