75-year-old racer dies in crash at Sonoma Raceway event

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Sonoma Raceway officials say this is the first time in their 30 years of hosting the Drags and Drift program that someone has died. (KGO-TV)

It was opening night of the Wednesday night drag racing season and there was a big turnout at Sonoma Raceway -- 190 cars.

Sonoma Raceway officials say this is the first time in their 30 years of hosting the Drags and Drift program that someone has died.

The raceway's website says, "the objective of the program is to give people, from teenagers to working professionals, a safe, legal, and controlled environment in which to race."

People can bring their own cars to race, and before they're allowed on the track, raceway staff inspect each car.

The 75-year-old man who died Wednesday night was driving a 1976 Ford Pinto.

He was going at least 100 miles per hour when he hit a wall around 6 p.m. He was the only driver on the track.

A raceway manager told ABC7 News that before his fatal race, the man took at least one lap and everything seemed fine. "This particular participant had a full roll cage. He had all the proper harnesses, proper helmets, and all the safety gear appropriate for his class," said Jere Starks, Vice President of Facilities and Operations at Sonoma Raceway. "I think our safety record speaks for itself. It is a tragic, tragic accident and we're grieved by it."

Sonoma County Raceway offered a statement after the crash: "The participant was racing his 1976 Ford Pinto in the Wednesday Night Drags program on the facility's quarter-mile drag strip. The accident occurred at approximately 6:15 p.m. He was the only racer on track at the time. The racer's name is being withheld until it is released by the Sonoma County Coroner's Office.
This is the first on-track fatality in the 30-year history of the Wednesday Night Drags program."

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