View Full Version : Paraplegic driver kills track safety worker at Daytona

02-09-2004, 08:52 PM
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida - A track safety worker at Daytona International Speedway was killed Sunday when he was struck by a paraplegic driver in an IPOWERacing Dash Series event.

The car driven by Ray Paprotta failed to start the race, finally pulling out of the garage area and onto the track 17 laps down.

The event was under caution following a fiery, two-car crash in the fourth turn involving Bill Clevenger and Tony Billings.

The two were not seriously injured, but while cleanup crews were clearing debris, Paprotta tried to catch up to the rest of the field when he plowed into Roy Weaver III, the supervisor of track crews.

The 44-year-old Weaver was from Daytona and had been with the track for seven years.

"Our sympathies and prayers are with Weaver's family," said Randy Claypoole, the executive vice president of IPOWER. "There is an investigation at this time. We are waiting for the investigation to be completed and will follow up with the details in the days to follow."

The Daytona Beach Police Department cordoned off part of the

Dash Series garage to begin a crimw scene investigation. The Volusia County medial examiner also was on the scene.

Weaver became the 37th fatality at Daytona International Speedway since the massive 2.5-mile facility opened in 1959.

It was estimated that Paprotta's car was traveling at 100 miles an hour when he hit Weaver, who was standing in the middle of the track.

"When the field is under caution and the driver leaves the pits, he is instructed to catch up to the field at a safe speed," Claypoole said. "The driver completed that resume process some time ago.

"He has competed at three of our events and was approved up until this race to compete at tracks five-eighths of a mile and

shorter. He requested to be able to compete at Daytona. We looked at the resume and took under consideration the experience he had at the sanctioning body he was previously racing with."

Claypoole said Paprotta completed extensive testing at Daytona over the winter.

"We felt very confident he was ready to compete here," Claypoole said.

The race, which took place after qualifying for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Daytona 500 but is not a part of the circuit, was red-flagged after the incident and resumed after a nearly two-hour delay.

"It was a very difficult decision, but we decided to shorten the race rather than not complete it," Claypoole said. "IPOWER

officials were in the control tower controlling the race. We're going to look at whatever information is available.

"There were a lot of people talking in the tower trying to decide what to do. We had the driver to consider and, more importantly, the worker's family to consider. We thought it was the right decision to re-start the race but make it shorter."

Danny Bagwell, who helped Paprotta get started in racing, won the event, which was shortened from 60 to 40 laps.

"I didn't see what happened, so I really don't have an answer," Bagwell said. "Ray is a friend of mine and I haven't talked to him. You'd have to ask (series officials) if they should have

finished this race. It is hard to celebrate this victory."

In 1984, Paprotta was injured in a car accident that left him as a T-10 paraplegic, meaning he has no sensation or use of his legs. He was a Minuteman Missile Tech from 1980-84 in the United States Air Force.

A wheelchair athlete, Paprotta was competing in a specially modified car. He drew hoards of media attention, including a front-page feature in the Daytona Beach News Journal earlier in the week.

Paprotta, 44, has represented the United States in international wheelchair competition. He also has competed in power lifting, wheelchair tennis and most recently was a member of the 2002 Wheelchair Basketball national championship team.

Paprotta relocated from New Jersey to Birmingham, Alabama in 1993 to train full time with the Lakeshore Foundation in hopes of making the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. A torn rotator cuff just weeks before tryouts ended the dream but opened another door.

Paprotta's racing associations include relationships with NASCAR crew chief George White and former NASCAR driver Bobby Allison.

"Ray rehabilitated at the same hospital Bobby Allison rehabilitated in," Bagwell said. "I thought he had quite a resume."

Paprotta also was involved in a start-up ARCA team that later became BAM Racing, although team owners Tony and Beth Ann Morgenthau had to develop a new style of controls needed to

command the larger and heavier style race cars.

Paprotta then worked with Bagwell, a long-time competitor in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series.

"Ray had a dream to be involved in motorsports," Bagwell said. "He started racing in Legend cars and smaller cars. We offered to give him a short track. I think he is a very capable race car driver. I think everybody deserves an opportunity."

On October 25, 2002 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Paprotta became the first paraplegic to compete in a NASCAR Touring Series event. Starting 22nd, he completed 82 laps before transmission problems forced him out of the race.

NASCAR dropped the Dash Series last year. IPOWER, which is

involved in computer and internet programming, took control of the series last season. This was its first race as the sanctioning body for the six-cylinder series.

Paprotta's car was on pit road and did not fire when the car left the grid and began the parade laps. After that, it was taken behind the wall, where the battery was found dead. The team replaced the it before sending the car to the track.

"The driver successfully qualified for the event and made all of those requirements, so there was no reason to not allow him to take the track and rejoin the track once it was repaired," Claypoole said. "There are more details to this that I'm looking into."