NEW OXFORD, PENNSYLVANIA - by Ellen S. Siska - motorsport.com
As a native of southcentral Pennsylvania, the so-called "Sprint Car Mecca" of the world, I've followed the racing action at Lincoln Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway for many years. Needless to say, I was stunned and extremely saddened to learn of the death of New Oxford native Kevin Gobrecht in a racing accident at I-80 Speedway in Nebraska on September 25.
On September 30, I attended the funeral service for Kevin. I spoke with Bill Meyer, motorsports reporter for the York Daily Record (and the webmaster for the Lincoln Speedway site), who has covered the local sprint car scene for many years. He filled me in on a few things I didn't know.
For example, I learned that Jeff Gordon offered the services of his plane and pilot to the Gobrecht family in getting to Nebraska to bring Kevin's body home. Gordon's offer came after Dave Blaney informed him of the tragic accident. There was even speculation that Gordon might attend the funeral, but he wasn't among the mourners.
I also learned the specifics of the "freak accident," as WoO officials called it, that caused Kevin's untimely death. According to his mother, Donna Gobrecht-Long, after losing control of the car, it spun and struck the wall. A piece of the driveshaft apparently broke and struck Kevin through his helmet's eye shield, knocking him unconscious before his car was hit by another driver. "He didn't even know this other car hit him," she told a local reporter. "He was so happy doing what he was doing," she added tearfully. "No one among the Outlaws was happier doing what he was doing than Kevin was. He worked 20 years to get where he was, and there was no changing his mind."
Wednesday night's viewing at the Feiser Funeral Home in New Oxford, PA, began at 5 p.m. Although it was scheduled to end at 9 p.m., there were so many people waiting to go through the line that the last group finally finished at about 1 a.m. Many people withstood heavy rain for hours just to pay their respects.
Thursday's funeral was held at the New Oxford Social Club pavilion in order to accommodate the expected crowd. Local television stations reported an estimated 1,000 people in attendance. Both the #92 sprinter Kevin drove with the PA Posse and the #93 Amoco WoO car were parked outside of the entrance to the social club. The words "Rest in Peace" were decaled under his name.
Inside the social hall, various Gobrecht t-shirts hung from the rafters, chronicling Kevin's history of cars and sponsors. As the line snaked its way towards the casket, three large photo collages were posted on easels, highlighted by cards he had given his parents on various occasions. "Thanks for all your love and support. Love, Kevin," was handwritten on one. Messages of affection and sympathy to the family that had been posted on Internet bulletin boards were also displayed.
A large table held yet more photos, news clippings about Kevin's victories, and the large facsimile $100,000 check from his win in "The Big One" just six weeks earlier. A small white dirt-stained racing uniform hanging beside the table was a reminder of the little boy who started racing go-karts so long ago. Flowers were everywhere, the cards reading like a "Who's Who" in racing. Kevin was dressed in his Amoco racing uniform for the year 2000, having recently posed for publicity photos wearing it. His helmet was perched on a pedestal at the casket among a sea of flowers, many accented with black and white checkered ribbons.
There is a superstition that race car drivers don't go to funerals, but many of them defied that notion. Especially because of the ironic timing of the Outlaws being in the area to race at Williams Grove, one of Kevin's "home" tracks, this weekend, many of them were in attendance. Dave and Dale Blaney, Mark and Steve Kinser, Steve and Stevie Smith, Jeff and Sammy Swindell, Johnny Herrera, Donny Schatz, and Danny Lasoski were among the mourners. Notably absent was Fast Freddie Rahmer, a close friend of Kevin's.
Besides family members, speakers included Joe Mengel, track announcer at both Pocono Raceway and Trailways Speedway (where Kevin started his micro-sprint career); and Tyler Walker, a former WoO driver who is set to debut in the ASA race in Charlotte before beginning his Busch series career full-time next season. Tyler talked about how he and Kevin were dog lovers, adding that they spent a lot of time together on the road, "just hanging out and talking."
The crowed listened silently to each speaker, occasionally laughing at anecdotes about Kevin. There was loud and sustained applause when WoO President and CEO Ted Johnson announced that the WoO "Rookie of the Year" Award will now be known as "The G-Man Award," forever honoring Kevin Gobrecht. But the smiles turned to tears as the wails of a little boy echoed throughout the pavilion. The casket had been closed, the body of "Uncle Kevin" carried by family and friends to a waiting hearse for final disposition.
The final checkered flag fell much too soon, Kevin. Rest in peace.