ANDERSON - A race car driver died in a crash Saturday night at Anderson Speedway.
William "Willie" Mefford, 49 of Whitestown, died of injuries he received during a race Saturday. Track officials say the hood of Mefford's car flew up and accelerated the car into barriers in Turn 3 of the track.
"Something caused the throttle level to stick," said Rick Dawson, owner of Anderson Speedway.
Billed as the world's fastest high-banked quarter-mile oval, the Anderson Speedway is rich in race history. But Monday, thoughts were only of the tragedy.
"It was a freak tragedy, accident," Dawson said.
Although skid marks show Mefford tried to stop, he crashed into the wall. The turn where the crash happened is the only one on the track with barriers. But officials say it was the way Mefford crashed, not where, that was critical.
"If it hadn't been head-on," Dawson said.
Mefford was wearing protective head and neck gear, but that protection proved futile at speeds of 70-95 miles per hour.
"Just as soon as he hit, we knew it was bad," Dawson said.
While the rest of the races at Anderson Speedway were canceled Saturday, those scheduled this week - considered the biggest of the year for the small track - will go on. Those who knew Mefford say it's what the race car driver and fan would have wanted.
"We're going to make Willie's legacy live on," Dawson said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
Mefford was an accomplished late model driver and won a race May 7, beating his son, Brandon.
"Willie was a great friend and a gentlemen competitor" Dawson wrote on the Speedway's website. "He embraced the return of the Late Models to the Speedway this year and was destined to be its Champion. Willie was a pleasure to be around and always hold a place in my heart as the first feature champion when R.J. (Scott) and I purchased the track 15 years ago."
Mefford worked at Comcast Communications for more than 20 years and ran Mefford Racing in Knightstown.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 26, 2011, at Hinsey-Brown Funeral Service in New Castle with Pastor Doug Stroud officiating. Burial will follow in South Mound Cemetery West Lawn Addition. Friends may call from 12-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25 at the funeral home.