Johnson, Trett die of injuries at Indy
Reprinted from the Sept. 13, 1996 issue of National DRAGSTER
INDIANAPOLIS -- NHRA Winston Top Fuel points leader Blaine Johnson and Top Fuel motorcycle pioneer Elmer Trett died of injuries sustained in separate accidents at the U.S. Nationals.
On Saturday, Aug. 31, Johnson, 34, of Santa Maria, Calif., had just completed a track-record pass of 4.612 seconds in the Travers Tool dragster, good for the No. 1 qualifying spot, when the accident occurred in the shutdown area of the left lane.
The engine on Johnson's dragster broke a connecting rod, and the resulting debris cut a rear tire, sending the car out of control. Johnson's car hit the left guardrail, crossed over to the right, and hit the right retaining wall.
Johnson died at 5:17 p.m. during surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
Johnson, a four-time Winston Alcohol Dragster champion and the odds-on favorite to win this year's Top Fuel title, is the first Top Fuel driver to be killed at
an NHRA national event since Pete Robinson in February 1971 at the Winternationals in Pomona. Johnson won three national events this season and has led the national standings since late April. He set the NHRA national elapsed-time record of 4.592 in July in Topeka.
He moved to Top Fuel during the 1994 season after winning four consecutive NHRA Winston Alcohol Dragster championships from 1990 to 1993. He is the winningest Alcohol Dragster driver in NHRA history with 26 victories.
"The loss of Blaine Johnson is a tragedy that is difficult for all of us to deal with," said NHRA President Dallas Gardner. "We are a family, a very close family, and when we lose a family member, it has a very deep effect.
"Blaine was perhaps the epitome of all that was good in the sport. He had a dream, he pursued it, his entire family shared his dream, and in a very short time he made an indelible mark on the sport and upon his fellow competitors.
"Blaine was destined to become a champion. We will remember him as a champion, and we will miss him. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Johnson family and the Johnson Racing team."
T. Wayne Robertson, president of Sports Marketing Enterprises at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., added, "Everyone at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Sports Marketing Enterprises is deeply saddened by Blaine’s death. This is never an easy situation to handle. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to the entire Johnson family.
"Blaine and Alan had figured out a combination that became the standard of excellence in NHRA Winston drag racing. They showed us that with dedication and the right attitude it was possible to excel on a limited budget. It’s a shame that we’ll never know if Blaine would have won the championship.
"Blaine Johnson was good for our sport, and he will be greatly missed."
Johnson is survived by his wife Kym, son Tyler, parents Everett and Agnes, brother Alan, and sister Pam.
Trett, 53, of Demorest, Ga., died Sunday, Sept. 1, following an exhibition pass on which he fell off his motorcycle in the shutdown area for no apparent reason. He died later that day at Methodist Hospital.
Trett was a pioneer in Top Fuel motorcycle racing. He recorded the quickest pass by a Top Fuel motorcycle, 6.069 seconds, Aug. 18 at IRP during the Pingel Thundernationals, not an NHRA event. He also recorded the fastest speed in the history of the category, 235.10 mph, at the same event.
"Elmer stood for Top Fuel Bikes, period," said Keith Kizer, president of ProStar, the organization for which the Top Fuel Motorcycles primarily compete. "He set all of the milestones in Top Fuel Bike. He was always at the forefront, and after setting the record again two weeks [before his death], he was again king of the Top Fuel Bikes."
Trett is survived his wife Jackie and daughters Gina and Kelly.