Local teen racer witnesses fatal Ocala raceway crash | News

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Local teen racer witnesses fatal Ocala raceway crash

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A local teenage race car driver witnessed the horrific raceway accident in Ocala that claimed the life of a 15-year-old girl.

James Owen Burnell, 13, briefly met Niokoa Johnson Saturday at the Bubba Raceway Park. He said what happened on the track was a freak accident and it's something he tries to never think about while he's on the track.

His race car number is 91.

"That's the whole family's number," said Burnell. "It's in my blood. My grandpa, to my dad, to my family; everybody in my family basically races."

Burnell said he started racing go-karts when he was four.

"I just knew from the very beginning this was going to be a road we were going to travel down," said Jessica Burnell, Owen's mother.

Following his grandfather's and father's tire tracks, now Owen has his own race car.

"There's been numerous times where I've had hands over my eyes and you can't breathe and just gotta walk away," said Jessica.

She still gets nervous, but wants her son to live his dream.

"Just when you sit in that seat belt it just exciting, you don't know, you just don't know what's going to happen," said Burnell.

No one expected the crash on Saturday. Johnson reportedly lost control on the track and died after the crash. Burnell was there and saw the whole thing.

"We talked to her for like 45 minutes since she was out there on the track," said Burnell. "[She] Was excited. She was ready to get in it, happy to get in that car."

The Marion County Sheriff's Office is investigating the accident. They say it was her first time on the track.

"It takes seat time which you steady stay in a car and you steady stay learning things about the car and learn to handle and control the race car. That's the reason she went out there all by herself to get the feeling of the car and she just lost control," added Burnell.

Some NASCAR drivers like Jeff Gordon started out at a young age driving go karts, eventually moving to higher divisions.

"He's been around it his whole entire life, it gave me more peace knowing that," added Jessica.


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