Flagman struck, killed by race truck at Florida short track

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A flagman officiating a race at Bronson Speedway in Archer, Fla., was killed in a racing accident at the track this past Sunday.

According to the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, veteran track official and flagman Buddy Jack Howell, Jr., was killed after being struck by a race truck that had gone out of control, according to Levy County sheriff’s investigators.

Howell, 49, was a resident of Bradenton, Fla. Paramedics attempted to revive him both at the track and en route to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival, according to Lt. Scott Tummond, a Levy County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Tummond said there was no foul play in the incident at the track, which bills itself as “Florida’s Premier High Bank Short Track.” The track is located about 15 miles southwest of Gainesville.

“It’s a tragic accident,” Tummond told the Sun. “This wasn’t a race with high speeds.”

Veteran race competitor J.W. McNeal of Jonesville, Fla., recalled Howell as someone who loved racing and worked at a number of different small tracks across the Southeast.

“I think this is going to make everyone reflect on what racing is all about,” McNeal said. “The one thing Bud would not want is for us to stop racing.

“It’s not uncommon to see the same guy in the flag stand hanging out in the pits or in the field. Bud could do anything.”

Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy had spent Saturday night at the track with his daughter, who is interested in racing.

“(Howell) even let her climb up in the flag stand and taught her how to wave the flags,” Braddy told the Sun. “He was eager to teach his knowledge about the sport. I took it pretty hard.”

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April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994