Driver Killed in Crash at NJ Raceway

By Brian Thompson
|  Friday, Jun 11, 2010  |  Updated 6:37 PM EDT
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Drage racer lost his life after plowing through the end of a race track and crashing through a barrier.

Drage racer lost his life after plowing through the end of a race track and crashing through a barrier.

A driver has been killed in a crash at a New Jersey raceway, officials said.

A car went off the end of a drag racing track and through a net at Raceway Park in Old Bridge Township during a qualifying run, according to New Jersey State Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones. The track is hosting the NHRA SuperNationals.

The driver was identified as Neal Parker, 58, of Millville, N.J. by State Police.

Sources said that the Cheverolet Monte Carlo's parachute did not deploy.

"He definitely had a good launch," said fan Bruce Polowitzer, 28, of Bristol, CT. "He had the lede the whole way, just when he got to the end the parachute didn't go off.

State police are leading an investigation that will include trying to find out why the trap area didn't work as advertised.

In a statement to fans racetrack officials said that races would resume at 4 p.m. after a four-hour break for the investigation.

"On behalf of everyone at NHRA and raceway park, we are deeply saddened and want to pass along our sincere condolences to the entire Parker family," track officials announced, adding,  "The show must go on."

The incident comes nearly two years after top racer Scott Kalitta died when his Funny Car burst into flames and crashed at the end of the track in central New Jersey.

Kalitta's Toyota Solara was traveling at about 300 mph when it burst into flames.

"[At] 250 to 300 miles per hour, there's certainly an element of risk," said Graham Light, VP of Race Operations for NHRA.

New Jersey State Police investigators determined that "catastrophic mechanical failure" caused the fuel-fired explosion.

The 1994 and 1995 Top Fuel season champion had 18 career victories.

In February, a spectator died after being hit by a tire from a crashing dragster at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. The woman was watching a first-round Top Fuel run when Antron Brown's Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster went out of control on the strip and its left rear wheel came off.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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