On October 4, 2001, with just four laps remaining in the EasyCare 100 ARCA race at Lowes Motor Speedway, Blaise Robert Alexander was running neck-to-neck with Kerry Earnhardt. The two racing vehicles made contact while running for the win.
Earnhardt’s car flipped and burst into flames. He escaped uninjured.
Alexander’s car hit the outside wall head-on. Later that night, the 25-year-old rising racing star was pronounced dead of a basilar skull fracture.
Born in State College, Pennsylvania, Alexander was a veteran of the ARCA series as well as the NASCAR Busch and Truck divisions.
Alexander was the 1996 ARCA rookie-of-the-year and made sixty-eight starts in the ARCA series. He recorded three victories, and could also boast of four career pole awards.
“Blaise will be remembered by his death because he was a very promising young driver on the way up,” Wheeler stated at the time. “I know one thing I’ll remember about him – his death caused major changes in racing.” Howard Augustine "Humpy" Wheeler, Jr. was the at Lowes Motor Speedway track president at the time.
Humpy called a press conference and told everyone that NASCAR should mandate the use of head-and-neck safety devices. The HANS device is a safety item that significantly reduces the likelihood of head and/or neck injuries, such as a basilar skull fracture*, in the event of a crash.
To their credit, NASCAR reacted and on Oct. 17, 2001, the use of head-and-neck restraints became compulsory.
Blaise Robert affectionately known as B.R. was survived by his father, Blaise J. and mother Anne, two brothers, Adam and Aubrey, and a sister Maureen.
* NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt (2001), Adam Petty (2000), Tony Roper (2000), Kenny Irwin, Jr. (2000), John Nemechek (1997), Neil Bonnett (1994), Clifford Allison (1992), J. D. McDuffie (1991), Grant Adcox (1989), Terry Schoonover (1984), died after crashes due to a basilar skull fracture
Photo Credit WombatRacing@aol.com