A short track technical official was killed on Saturday night shortly after attempting to break up a fight between rival teams during the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway just 15 miles south of Daytona Beach, Florida.
Rusty Crews, 58, had worked in the short track community for nearly two decades and was an occasional NASCAR crew member, as well.
The World Series of Asphalt is a NASCAR sanctioned short track event held annually alongside Daytona 500 each February. The event contains nightly racing for a variety of short track divisions racing on the historic half-mile in New Smyrna Beach.
For the second night in a row, tempers flared in the Sportsman division between New Hampshire racer Bryan Kruczek and Florida favorite Matthew Green. They split victories over the first two nights of competition but not without sharing paint in the process.
A fight erupted in the infield technical compound immediately after the race, but it was quickly broken up by officials and security. Both drivers were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct and Wayne Smith was declared the winner. A second fight took place an hour after racing festivities had concluded for the evening.
Crews attempted to break-up the fight and was knocked down in the melee.
According to a Volusia County Sherriff’s Office statement, “a witness (began) performing CPR on Crews before an EMS crew arrived, took over CPR and transported Crews to the hospital.” The report concluded that over a dozen competitors were involved in the fight.
It is not yet clear if the death can be attributed to Crews’ involvement in the brawl.
“At this point in the active investigation, there is no evidence of a direct link between Crews’ death and any specific actions of anyone involved in the altercation,” the statement reads. “An autopsy was scheduled for today, and the investigation remains active. There were no other injuries reported.”
In a statement, Speedway owner Robert Hart reflected on the loss one of his most admired officials.
“Rusty was a true friend, always looked out for others at the racetrack, and loved racing,” Hart said. “I can’t describe how terrible this loss is.”
His wife added: “I can’t think of a time at the Speedway without Rusty.”
Speedway general manager Rusty Marcus says the World Series of Asphalt will continue in Crews’ honor.
“This is an incredibly difficult time and during our employee meeting numerous friends of Crews stated that his desire would be to continue with the program and keep racing,” Marcus said. “While this is a tough time, we are going to move forward and honor his memory as a racing family.”
The event takes place through Saturday night and includes the ARCA East Series opener on Monday night.
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