Salem Sprint-Car Crash Claims The Great Rich Vogler
The United States Auto Club lost its brightest star on Saturday night, July 21, 1990, when Rich Vogler was killed in a sprint-car crash on the high banks of Indiana’s Salem Speedway.
In the opening paragraph of his story in the July 25 issue of NSSN, veteran journalist Bill Hill aptly described the milestone moment:
“Rich Vogler is gone. If Vogler had planned his own departure from this world, it would have been Saturday night on the high banks as the new track record holder, leading the main event in a car wearing the No. 1 indicative of championship status in USAC sprint-car racing. He was on top of his world when he left it.”
Vogler was coming to the white flag in the 32nd annual Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial when he attempted to lap Wayne Hammond. Eyewitnesses said Hammond’s car drifted up exiting turn four, pinching Vogler into the outside wall.
His car flew into the fence and then gyrated back to the pavement, flinging its front axle, fuel tank and other pieces everywhere. The roll cage stayed intact, but it is believed the extensive damage to the fencing was responsible for dislodging Vogler’s helmet early in the accident. His helmet was picked up some 20 feet from the wrecked car.
Vogler was transported to Washington County Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead of a severe head injury.
When a USAC race is discontinued, scoring reverts back to the last completed lap and Vogler was declared the winner.
Starting sixth in the Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics, Inc. No. 1, Vogler was on the rear bumper of early leader Jeff Gordon by the fifth lap. He then drove around Gordon for the lead on lap 10 of the feature that was televised by ESPN.
Gordon ended up second in the final rundown followed by Bob Frey, Donnie Adams and Eric Gordon.
Earlier during qualifying, Vogler posted a track-record lap of 15.573 seconds.
A native of Glen Ellyn, Ill., the 39-year-old Vogler was a second-generation open-wheel racer who captured seven USAC national championships, five in midgets and two in sprint cars.
His 134 victories in USAC national competition still ranks second on the all-time win list behind A.J. Foyt’s 159. Vogler was also a five-time Indianapolis 500 starter with a best finish of eighth in 1989.
Ironically, Vogler was scheduled to make his NASCAR Winston Cup debut the day following his death. He qualified 32nd for the ACDelco 500 at Pocono Raceway before flying to Indiana.