BRAINERD, Minn. (WCCO) — The life of an avid racecar driver ended tragically this holiday weekend during a race on a Minnesota track.

It happened Sunday afternoon at the Brainerd International Raceway. The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office says 70-year-old Mel Shaw was driving in the Sports Club Car of America Race when he struck the outside crash barrier.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman spoke to the track’s owner about the sport Mel loved.

The crash happened on a part of the racetrack where cars reach speeds of 150 miles per hour.

“Right on our turn three just after the fastest turn at this racetrack,” track owner Jed Copham said.

It was near that turn on the competitive track that track owner Jed Copham says 70-year-old Mel Shaw appeared to have experienced a medical emergency.

“Eyewitness accounts seem to point towards the possibility of a medical problem with Mel coming into the turn,” Copham said. “The driver behind him and one of my head of medical, their stories suggest he may have lost consciousness. Hands off the wheel and foot on the gas all the way into the barriers where ultimately the car did come to a rest.”

(credit: John Hamilton/Corcoran)

Copham says medical teams were on standby and raced to help Shaw.

“My medical team was to him within a matter of a minute. We had a helicopter here within a matter of a few minutes and we’ve got the jaws of life. We’ve got everything to get you out of the car,” Copham said.

The helicopter was not needed, Mel Shaw was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Monday, non-competitive motor sports enthusiasts ran the same course where Shaw died Sunday. Copham says his old friend would have wanted it this way.

“You feel horrible for the family and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mel,” Copham said. “I know that if he were here he’d want people to carry on and keep enjoying the sport that he loved. He loved motorsports, it was a huge part of his life.”

Copham says Shaw was from New Jersey and raced at Brainerd International Raceway for years. Copham says Shaw will be remembered as a racing veteran who gave it his all every time he drove on a track.


Reg Chapman