DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Florida 200 NASCAR Dash series race was barely under way yesterday when the celebratory atmosphere that pervades Daytona International Speedway in February turned tragic.
Driver Joe Booher of Montmorenci, Ind., who would have celebrated his 52nd birthday with his wife, Donna, and their three children Feb. 22, died yesterday of massive internal and head injuries suffered in a second-lap crash.
As Booher and the back of the field headed into Turn 1, smoke from another car fogged the view.
Booher's car, running high on the track, was hit in the back bumper by Carl Horton's. Booher's car spun, hit the wall and as it was sliding back down the track, Rodney White's car crashed hard into the front of Booher's car, crunching it.
Booher was airlifted to the Halifax Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly before noon.
White, 37, of Gaffney, S.C., was transported by ambulance to Halifax.
He was in serious but stable condition in the intensive surgical care unit. He has two compression fractures of vertebrae, but no surgery is needed and there is no paralysis, hospital officials said. White also suffered facial lacerations.
Booher is the 22nd racing-related fatality at the Speedway. The last death here occurred when Julius "Slick" Johnson was killed in the ARCA 200 in February 1990.
Booher, a Purdue University graduate, made his living as a farmer and trucker. He grew and transported corn, soybeans and wheat. But he loved motor racing, and competed in Florida 200, ARCA, NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National and NASCAR Winston Cup races.
He drove in his first race in 1958, and appeared in 36 ARCA superspeedway races. His best finishes were a 10th and a 12th here in 1980 and 1970, respectively, and a 14th at Pocono in 1991.
His Winston Cup career includes nine 125-mile qualifying races and one Daytona 500 consolation race. In 1980, Booher started 28th and finished 17th in his only Daytona 500 start.
Hobgood wins Florida 200
The Atlass Iron Works Pontiac driven by Will Hobgood finished first in the 15th Florida 200 NASCAR Dash. Hobgood averaged 128.182 mph for a 1 1/2 car-length victory over Maxie Bush's Purple Power Ford and collected $11,750.
Dale Earnhardt's youngest son, Kerry, finished an impressive seventh, driving the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevy.
Elliott takes IROC title
Bill Elliott won his second career International Race of Champions race, averaging 181.726 mph and beating Davey Allison by one length. It was the eighth time in 13 races here that a Winston Cup driver has won this IROC race.
'The King' on weighty matters
Car owner Richard Petty says the biggest problem he has experienced here this month as a non-driver is figuring out something to do with his hands.
"Used to be that there was always something going on and I hardly had time to eat," he said. "With [driver] Rick [Wilson] as the man behind the wheel, I find myself eating more, nibbling on this and that. I guess I'll have to start exercising or I'll get fat."