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NHRA Drag Racer Mark Niver Killed in Accident in Seattle

Jul 11, 2010 – 8:29 PM
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Holly Cain

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National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) veteran driver Mark Niver, 60, of Phoenix, was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon after crashing his Top Alcohol class dragster during a national event at Pacific Raceways outside Seattle.

This is the second fatal accident in an NHRA event in the past 31 days. Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Neal Parker was killed in a crash in Englishtown, N.J., on June 11. Like Parker, Niver's dragster crashed in the shutdown area of the track. A female spectator was killed Feb. 21 in Phoenix, when a tire came off Antron Brown's Top Fuel dragster during a first round elimination.

According to witnesses, Niver's car slammed into the safety netting at the end of the track after his parachutes did not fully deploy. The King County Sheriff's Department halted race activities for more than an hour to investigate the crash, but NHRA officials eventually resumed and completed the event.

The NHRA issued a statement saying it, along with Pacific Raceways, extended its "deepest sympathies to the entire Niver family" and promised a full investigation.

According to the Seattle Times, winning driver Chris Demke presented his winner's trophy to Niver's wife, Tanis, his children and grandchildren who were at the event.

"We hope his last memory was seeing his win light," Demke told The Times. "Losing him is like losing an elder in the sport. It chokes me up."

Greg Anderson, who later in the afternoon won the Pro Stock class, told the Times, "I've known Mark forever and when I found out it was him, my heart stopped."

One of Niver's two career Top Alcohol dragster wins came at Pacific Raceways two years ago. Sunday's accident happened seconds after Niver defeated Shawn Cowie in the semifinals which would have earned him a place in the championship round.

According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, Niver's parachute "broke" when it was deployed and his dragster "buckled" after hitting the safety net, with the front end bending upward toward the cockpit. His finish-line speed was estimated to be 271 mph.

Demke would have raced against Niver in the final round had the crash not occurred. Demke chose not to appear in the final out of respect to Niver.

"Mark was always warm, friendly, joking," Demke told The Times. "He was honest and raced on his own budget. It was a family operation and he ran a mean and lean team. There's no way to think anything about bad him. He's a legend and we're going to miss him."
Filed under: Sports
Tagged: Mark Niver, NHRA