Race car driver Justin Owen was killed Saturday night in an accident during his qualifying run at the Lawrenceburg Speedway in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Owen was 26 years old.
Fox News reported that Owen was attempting to qualify for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship when his car slammed into the wall on the dirt track’s third turn, sending the vehicle airborne. The car flipped several times, according to reports.
The race was postponed shortly after the collision, and Owen’s death was verified just after midnight, according to USA Today. According to The Associated Press, Owen won the title at the Lawrenceburg track in 2022 and had two earlier feature wins there, including the Dick Gaines Memorial.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup driver was the defending champion at the southeastern Indiana track, and grew up just 20 minutes north of Lawrenceburg in Harrison, Ohio, according to USA Today.
During the weekend, condolences flooded in from family, friends, and members of the racing community. Kenzie Knapp, Owen’s fiancée, changed her Facebook profile image to a photo of her and Owen kissing, stating, “I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
“It’s never easy to be reminded how quickly things happen in this sport or that we’re not promised tomorrow,” the Tony Stewart Racing team tweeted. “Keeping the family, friends, and fans of Justin Owen in our prayers. We’re so sorry for your loss.”
NASCAR driver JJ Yeley expressed “thoughts and prayers” to the Owen family after Owen’s death.
The announcer at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Chad Cunningham wrote on social media that “the nights don’t get any tougher” than Saturday night.
“Praying for everyone’s peace and comfort,” Cunningham wrote. “I will always love and never forget [Owen].”
Longtime friends also shared their grief on social media over the weekend.
“Justin was a friend of mine since grade school,” Connor McCurley, a teacher and basketball coach at Harrison High School, tweeted. “Such a fun and charismatic spirit who was loved by everyone around him. Gone far too soon — Fly high and race fast up there.”
The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, which Owen raced for throughout his career, said in a memorial post on Facebook that “words cannot express what we are feeling right now.”
“If you were fortunate enough to know him, then you know what the world has lost,” the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series said. “If you didn’t know him, you missed out on a guy who lived life to the fullest. Justin was always upbeat and positive and could light up a room or a pit area with his smile and demeanor. Most of all, he was a hardcore race car driver.”