WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Longtime stock car racer John Delphus (J.D.) McDuffie, 52, was killed Sunday when his car became airborne and smashed into a tire-wall and guardrail just five laps into the Budweiser at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup race.
It appeared in television replays that McDuffie's left front tire came off, triggering a 160-m.p.h. slide off the Watkins Glen International track at the end of the long straightaway--the fastest part of the 2.428-mile, seven-turn road course.
His car skidded through the grassy area in turn five, cutting little speed, if any. The Pontiac flipped into the air and the passenger side slammed into the tire-wall and adjoining guardrail before coming to rest on its roof.
McDuffie, from Sanford, N.C., was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the specific cause of death.
McDuffie was married with two children. His son Jeff was his crew chief.
It was the first fatality in a NASCAR event since Grant Adcox was killed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in November of 1989 and the first racing death at Watkins Glen since August of 1976 when Mark Freed was killed in a sports car event.
McDuffie won more than $1.3 million in his long NASCAR career, but his winnings averaged only a little more than $2,000 per race.
"I think he keeps racing for the same reason that Richard Petty keeps racing," Kyle Petty, Richard's son, said last year. "He's done it all his life. That's what he loves. He loves to get into a race car and go racing."