NHRA's Niver dies after crashing

Updated: July 11, 2010, 11:45 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

KENT, Wash. -- Top Alcohol Dragster driver Mark Niver was killed Sunday during the Northwest Nationals when his car buckled after slamming into the netting at the end of the track.

The NHRA says it's investigating Sunday's accident and is extending its sympathies to Niver's family. A spokesman for the association declined comment when asked for more information about what happened, saying the investigation had just started.

The parachutes immediately ripped off the dragster when deployed as Niver, 60, crossed the finish line. Niver couldn't get the car stopped before going into the sand pit at the end of the asphalt surface at Pacific Raceways.

When the dragster hit the catch netting, it buckled the chassis back into the driver cockpit.

The King County sheriff's office was contacted by the track at about 3:40 p.m., according to its release, and Niver had died by the time deputies arrived. A sheriff was on site at the track and shut down the event at 4:15 p.m. PT before the start of the final round. The event was delayed for more than an hour after the accident and briefly restarted before law enforcement officials halted the racing.

Niver, a 30-year NHRA veteran, built all his own cars and engines. He had two national event victories in Top Alcohol Dragster, including 2008 at Seattle.

Messages were left by The AP seeking comment from Pacific Raceways.

Niver's death was the second in a month at an NHRA event. Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Neal Parker, 58, died of head injuries in Englishtown, N.J. on June 11 when his parachutes did not deploy after his run and he crashed in the shutdown area.

In February, a spectator died after being hit by a tire from a crashing dragster at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. The woman was watching a first-round Top Fuel run when Antron Brown's Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster went out of control on the strip and its left rear wheel came off.

Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed at Englishtown in a similar accident in 2008.

The Top Alcohol dragster class is the top feeder circuit for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Winners on Sunday in the Full Throttle series were Cory McClenathan in Top Fuel, Tim Wilkerson in Funny Car and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter