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Heart, Not Crash, Killed Stock-Car Driver

August 21, 2001|RAY LONG | CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Stock-car champion Dean Roper died when a blood clot in a coronary artery caused his heart to stop during a dirt-track race Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, officials said Monday.

The death of Roper, 62, who had a history of heart trouble, came 10 months after his son, Tony, died in a NASCAR truck-series race in Texas.

Dean Roper crashed his Ford Taurus into an inside retaining wall on the front straightaway during Lap 17 of the 100-lap ARCA event at the fairgrounds.

"The autopsy found no bruises, no breaks, nothing. Absolutely no injuries at all," said Susan Boone, Sangamon County coroner. "The accident did not cause his death.

"He did have a preexisting heart condition and became stricken before hitting the wall. There was no indication of injury to the spinal cord or to the neck."

The clot would have rendered Roper unconscious, Boone said.

Five NASCAR drivers--Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Michael Roberts--have died in racetrack incidents in the last 15 months.

Roper, of Fair Grove, Mo., was USAC Stock national champion from 1981-83.

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