Published On: Oct 17 2011 11:25:32 AM CDTUpdated On: Mar 12 2012 01:21:04 PM CDT
Dirt track racer Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died Saturday night after being hit by NASCAR racer Tony Stewart at the Empire Super Sprints series event at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York. Take a look back at other notable auto racing deaths through the years.
As of 2011, the latest figures available, 235 drivers and spectators have been killed in racing of all sorts, the Charlotte Observer reported. That's up from 217 deaths reported in the 10 years prior to that.
Deaths among racers and spectators were numerous in the early years of racing. However advances in safety technology, and specifications designed by sanctioning bodies to limit speeds, have reduced deaths in recent years.
The worst accident in motorsports history occurred at Le Mans in 1955, when Pierre Levegh's crash killed him and around 80 spectators. More than 100 were injured.
Scottish Formula One driver Jim Clark won the world championship twice, in 1963 and 1965, but died in a Formula Two crash in Germany in 1968.
Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue died of a hemorrhage following a 1975 crash in Austria, where, during testing, a tire failure sent him careening into the catch fence, where his head struck a post.
The pride of Canadian motorsports, Gilles Villenueve was killed in 1982 during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix when he drove into the back of a slower car and was launched into a safety fence.
Also in 1982, 23-year-old Formula One driver Riccardo Paletti died two days before his birthday when he struck a stalled car on the track at the Canadian Grand Prix at 110 mph.
The last driver to be killed in Formula One was three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 after crashing during the San Marino Grand Prix a day after Roland Ratzenberger was killed at the same track during qualifying.
In 2000, 19-year-old NASCAR driver Adam Petty died after his car spun out and crashed into the wall in New Hampshire. A fourth-generation NASCAR driver (along with great-grandfather Lee, grandfather Richard and father Kyle), Petty was practicing for a Busch series race the following day.
In February 2001, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
The last driver to die in IndyCar before Dan Wheldon was Paul Dana, who was killed during the warmup for the 2006 season-opener in Miami.
In October 2011, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died following a spectacular 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300.