MONTEREY, Calif. (September 11, 1999) - Gonzalo Rodriguez, a 27-year-old rookie driver from Montevideo, Uruguay, died Saturday as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during practice for Sunday's CART Champ Car race at Laguna Seca ...
MONTEREY, Calif. (September 11, 1999) - Gonzalo Rodriguez, a 27-year-old rookie driver from Montevideo, Uruguay, died Saturday as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during practice for Sunday's CART Champ Car race at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Rodriguez, practicing in his second Champ Car event for Team Penske, went off course in the Turn 8 corkscrew section during Saturday morning's practice session and made contact with the retaining wall. CART Safety Team officials removed Rodriguez from the car and he was transported by ambulance to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Rodriguez was pronounced dead at 10:10 a.m. PDT by Dr. Robert Keaney, who was accompanied by CART Director of Medical Affairs, Dr. Steve Olvey. According to Dr. Olvey, Rodriguez sustained massive head and neck injuries in the incident.
In respect to Rodriguez and his family, Team Penske has withdrawn both entries from this weekend's event. The final CART qualifying session began as scheduled at 12:45 p.m. PDT Saturday, but the track and pit lane remained empty in deference to the tragedy. Sunday's starting grid will be based on iday's provisional qualifying results.
"Out of respect for Gonzalo Rodriguez and his family, the drivers unanimously agreed to suspend qualifying for Saturday and accept the times posted on Friday," the Championship Drivers Association said in a released statement. "Our deepest sympathy is extended to Gonzalo's family."
A moment of silence will be observed and the Uruguayan flag will be displayed for Rodriguez during Sunday's driver introductions. Scott Pruett, president of the CDA, will speak on behalf of the drivers at that time. "This is a very sad day for Champ Car racing," CART President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig said. "Gonzalo was a talented young race car driver who had the potential for a great racing career. No words can alleviate the sadness of his family and friends, but we send them our deepest sympathy at this tragic time."
Rodriguez made his first career Champ Car start as a member of Team Penske at Detroit in early August. He qualified 16th and finished 12th for his first career championship point. He also was competing in Formula 3000 this season and was second in the championship for Team Astromega. His career highlights included being a three-time Uruguayan Formula Renault champion (1988-90), Formula 3 rookie of the year (1991) and owning three career victories in F3000, the most recent coming May 15 in Monaco.