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Blame for race death may not lie with brakes

May 19, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Brake failure may not have been the cause of a deadly racing accident Sunday at Summit Point Raceway, according to the race's organizer.

Brian Redman said he believes Ray Kennedy may have been having a heart attack when his Jaguar E-Type flew off the track while going about 140 mph down a straightaway during an endurance race. The race was one of the events at the Brian Redman Jefferson 500.

Kennedy, 52, of Hilton Head, S.C., was pronounced dead at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Va. after the 4 p.m. crash.

Redman, who had been driving the car for about 25 minutes before handing it over to Kennedy during a mandatory pit stop, said the Jaguar was handling fine when he drove it.

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Initial investigation indicated the crash might have been caused by the failure of the front brakes, but Redman said the lack of skid marks on the track has made him rethink that theory.

"Your whole inclination as a driver is to stand on the brakes, which would cause the back brakes to lock up causing tire marks (on the track)," Redman said.

Redman said witnesses said they never saw the Jaguar's brake lights go on before the crash.

Kennedy was making his first lap, coming down the main straightaway into the first turn when his Jaguar went off the track and at least 80 feet past a gravel pit designed to slow down cars, Redman said.

The Jaguar brakes will be sent to Tilton Engineering in Buellton, Calif., this week where an attempt will be made to determine if they had any mechanical problems, Redman said.

Redman said it was unknown when the tests would be finished and said the company is "known as brake experts in the racing world."

There were other indications that a medical condition might have caused the accident, Redman said.

Redman said Kennedy complained to him about pains in his left arm two hours before the race.

Redman also said Kennedy's mechanic told him Kennedy complained of pains in his left leg just before he got in the Jaguar on his final run.

An autopsy was not performed on Kennedy because it appeared he died from neck injuries that happened in the crash, Redman said.

Kennedy had been competing in the Briggs Cunningham Cup endurance race for pre-1966 sports and racing cars. The race, with about 30 cars, was one of six vintage-car races at the track last weekend.

His funeral will be held today near Reading, Pa., said Redman.

Summit Point is a 10-turn, two-mile asphalt track in southern Jefferson County. The last racing death at the track was in May 1997, also during the Jefferson 500.

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