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 Sunday, September 12
Rookie driver killed in CART crash
 
Associated Press

  MONTEREY, Calif. -- Rookie driver Gonzalo Rodriguez was killed Saturday when his car smashed into a concrete wall at about 140 mph during practice for the Shell 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway.

The 27-year-old Uruguayan died of massive head and neck injuries, said Dr. Steve Olvey, director of medical affairs for the CART FedEx Series. Rodriguez was pronounced dead at at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

He was the first driver fatality in the CART series since Jeff Krosnoff was killed in a crash during a race in Toronto in July 1996.

Gonzalo Rodriguez
Saftey workers inspect the car of Team Penske rookie driver Gonzalo Rodriguez after a crash in which he was killed during Saturday's morning practice session of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey.

Rodriguez was approaching the famed Corkscrew turn on the road course when his car hurtled off the track and through a gravel trap without losing speed.

The car struck a tire barrier and slammed into the concrete wall behind the tires. The open-wheel car flipped about 30 feet, flying over a wall of advertisements and landing upside down on a grassy hill.

The practice was flagged to a stop as safety workers removed Rodriguez from the car. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

A spokesman for Mercedes said telemetry records from the car proved the accident was not caused by a stuck throttle as initially speculated. There was no other immediate report on the cause of the accident from Mercedes, the Penske team or CART. The car was impounded by CART for inspection.

Team owner Roger Penske immediately withdrew his team, including veteran driver Al Unser Jr., from the event.

Andrew Craig, chairman and CEO of CART, said Penske and representatives of his team had contacted Rodriguez's parents in Uruguay.

The rest of the day's activities at the track, including the final round of qualifying for Sunday's Shell 300, were canceled.

"At our drivers' request, and a request that we absolutely support, there will be no qualifying this afternoon," Craig said. "The cars will run but the cars will not leave the pit lane."

The 27 remaining cars will line up Sunday based on the qualifying speeds from Friday's time trials.

This was the first serious CART accident at Laguna Seca since the series first came here in 1983.

Three spectators were killed by debris from a crash during a CART race at Michigan Speedway in July 1998.

Rodriguez was a regular in the European Formula 3000 series, where he is second in the season points after finishing third last year. In his only previous CART race, he started 16th and finished 12th in the Penske car in August at the Detroit Grand Prix.

He began racing in karts at 13 and also raced in Formula 3 and Formula Fords.

 


ALSO SEE
Qualifying canceled after Rodriguez tragedy



AUDIO/VIDEO
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 Gonzalo Rodriguez hits the wall in a fatal crash during Shell 300 practice at Laguna Seca Raceway.
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 Dr. Steve Olvey delivers the tragic news regarding Gonzalo Rodriguez.
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RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6