The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the national association that oversees drag racing are investigating a crash at Sonoma Raceway that killed a 75-year-old Napa man Wednesday night.
Sheriff's officials on Thursday morning identified the driver of the 1976 customized Ford Pinto that slammed into a barrier at the end of the raceway's quarter-mile drag strip shortly after 6 p.m. as James Kenneth Rambo.
"It's a very sad day for everybody involved," said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway's president and general manager, in an interview. "It's a traumatic event for the racing community, for our staff."
The crash took placing during a weekly community program called Wednesday Night Drags, an open racing event that includes dozens of street car and race car drivers.
Rambo was traveling 120 mph when he crossed the finish line, according to Page.
The crash took place just beyond the finish line. Rambo lost control and headed to the left into a barrier wall.
"It appears he braked but his vehicle pulled to the left and he hit a k-rail," said a statement from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.
Track crews extricated Rambo and an ambulance responded, but he died at the scene. The California Highway Patrol arrived and the remainder of the event was canceled.
The National Hot Rod Association is investigating the crash, according to NHRA spokeswoman Jessica Hatcher.
"We are working with the track and always look into serious incidents," Hatcher wrote in an email.
Page believes Rambo was an experienced driver.
"The safety measures and equipment that have been built into this sport over the years have made this kind of incident very rare, which is fortunate, but you can never make things 100 percent safe," Page said.
The crash marks the first fatality at Sonoma Raceway since May 2010, when a motorcyclist died during a competition after getting into a crash with two other participants. It's the first on-track fatality in the 30-year history of the Wednesday Night Drags program.