A veteran tech official died overnight in New Smyrna Beach, Florida after he was involved in an altercation between two race teams in the Sportsman division competing in the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway.
Rusty Crews, 58, had attempted to break-up a second fight between competitors shortly after midnight. Before joining the New Smyrna Speedway technical staff, Crews had most notably served in a similar capacity for the CRA Super Late Model Series and USAR Pro Cup Series.
For the second night in a row, the Sportsman division race was decided by contact between New Hampshire racer Bryan Kruczek and Florida contender Matthew Green. Kruczek was the flagged winner on Saturday night after Green prevailed on Friday.
With the podium celebrations taking place on the frontstretch, crew members from both teams were shouting at each other immediately after the race, and the conflict would turn physical minutes later in the post-race infield technical compound.
Both drivers were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct and Wayne Smith was declared the winner.
The teams would be involved in a second and much larger fight after racing festivities concluded for the night. Crews would attempt to break-up the fight and was knocked down in the melee. According to the Daytona Beach Journal, Crews drove up to the fracas on a bobcat and suffered a medical episode that is currently being described as a heart attack.
According to a Volusia County statement, “a witness started performing CPR on Crews before an EMS crew arrived, took over CPR and transported Crews to the hospital.” The law enforcement statement reads that over a dozen participants were involved in the fight.
It’s unclear at this time if Crews’ death was directly linked to his involvement in the brawl.
“At this point in the active investigation, there is no evidence of a direct link between Crews’ death and any specific actions of anyone involved in the altercation,” the statement reads. “An autopsy was scheduled for today, and the investigation remains active. There were no other injuries reported.”
In a statement, Speedway owner Robert Hart reflected on the loss one of his most respected officials.
“Rusty was a true friend, always looked out for others at the racetrack, and loved racing,” Hart said. “I can’t describe how terrible this loss is.”
Martha Hart added: “I can’t think of a time at the Speedway without Rusty.”
Speedway general manager Rusty Marcus says the World Series of Asphalt will continue in Crews’ honor.
“This is an incredibly difficult time and during our employee meeting numerous friends of Crews stated that his desire would be to continue with the program and keep racing,” Marcus said. “While this is a tough time, we are going to move forward and honor his memory as a racing family.”