Kerry Earnhardt wins at Lowe's; Blaise Alexander fatally injured

CONCORD NC -- Kerry Earnhardt won the ARCA EasyCare 100 Thursday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, an event marred by the death of Montoursville, Pennsylvania veteran driver Blaise Alexander. Alexander, 25, was involved in a two-car accident while...

CONCORD NC -- Kerry Earnhardt won the ARCA EasyCare 100 Thursday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, an event marred by the death of Montoursville, Pennsylvania veteran driver Blaise Alexander.

Alexander, 25, was involved in a two-car accident while battling for the lead during the closing laps of the 100-mile race. Earnhardt, the other driver involved in the wreck, was not injured.

Alexander, who was in pursuit of Earnhardt for the most of the race, trailed the eventual winner by five lengths as the leaders approached traffic in turn three on the 63rd lap of the 67-lap race. Earnhardt, having committed himself to the outside lane in an effort to clear the lapped cars, had to check up in traffic allowing Alexander to close within inches of the leader's bumper. As the leaders raced off turn four Alexander, with more momentum, steered for a hole that had opened up on the bottom. Alexander nosed ahead of Earnhardt through the tri-oval however the cars touched just before the start-finish line resulting in Alexander's machine slamming nearly head-on into the outside retaining wall. Alexander bounced off the wall into Earnhardt whose car then turned over onto its roof and skidded farther up the track before coming to a stop upside down. Earnhardt climbed out unscathed while ARCA officials immediately put out the red flag to allow rescue workers to attend to the situation.

"The emergency technicians were immediately on the scene," said Jerry Gappens, vice president of promotions and public relations for the speedway. "Blaise was unconscious, unresponsive with no pulse or signs of life. Our staff in the care center worked with him for 25 minutes -- again, with no response. He was pronounced dead at 10:20 PM ET. The initial report indicated Alexander died of a severe head injury."

With 63 laps complete, ARCA officials declared the race over. Thus Earnhardt, whose car crossed the start-finish line before Alexander's, won the race. "This was a violent deceleration type accident," said ARCA president Ron Drager, "and the medical information we have at this time is consistent with that. Blaise's father Blaise Sr. and brother Adam were with the team in the pit area. Blaise was a great person and a great racer, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Alexander, also a veteran of the NASCAR Busch & Craftsman Truck Series, first raced in ARCA competition in 1995. Alexander won the ARCA rookie of the year honors in 1996 and finished fifth in points that same year. In 68 career starts, Alexander posted three wins at Toledo Speedway and Pocono Raceway in 1998 as well as his most recent victory at Michigan Int'l Speedway in July of 2001. In addition, Alexander had 22 top-five finishes and 38 top-tens in ARCA competition as well as four poles at Toledo, Winchester Speedway, Watkins Glen Int'l and Michigan. Alexander's career-best Busch Series finish was seventh.

Frank Kimmel, who has already clinched the 2001 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship, finished third ahead of Billy Venturini in fourth and polesitter Tim Steele who completed the top-five. Steele's run was significant for the fact that the Coopersville, Michigan driver had to start from the tail-end after his crew changed engines following the final practice session the day before. It was Steele's 18th career ARCA superspeedway pole award. Other than the red flag, there were two cautions for 14 laps resulting in no further injuries. Earnhardt led the most laps with 46 total followed by Alexander who led 12 laps while Andy Belmont led 5. It was Earnhardt's third career ARCA RE/MAX Series victory.

Mt. Juliet, Tennessee rookie and outside polesitter Chase Montgomery finished a solid sixth in front of Jason Jarrett in seventh. 2001 ASA champion Johnny Sauter made his career-first ARCA/superspeedway start and finished eighth while Mark Gibson and Richard Mitchell completed the top-ten respectively.

CURRENT ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 6445; 2) Jason Jarrett 5310; 3) Andy Belmont 5065; 4) Ron Cox 4585; 5) Norm Benning 4290; 6) Chuck Weber 4190; 7) Todd Bowsher 4180; 8) Donny Morelock 4095; 8) Tim Steele 4095; 10) Mike Buckley 3025.

-ARCA-

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Series ARCA
Drivers Mike Buckley , Blaise Alexander , Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Richard Mitchell , Chase Montgomery , Kerry Earnhardt , Chuck Weber , Jason Jarrett , Donny Morelock , Tim Steele , Johnny Sauter , Billy Venturini , Ron Cox , Mark Gibson , Todd Bowsher , Norm Benning