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Baker Dies in Southwest Series Crash

June 9, 2002

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IRWINDALE, Calif. (AP) _ Driver John Baker was killed Saturday night in a crash during the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series K&N Filters 150 at Irwindale Speedway.

Baker, 49, of Tucson, Ariz., was taken to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Baldwin Park, where he died, said Reyna DelHaro, a spokeswoman for the hospital. Baker’s wife was by his side.

``Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baker family, crew and race team,″ Doug Stokes, Speedway spokesman, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

NASCAR officials did not immediately comment.

Baker, who was wearing a neck restraint, was slowing on the second turn of the half-mile oval when he was hit from behind and his car went headlong into the exit.

Baker, who had won the pole position, was the first driver killed in the series during a race.

It was the fourth death at the speedway. Casey Diemert of Roseburg, Ore., and Keith Cowherd of Phoenix died in 1999, the track’s opening season. Christopher Shields of San Bernardino died June 7, 2001.

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