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Thursday, June 28
Time trials suspended after accident
Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A driver was killed in a crash Thursday during a qualifying run for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Witnesses said 31-year-old Ralph Chandler Bruning Jr.'s 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo crashed three-eighths of a mile from the starting line at 6:50 a.m., race officials said.

The car missed a right-hand turn on the twisting road to the top of the 14,110-foot mountain, went airborne and became impaled on a tree, witnesses said. Time trials were suspended for the day after the crash.

An amateur video shot by Scott Jukes, 34, of Colorado Springs, showed Bruning's car skidding off the road in a flurry of mud and dust and disappearing into dense tree growth.

Two days ago, Bruning told KOAA-TV in Pueblo the race was safe.

"I don't want to jinx anybody, but there's never been a fatality in a car on this mountain. And the cars are extremely safe: roll cage, five-point harnesses, helmets, fire gear. You can't really get much safer," he said.

Race officials said it was the third fatality in the competition's 79 years.

"It is as if we've all lost a close family member today," said race spokesman Tim Bergsten.

An autopsy showed Bruning died of chest injures after a tree entered the driver's compartment through a side window, said Teller County Coroner Debbie Smith.

Bruning was pronounced dead at the scene, becoming the first driver to die on the mountain. The other two drivers died in hospitals.

Race Director Bill Connor said Bruning's family asked for the event to continue, and qualifying was to resume Friday. The race is scheduled for Saturday.

Bruning's father, Ralph Senior, was the winningest driver in the race's stock car division. He competed in his last race in 1998 and died from pancreatic cancer in March 2000.

He built the car his son was driving, race officials said.

Friend and fellow stock car driver Layne Schranz said Bruning would do anything to help.

"If he was having a better day than you were and you needed a part, he'd take it off his car to give it to you. He was just one of those guys," Schranz said.

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