BROWNSBURG, IN—Television cameras captured it all: it was barely a second into the race when a dragster loses control. His car flipped and a wheel went flying into the audience, killing a spectator.
Fox59 News is digging deeper into the Indianapolis connections to the accident. The team that owned the car is from Brownsburg. A town that is quickly becoming the drag racing capital of the world.
Schumacher Racing has their headquarters in Brownsburg. It's where we're told they worked in the rain Monday, trying to find the cause of Sunday's accident:
Antron Brown and his dragster never made it to the end of the track during Sunday's race near phoenix. The Hendricks Co. native survived the firey crash, but one of the fans in the stands at the Firebird Raceway did not.
"It all happened very quick. It could have went in any direction. It caught on fire right in front of us, (pause) it was something else," said a spectator.
The woman was apparently hit and killed by Brown's back left tire. Indycar fans will remember tires and car parts flying into the stands at Charlotte in 1999. Three people died then, and the incident caused the IRL to make quick changes to protect spectators.
"The Indy cars and the Indy Racing League have tethers that attach the wheels and the rear wing to the chassis," said Pete Hylton, an IUPUI Motorsports engineer professor.
Professor Hylton works closely with the owners of Antron Brown's Hendricks Co.-based, Schumacher Racing team. He tells Fox59 News he's not surprised to hear that the team is already working to find out why the dragster appeared to just fall apart.
"I don't know that a tether would have made any difference," he said.
The head of the Indiana Motorsports Association designs Nascar and IRL tethering systems. A ballistic nylon is used to keep parts like tires attached to the car's suspension:
"We've talked to certain NHRA people about putting tethers on the rear wing in particular. It's probably something they need to really address and look at a little bit closer in the future."
A team spokesperson says Antron Brown and the rest of the team sent its condolences to family and friends of the spectator who died in Arizona.
The NHRA is still investigating and not yet ready to say if tethering could work on dragsters. NHRA runs O'Reilly Raceway Park in Hendricks Co., which hosts the world's largest annual drag race. It's still unclear if any changes will be made to better protect spectators at this year's event.