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Mark Niver, a 60-year-old native of Phoenix, AZ, died on Sunday when his Top Alcohol dragster crashed at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle during the final day of the NHRA Northwest Nationals.
According to the NHRA, the crash happened in the shutdown area, where Niver deployed his car’s parachutes to rapidly slow down after crossing the 1/4-mile finish line at over 260 mph. The NHRA’s website states that Niver’s parachutes opened but then became detached. The runaway dragster ran off the end of the drag strip and into a sand trap and then into a restraining net, but tragically the impact proved fatal.
The loss of Mark Niver is the third fatality of the season for the NHRA, Neal Parker, 58, of Millville, NJ, having lost his life in a very similar crash just 30 days earlier (June 11th) at Old Bridge Raceway Park when his Top Alcohol dragster crashed into a barrier and sand trip designed to slow runaway cars. In February, a spectator was killed at Firebird Raceway when the left rear tire flew off a Top Fuel dragster during a collision with the wall.
Given these tragic events and with speeds of Top Fuel dragsters exceeding 300 mph, there’s little question the NHRA will be investigating any and all ways to improve the safety of its sport. All forms of motorsport involve a level of risk to the drivers, but clearly longer shutdown and runoff areas are required for these top tier dragsters given the incredibly high speeds they are now achieving.