21-year-old woman killed in accident at New Jersey short track
AUG 17, 2014 2:19p ET
A 21-year-old woman died Saturday after the midget car she was driving struck a wall at a New Jersey track, the second fatality at a United States short track in a week.
According to multiple reports, Amanda Gambacorto of Middletown, N.J., died after her three-quarter midget went head-on into a wall at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall, N.J., early Saturday afternoon.
The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reported that Gambacorto was pronounced dead at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune at 1:26 p.m. ET. State Police Capt. Steve Jones told the Press that Gambacorto's car was following another racer before her car slammed head-on into the wall. Jones said police received a call of a one-car accident at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET.
The Stony Brook Statesman reported that Gambacorto, a double major in environmental humanities and philosophy at the school, was not racing but rather taking part in a clinic held by a company called Green Flag Driving Experience. The Press said that Gambacorto was driving in a "novice three-quarter midget racing program" but added that Jones could not say whether Gambacorto was a novice driver. The Press said a call to Green Flag had not been returned.
After the accident, Wall Stadium Speedway canceled Saturday night's scheduled events but announced racing would take place as scheduled on Sunday. A message posted to the track's website read:
"With heavy hearts we cancelled our racing events August 16, 2014. The event today, Sunday August 17, 2014, will take place rain or shine. Start time is 1:00 p.m."
The Press said that a family friend said: "The family was too distraught to discuss the young woman."
Natasha Hasanoeddin Gambacorto, identifying herself as Gambacorto's aunt, posted the following message on Facebook:
"Amanda was my niece. Her family is beside themselves with grief. We can all spend countless hours trying to make some sort of sense out of this horrible tragedy but it seems that in situations such as this one there is no sense to be made and no answers to the question 'why?' All that there is are broken hearts, shattered dreams and a young life that ended way too soon. Please keep Amanda's family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
According to her Linkedin.com profile, Gambacorto also worked as a bartender while going to school and stated: "My professional interests and experiences include: Public Relations, Event Planning, Writing, Editing, and Photography." The Press stated that Gambacorto was a marketing assistant and communications intern at Stony Brook.
"She was a good, hardworking girl and smart," Jay Cosgrove, owner of Moby's, the bar where Gambacorto worked, told the Press. "She had a lot of friends and a lot of big plans for her life."
According to Green Flag's website, the three-quarter midgets "are small scale race cars with a very high power-to-weight ratio which use four-cylinder engines." The Press reported that the cars could reach speeds greater than 90 mph on the 1/3-mile, 30-degree high-banked asphalt oval, per the track's website. There are no reports of how fast Gambacorto's car was going at the time of the accident.
The accident occurred one week to the day after 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed by a car driven by NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart in an Empire Sprint Series race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. After the two tangled up and Ward's car was sent into the wall, Ward left his car and walked onto the track, gesturing at Stewart as Stewart's car passed by under caution. But a rear tire on Stewart's car struck Ward, throwing him down the track and killing him.
Stewart has not raced in the two Sprint Cup races since the incident, which occurred on a dirt track, and thus far police have found no criminal conduct on the part of Stewart, though an investigation remains open.
In light of Ward's death, NASCAR implemented new rules designed for driver safety, requiring drivers remain in their cars if stopped until safety personnel arrive, "unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the racecar (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.)." The rules were in effect for Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Michigan.