A veteran race car driver hit a concrete wall during a competition at Brainerd International Raceway and was killed, authorities said.
The crash occurred Sunday afternoon at a turn on the 2½-mile course during a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) race, according to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.
Members of the race car driver community were mourning the death of Mel Shaw, 70, of Voorhees, N.J., during a 12-lap race. The Sheriff’s Office said Shaw was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The staff and racing community at Brainerd International Raceway are deeply sorry for the loss of a passionate and longtime racer, Mel Shaw,” said a statement released by raceway owners Jed and Kristi Copham. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mel’s family, his racing team and the entire Trans Am Series and SCCA organizations.”
A statement from the Trans Am Series noted that Shaw was “one of the longest tenured members of the series, making his debut in 2011 and running a full effort each following season. Known throughout the paddock for his passion for the sport and support of others, Mel was a fixture of the Trans Am community and a part of what is called the Trans Am family.”
Shaw “loved racing and was always eager to compete and share that love with others,” said John Clagett, president of the Trans Am Race Co.
Shaw had been involved in racing for roughly a half-century as a driver and team owner, according to an online biography on the website of his property acquisition business, Bay Commercial Group. Racing took him to the Midwest, Florida and Canada.
His wife and business partner, Deb Gilmore, was at the raceway and was consoled by others trackside soon after the crash.
Spectator Larry Gau, of Dayton, told the Brainerd Dispatch that “it was very obvious that this particular car was not slowing down enough. He was downshifting, trying to slow down. … He basically went straight off the end of the track with the throttle accelerating and went almost straight into the wall.”
Shaw was moving more than 100 miles per hour as “his car kept revving up,” another spectator, Steve Hindman, of nearby Baxter, told the Dispatch.
This is the first fatality at the track since September 2001, when motorcyclist Tyson Berger, 26, of Crosslake, Minn., was hit by a competitor.