NHRA Pro Modified driver Steve Engle was critically injured when his 1963 Corvette drag racer went out of control following a run at Saturday’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Witnesses said the run looked good at the beginning, but towards the end and traveling an estimated 230 mph, the car hooked hard and veered nearly head on into the left cement barrier, cracking a large portion of the wall.
Steve went into surgery on Sunday and according to his family, he sustained fractures in six cervical vertebrae and damage to his spinal cord.
Engel was participating in qualifying for the JEGS ProMod Challenge, an exhibition Series that holds rounds at select NHRA POWERade Series events.
We got sad news on Monday that Steve passed away. The following is a news release from the NHRA:
After showing significant signs of improvement in the past week, Pro Modified racer Steve Engel died suddenly at 5 p.m. Sunday in Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Engel was involved in a serious one-car racing accident during the recent 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Engel’s Diamond Heavy Haul Corvette went out of control near the top end of the track, and he impacted the retaining wall head-on. He was airlifted to Methodist Hospital where doctors discovered six broken vertebrae in his back. Two were fixed immediately, but then excess fluid developed in his lung; doctors had to wait to fix the other four. That procedure was done Friday, and physicians were diagnosing a long but full recovery.
The 49-year-old Engel is survived by his wife, Tonya, and his sons, Stevie and Michael.
“The entire Pro Mod community is in a state of shock right now,” fellow racer and Jegs ProMod Challenge organizer Troy Coughlin said. “We were all so optimistic after Friday’s report, and then we get this terrible news. Our thoughts and prayers are with Tonya and the boys.
“Steve was a great racer — he won his first event with us earlier this year in Bristol — but he was an even better person. He was a big man with a big heart, always anxious to share a few laughs and toast with a cold beer. He loved to race, and he dearly loved his friends at the track. He will be missed.”
A resident of Shandon, Ohio, Engel competed in 31 Jegs ProMod Challenge events in the past few years. He had one win and two runner-up finishes on his resume. Overall, Engel had been drag racing for 21 years, and he listed John Force as the racer he admired most.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Our prayers are with Steve and his family.