Five-time International Hot Rod Association world champion and reigning Professional Drag Racing Association champion Ronnie Davis died of injuries sustained in an airborne qualifying accident Saturday at Rockingham Dragway, per a PDRA statement. Davis was qualifying for the Top Sportsman class in the PDRA Spring Nationals.
On Saturday, Davis completed a 4.130-second pass at 178.19 mph when his 1963 Corvette veered left, then abruptly turned right. His car went directly in front of the Chevrolet Camaro of competitor Mark Malcuit when got airborne and flipped over the right guardrail.
(WARNING: Footage depicts a fatal accident. Discretion is advised.)
Qualifying was halted following the crash.
Debris from Davis’ car also struck drag racing photographer and journalist Ian Tocher, reports Drag Illustrated. Per a later update on the Drag Illustrated Facebook page, Tocher received severe lacerations and serious injuries to his lower extremities. Tocher is currently recovering from surgery.
Davis’ nephew told Quarter Mile Media that Davis was in critical condition after the crash, in a coma with head trauma. Davis later died of his injuries at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, according to Drag Illustrated.
PDRA President Bob Harris had this to say in a series statement:
The entire PDRA community is deeply saddened by Saturday’s incident and offers its most sincere condolences and prayers to Ronnie Davis’ family, teammates and friends. Ronnie was a fierce competitor, a spirited and kind-hearted human being, and he touched the lives of many during his drag racing career.
In addition to his long drag racing career that gave him the nickname “Ronnie the King” from dominating Atlanta Dragway’s “King of the Hill” competition, Davis owned Davis Golf Carts—the official pit vehicle supplier for the PDRA.