Blaine Johnson Killed at NHRA U.S. Nationals

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Clermont, IN -- People in various newsgroups have posted asking for prayers when drivers in their favorite form of racing have been seriously injured or killed. The drag racing community now asks that the favor be returned.... Blaine...

Clermont, IN -- People in various newsgroups have posted asking for prayers when drivers in their favorite form of racing have been seriously injured or killed. The drag racing community now asks that the favor be returned....

Blaine Johnson, driver of the Travers Tool Top Fuel dragster, died of injuries suffered in a horrific crash during qualifying at the NHRA U.S. Nationals which are being run this weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He is the first Top Fuel driver to die during an NHRA event since 1971.

Blaine, who was leading the Top Fuel points this year, had just made the quickest run in IRP history and one of the quickest in drag racing history. He had just completed a pass in 4.61 seconds at 309 mph, only slightly slower than his 4.59 pass at the Western Auto Nationals in July of this year which is the current national record.

As Blaine passed the finish line in excess of 300 mph, the engine in his dragster erupted in a ball of flame. The fire caused the rear slick tires to explode which, in turn, destroyed the rear wing on the car. Without this wing and the downforce it provides, Blaine could not control the dragster. It veered into the near wall and began to break apart. It rolled across both lanes and as it hit the wall on the otherside of the track, the car disintegrated though the driver's cage remained intact. Long time drag racing announcer, Dave McCelland, said it was the worst top end crash he had ever witnessed.

The NHRA Safety Safari rush immediately to the scene and began tending to Blaine. After being stabilized, he was extracated from the driver's cage and flown by medical helicopter to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis while on life support. He underwent surgery but was pronounced dead of massive head injuries at 5:17 PM CDT.

Blaine, his crew chief and brother, Alan Johnson, and team owner and father, Everett Johnson, burst onto the drag racing season at the beginning of the decade. They ran Top Alcohol Dragster and won four consecutive championships, a feat no one else has achieved in this class. In 1994, the Johnsons moved up to Top Fuel, the sport's most prestigious class. They had limited success that year as they learned the nuances of tuning a top fuel car. They improved in 1995 and were dominating the class at the time of Blaine's death.

Connie Kalitta, Top Fuel driver and owner of American International Airways, dispatched one of his planes immediately after the crash to pick up Blaine's wife in California and fly her to Indianapolis. -- Phil _____________________________________________________________ Philip Gravel Lisle, Illinois pgravel@mcs.net

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