A Final Ride Through Brayton’s Hometown
COLDWATER, Mich. (AP) _ With hundreds of fans holding black and white checkered flags, Indy car driver Scott Brayton received a farewell from his hometown Wednesday.
He took his final ride in a black hearse with checkered flags on its front fenders. A blue and white pace car for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 led the procession through town.
``It would have been wonderful if this had been a victory party,″ the Rev. Charles Richards told several hundred people at Brayton’s grave in Oak Grove Cemetery.
At the cemetery, members of the Team Menard racing team filed by the casket and touched it.
Brayton, 37, died Friday in a crash during practice for the Indy 500. The right rear tire of the Lola-Menard he was driving deflated as the car headed toward the second turn. He crashed into the wall going more than 200 mph.
Brayton had qualified for the pole for Sunday’s race. He had won the pole position a year ago as well, only the ninth time a driver won back-to-back pole positions.
Crowds lined Chicago Street as the funeral procession carrying Brayton’s body passed through downtown.
About 1,000 people had gathered at the United Methodist Church. Many wore the green ribbons selected by the town to remember him because that was the primary color of his race car.
``Though we are saddened by Scotty’s death, in these hours, we want to remember his life, and what a joy it was to know him,″ Richards said.
Brayton’s wife, Becky, wrote in a letter read by Richards that she fell in love with Brayton when he told her he never wanted to be anything except a great race car driver.
She said while the racetrack brought him to her ``it also took him away.″
``For our sakes, we cannot forget what an incredible ride it has been,″ she wrote.
Brayton’s brother, Greg, recalled Scott’s driving talents at age 5. In a letter read by Richards, Greg Brayton remembered riding in a go-cart with his brother. The car malfunctioned and lost control. Scott pressed the accelerator to the floor while his brother steered.
Even at 50 mph, Scott Brayton was able to avoid an accident.
``I guess I was impressed with the way Scott drove that day. It really was incredible,″ his letter said.
Mourners dabbed their eyes as Richards read the two letters.
Dozens of flower arrangements filled the vestibule of the church, including one of yellow daisies trimmed with red carnations that was shaped like an Indy car.
``From the gang at Brayton Engineering,″ the card said.
Richards called Brayton ``a vibrant young man, one who was so full of life. ... It is so hard for us to comprehend that he is here no more.″
A high school friend said he will remember Brayton’s good nature.
``He never had a bad word to say about anybody. I hoped to have my kids meet him. He was a great role model,″ said Jim Whitten of Battle Creek.
Brayton was the son of a race car driver, Lee Brayton, who passed his Indy rookie test in 1972 but never drove at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 14 appearances at Indy, Brayton’s best finishes were two sixth-place showings. Brayton had had 148 Indy car starts, but had not had a full-time ride since 1992.
He is survived by his wife, Becky; a daughter, Carley, 2; and parents Lee and Helen Jean Brayton.