Rich Vogler, five-time United States Auto Club midget champion, was killed Saturday night when he crashed during a sprint car race at Salem (Ind.) Speedway.
Dr. Dan Anderson pronounced Vogler dead at 11:40 p.m. EDT at the Washington County Memorial Hospital in Salem, according to Bill Marvel, vice president of USAC. The crash occurred about 40 minutes earlier.
Tony Floyd, an ambulance medic for the hospital, described the 39-year-old Vogler as having a "severe head injury."
Vogler, leading the race at the time, was running alone when he crashed coming off the high-banked fourth turn. He was about to take the white flag for the final lap at the half-mile oval in a race televised nationally by ESPN.
Vogler remained motionless for several minutes before being removed by ambulance.
Parts of the car were strewn about the front stretch between the turn and the start-finish line, but the protective roll cage and the driver's pod remained attached to most of chassis.
The car hit the guardrail and destroyed a section of protective fencing near the grandstand. No other cars were involved and no other injuries reported.
Vogler was declared the winner when the 30-lap race was red-flagged. Under USAC rules, the leader of the last green-flag lap before a race-ending red flag is credited with the victory.
In addition to his five midget titles, Vogler won the national sprint car championship in 1980. Before this season, he had 122 victories in sprints, midgets and dirt cars. Last year he won 16 of the 33 races en route to his fifth midget championship.
The Indianapolis native raced in five Indianapolis 500s. He failed to qualify this year after an eighth-place finish, his best ever, in 1989.
Vogler's father, Don, was killed in a crash in 1981 while practicing for a USAC midget race at the Indianapolis Speedrome.
Vogler had been scheduled to make his debut in NASCAR Winston Cup racing by starting 32nd today in the AC Spark Plug 500 at Pocono International Raceway.
Vogler ranked second only to A.J. Foyt in USAC career victories. Foyt has 158.
Vogler is survived by his widow, Emily, and three sons.