HAMPTON, Va. (AP) — A driver died Saturday night in a crash during a race at Langley Speedway, officials at the Virginia short track said.
Driver Shawn Balluzzo, who was 64, died following a crash during the second of two Modified Division races, the speedway said in a statement Sunday. The Virginian-Pilot reported Balluzzo was the winningest driver in the history of the track.
“He won the hearts of our fans with 11 track championships and a driving style that made him one of the most respected competitors we’ve ever known,” the statement said.
Balluzzo’s death was the first at the track in a racing-related accident since 2004, the newspaper reported.
Balluzzo won 16 of 17 division races in 2019. He finished second in the first of Saturday’s twin 50-lap races, which were the season openers for the Modifieds, and congratulated the winner on Facebook: “Big congrats to Matt Carter on his win!”
During the second race, Balluzzo’s car went airborne after bumping another car and crashed front-first into a wall.
“I saw him impact the wall head-on and you know that’s never a good hit,” driver Mark Wertz said. “You don’t think it’s as bad as it was, but it was kind of surreal.”
Emergency workers extricated Balluzzo from his vehicle after cutting the roof off. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died.
The race was shortened to 30 laps, and Carter won again.
“Shawn’s great, he was a legend out here,” Carter said. “He’s dominated this series for many years.
“It’s always been my goal to beat him because he’s been the ‘Modified Man’ out here. It was a great night (for me) and it turned into a tragedy.”
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports