Driver Dies at Irwindale


NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Touring Series driver John Baker was killed Saturday night during a race at Irwindale Speedway. Baker was the first person to be killed in a Featherlite Southwest race since the series' inception in 1986, and the fourth at the track in its four-year history. He was 44.

Baker, from Tucson, was in the middle of competing in the K & N Filters 150 as he entered the first turn on lap 36.

As Baker entered turn two, he was being passed by Greg Voigt on the inside lane.

Baker checked his speed and slowed, but lost control of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo as he exited turn two.

He bumped into Voigt's right side and headed into the wall along the backstretch, just past the entry chute from the pit area.

The 6,160 fans in attendance watched as Baker slammed headfirst into the wall, bouncing off at an angle toward the infield. But before the car stopped, it was clipped by Sean Woodside's car in the back and the car came to rest on the edge of the one-third-mile inner track.

Despite the efforts of the rescue crew, Baker was unresponsive after being pulled from the damaged car.

He was transported to Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center, but according to Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic John Denton, Baker was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

There was no comment available from officials of the track or the Featherlite Southwest Series.

In the first fatal accident at the track, Casey Deimert, 23, was killed while practicing in a sprint car on opening night, March 27, 1999.

Keith Cowherd, 49, a speed truck driver from Phoenix, died six months later, on Sept. 25, 1999, of injuries suffered in a two-vehicle accident at Irwindale.

Chris Shields, 30, died June 7, 2001, six days after crashing while racing a test car at the track.

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