Widow of fan killed by lightning sues Pocono Raceway, NASCAR

18 Comments

Shortly after the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 5, 2012, a lightning strike at the track killed one fan and sent nine more fans to a local hospital.

Nearly two years later, the widow of the late Brian Zimmerman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the track and NASCAR.

According to the Pocono (Penn.) Record, Marion Zimmerman claims that the track knew of dangerous weather but continued the race and did not adequately warn fans of the situation.

The suit was filed last Friday, just before the two-year statute of limitations on the case expired.

“With three young children, and a (wedding) anniversary in August, this is something that has had a significant impact on them,” Mrs. Zimmerman’s attorney, Thomas P. Comerford, said to the Record.

The Record has listed several excerpts of the suit, including the allegation that Pocono and NASCAR “waited for an unreasonable amount of time, after they knew or should have known of the dangerous approaching weather, to stop the race thereby unnecessarily placing all individuals in attendance to the risk of being electrocuted.”

All Pocono tickets feature a contract that states the purchaser releases the track from any liability. However, the Record reports that the suit alleges the contract as being void since the fine print is “inconspicuous” and that Pocono didn’t advise spectators to read the fine print before attending the event.

Mr. Comerford also stated that such a waiver was only applicable in situations “when there’s an inherent risk associated with the race itself, for example a car crash with debris in the stands.”

In addition to the Zimmerman suit, a second lawsuit was filed against Pocono and NASCAR last month by Brian Zimmerman’s friend, Jason Pencek, and his wife. Pencek was among those injured in the lightning strike.

Track officials would not comment on the lawsuits.

Due to the storm on Aug. 5, 2012, NASCAR called the Pennsylvania 400 after 98 of a scheduled 160 laps. Jeff Gordon was declared the winner.

A NASCAR.com article from Aug. 7, 2012 relayed word from a track spokesman who said there were at least two lightning strikes on Pocono Raceway property – one in a parking lot behind the grandstand and another near a gate area. The spokesman also said that the track broadcasted warnings for fans to find immediate shelter.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
Leave a comment

Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.