LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -- For the second time in two months, a driver is being mourned at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Kenny Irwin's death cast a pall over the track on Friday and stunned other auto racers preparing for the New England 300.
''It's bad to even be here, but we have to do our business,'' said Jeff Burton, the three-time defending champion of the event.
Jimmy Spencer doesn't feel like driving, either.
''Every person in this garage area feels like the best thing we can do is load up and go home,'' he said. ''But we know we can't do that.''
Irwin was killed after his car crashed into the third-turn wall during practice for Sunday's race and flipped. On May 12, Adam Petty died after crashing at nearly the same spot while practicing for a Busch Series race.
''These are the days that make you really sit back and look at yourself in the mirror and ask, 'Why do I do this?''' Rusty Wallace said after winning his series-best seventh pole of the year with a record qualifying run of 132.089 mph.
As Irwin was being mourned, NASCAR began investigating.
Operations director Kevin Triplett said the sanctioning body immediately began looking at the twisted wreckage of what once was Irwin's sleek Chevrolet, hoping to learn what went wrong. Told of driver criticism of the track, including the need for higher banking in the turns, Triplett said NASCAR would listen all suggestions.
''But it's really too early to say what happened here,'' Triplett explained.
There was speculation that the accelerator on Irwin's car stuck, prohibiting him from slowing enough to make the turn. That also was believed to be the reason for the Petty's death, but NASCAR has not been able to verify that.
Ricky Rudd, who drives the car Irwin was in last year, said stuck throttles are among the greatest fears for competitors. He says the hardest hit he has experienced in his 25-year career came on NASCAR's smallest track -- the half-miler in Martinsville, Va. -- where sharp turns also must be negotiated with the car decelerating from their fastest speeds.
Modified champion Richie Evans was killed in Martinsville in 1985 when his car went straight into the wall,
''I had a throttle stick in a test session,'' Rudd said of that track, similar in design but only half as long as New Hampshire. ''If you have any kind of mechanical problems at all, you don't have any time to recover, and it's usually head-on into the fence.''
That's what happened to Irwin and Petty. They hit the wall eight weeks and just a few feet apart. Both cars were going about 150 mph before slowing for the turn.
Irwin's predominantly blue car landed on its roof. He was taken bloodied, apparently lifeless to the infield care center. Later, a spokeswoman for Concord Hospital said Irwin died of ''multiple injuries.''
Ward Burton is among those who believe Irwin had a deceleration problem.
''When I went down there, I could see long skid marks,'' Burton said.
He was the first driver to suggest that the track consider higher banking.
''Two's a problem,'' Burton said. ''I think it needs to be addressed.''
Officials of the track, probably criticized more than most on the circuit, had no immediate comment.
But Richard Petty, Adam's grandfather, who was discussing that tragedy about the time Irwin hit the wall, called the accidents a coincidence.
''Those things are circumstances beyond human control,'' said Petty, the king of stock car racing with a record 200 victories and seven championships. ''There ain't nothing the matter with the race track.''
Irwin, a 30-year-old single man from Indianapolis, was rookie of the year in 1998. But his Winston Cup career never took off, and he was fired last year by Robert Yates Racing after failing to produce in the vaunted No. 28 Ford.
He went winless in 87 career starts with three poles and four top-five finishes. This year, Irwin was 28th in the standings.
His death was the first in Winston Cup since Neil Bonnett and rookie Rodney Orr were killed after separate crashes in practice for the 1994 Daytona 500.
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