NASCAR Truck Driver Roper Dies

F O R T  W O R T H, Texas, Oct. 14, 2000 -- NASCAR truck series driver Tony Roper died today as the result of injuries from a head-on crash into the wall during a race Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Roper had a severe neck injury which caused blood flow to his brain to stop, said Dr. John LaNoue, a trauma surgeon at Parkland Hospital. LaNoue said the injury left Roper without any brain function.

Roper was unconscious and unresponsive when he was pulled out of his truck Friday night. He had been placed on a ventilator at the hospital. Emergency crews had to cut the roof off the truck to get him out.

His father, Dean, who was a successful racer in the Midwest, was at the race and was at the hospital with his son.

Driver’s Fifth Race of Season

The accident occurred as the younger Roper tried to move through a pack of traffic. He apparently bumped with another truck, then veered sharply to the right and slammed head-on into the wall along the frontstretch on the 32nd lap of the O’Reilly 400. The mangled truck burst into flames and spun out of control.

It was the first fatal wreck at Texas Motor Speedway, which opened in April 1997.

Roper, 35, of Fair Grove, Mo., was in just his fifth Craftsman Series race this season, but 60th of his career. He has never won a race, his best finish a second-place showing in Indianapolis in July 1998.

Polesitter Bryan Reffner won the race, passing Andy Houston with six laps to go for his first victory in 112 career starts. Greg Biffle claimed the points title, even though he completed just 81 of the 167 laps and finished 25th.

Roper’s death was the third this year in major NASCAR competition. Busch series driver Adam Petty and Winston Cup competitor Kenny Irwin were killed eight weeks apart in crashes at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The only previous death in the truck series was in 1997, when John Nemechek died after a crash in Homestead, Fla.