Five prominent deaths at NASCAR tracks: Fan take

Auto racing is a deadly sport. Even with safety features and soft walls to absorb the impact of a crash, modern NASCAR didn't used to be full of advanced safety features. In terms of auto racing deaths in a dangerous sport, Daytona International Speedway in particular ranks fourth deadliest among all tracks in terms of competitor fatalities.

Deaths among NASCAR racers have been relatively quiet compared to the deadly decade of the 1990s into the early 2000s.

J.D. McDuffie, 1991

J.D. McDuffie died on the road course at Watkins Glen, Calif., when his car hit a tire barrier coming out of turn five Aug. 11, 1991. The Los Angeles Times reported McDuffie died of a basal skull fracture because of the violent g-forces involved with the wreck. His car was unable to slow down going into a tire wall and it slammed straight up into the air before coming down hard. McDuffie was 52 at the time he died and never won a NASCAR race in nearly 700 starts.

Grant Adcox, 1989

Grant Adcox died in a single car accident at the Atlanta Journal 500 . The race was won by Dale Earnhardt who led all but 75 laps of the race. On lap 198, Adcox lost control of his car and died of massive head and chest injuries. The Atlanta race was the last of the 1989 season.

Rodney Orr and Neil Bonnett, 1994

Daytona would take two drivers within four days of each other during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500. Neil Bonnett died in a single-car crash while he was tuning up for the big race. The Orlando Sentinel reported Rodney Orr would follow just four days later, on the same day as Bonnett's funeral, when he crashed in practice. At the time of the men's deaths, there had been 27 fatalities in the 35-year history of the track.

Kenny Irwin, Jr., 2000

Kenny Irwin, Jr., died of his injuries because of a crash in practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway July 7, 2000. The History Channel states eight weeks to the day before Irwin's death, fourth-generation racer Adam Petty died at age 19 in almost the exact same spot. The 1998 NASCAR Rookie of the Year crashed into turn three and was killed instantly.

Dale Earnhardt, 2001

Dale Earnhardt's death ended one of the most deadly 365-day periods in NASCAR history. From May of 2000 until Earnhardt's death Feb. 18, 2001, four big name drivers would die because of racing. Tony Roper died in October of 2000 during a NASCAR truck series race at the Texas Motor Speedway when he succumbed to his severe burns.

Earnhardt was perhaps the most visible wreck in NASCAR history. He was well-liked and died on the final lap of the Daytona 500 of a basal skull fracture. Earnhardt's crash finally led NASCAR to institute better safety standards on tracks. In the 10 years that followed, no one has died in a Sprint Cup race.

William Browning has been a motor racing fan since the days of Cale Yarborough in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the NASCAR circuit. He currently lives in Branson, Mo.

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Updated Monday, Aug 1, 2011