Terry Schoonover, 32, a NASCAR driver from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., was fatally injured yesterday in the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta International Raceway.
The race, and $40,610, went to Dale Earnhardt, at 134.610 mph. Cale Yarborough picked up a $10,000 bonus by leading at the halfway point, lap 164. Winston Cup points leader Terry Labonte's engine blew on the 205th lap.
Schoonover's death at Georgia Baptist Hospital was announced at the track in Hampton, Ga., during the afternoon. He had received massive head injuries and internal injuries in the accident on the 129th lap of the 1 1/2-mile track.
Schoonover, in just his second Grand National start, had to be cut from his Chevrolet by rescuers and was eventually helicoptered to the hospital in downtown Atlanta.
The wreck happened when Bobby Hillin Jr.'s Chevrolet hit the backstretch wall and began spinning. Schoonover's car, behind Hillin, also hit the outside wall, careened and smashed into the inside of the retaining barrier in the third turn.
The last driver to die in a NASCAR Grand National event was Tiny Lund in the 1975 Talladega 500 . . .
In Las Vegas, Tom Sneva won the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, but lost the CART-PPG Indy-car championship to runner-up Mario Andretti.
Andretti, needing only 10th or better to clinch his fourth national driving championship and first since 1969, ran a strong but generally conservative race to assure winning the $300,000 prize for the title.
Sneva had a long, difficult day. In a morning warmup, he spun and did minor damage to his car. During the 200-mile race on the 1.125-mile, five-turn modified oval, he took the lead for the first time on lap 125. Then he dueled 1983 PPG Cup champion Al Unser Sr., until Unser tried to go around Sneva on lap 148, but skidded hard into a tire wall. Unhurt, Unser stood at trackside and pointed his finger accusingly at Sneva as he drove past under the caution flag.
Sneva, who averaged 93.701 mph in the caution-filled race, then coasted to a 6.47-second victory over Andretti. Sneva earned his team $200,000 from the season point fund, plus first-place money of $52,340.