Widow of fan killed by lightning sues Pocono Raceway, NASCAR

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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.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/