| ||Associated Press|
INDIANAPOLIS -- The images that touched the mourners were
not so much the ones of Kenny Irwin with his race car, his eyes
covered by slick dark glasses.
They were the ones of an awkward-looking, blue-uniformed boy
posing for a baseball picture and a wild-haired child grinning ear
That's how Irwin, his jet-black casket draped in red roses, was
remembered at his funeral Wednesday. Not so much as a rising NASCAR
star, but as a son, a brother and a friend.
Irwin's youngest sister, Korrie Irwin, choked back sobs as she
read a poem: "Don't grieve for me because now I'm free."
Irwin, 30, crashed into a concrete wall and died of a crushed
skull Friday while practicing for the New England 300 at New
Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H.
More than 600 people attended the service at Abundant Life
Church, spilling out of the sanctuary into a gymnasium to watch on
closed-circuit television. On Tuesday night, people waited as long
as six hours to pay their respects to the Indianapolis native
during a visitation.
Irwin, who was living in Charlotte, N.C., was born and schooled
in Indianapolis and learned to race here as well. It was the center
of his life, and as family friend Pat DiMarko recalled, Irwin
always cherished the chance to return to Indianapolis to race.
DiMarko talked about the Brickyard 400 in 1998, when Irwin,
rather than parking his motorcoach with the other racers in the
track's infield, set up camp in the yard of a friend who lives a
couple blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That allowed
him to spend more time with friends and family.
DiMarko also told of how Irwin spent the eve of the new
"He could've flown to Vegas, Europe, the Bahamas or any other
exotic location," DiMarko said. "Instead he chose to go to
Michigan's Upper Peninsula, ringing in the New Year around the
campfire in the middle of nowhere. But he was surrounded by his
sister, Kelly, and his friends. That's all he wanted."
Irwin also wanted to race. All his life, his competitive edge
kept him racing, whether it was on the track or just trying to beat
his father from the car to the front door.
The Rev. Peter Bosworth recounted a recent conversation with
Irwin in which he said the driver told him, "You know what, I'd
drive for free. I'd race for free. That's my passion. That's my
"He died doing what he absolutely loved," Bosworth said.
Hundreds of floral arrangements stretched across the front of
the church and down two hallways. A video tribute recounted Irwin's
life in pictures, from childhood to his recent racing success.
He was just 6 when he entered his first car race in
quarter-midgets, pint-sized race cars that spin around tracks at 40
mph. He became the 1996 National Midget Series Champion, and in
1997, his only full season with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series,
he was named Rookie of the Year. He was the Winston Cup rookie of
the year in 1998.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George, right, and his wife enter the funeral of Kenny Irwin in Indianapolis on Wednesday.|| |
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Kenny Wallace had a tough time going back to the track on the same day as Keny Irwin's funeral.
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For Mike Bliss, it was difficult to think about Kenny Irwin while behind the wheel.
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