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Loose NHRA dragster tire kills woman

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- A woman died Sunday after being hit by a tire from a crashing dragster at the NHRA Arizona Nationals.

The woman was watching a first-round Top Fuel run at Firebird International Raceway when Antron Brown's Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster went out of control on the strip and its left rear wheel came off.

Alia Maisonet, a spokeswoman for the Gila River Indian Community, said the woman was airlifted to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment and later died. Gila River emergency responders were among the first to respond to the scene.

Maisonet said she didn't know the victim's name or hometown.

"The entire NHRA community is deeply saddened by today's incident and sends its thoughts and prayers to the woman's family and friends," the National Hot Rod Association said in an e-mailed statement.

Franki Buckman, the track's executive vice president, said Firebird International Raceway also is deeply saddened by the incident.

Brown was released by the track medical staff, but went to Chandler Regional Hospital for further observation, according to a statement put out by Don Schumacher Racing before the woman died. The NHRA said Brown wasn't injured.

"We're racers and we race and I'm ok," Brown said in the statement. "It all happened so quickly and I want to thank the NHRA Safety Safari for being there so quickly to help get me out of the car and also the track medical team for tending to me so quickly."

The racing continued after the accident, and John Force advanced to his second straight Funny Car final before the session was postponed because of rain. Force, the 60-year-old star who ended a 40-race winless streak last week with his record 127th victory, will meet Jack Beckman on Monday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.