Bill Janke

NHRA News: Janke killed in crash at Lebanon Valley Speedway

Drag racer William “Bill” Janke was killed in a race Sunday at Lebanon Valley Speedway, State Police said.

The 57-year-old died at the scene.

State Police were called to the racetrack at 12:30 p.m. Trooper Aaron Hicks, a spokesman for the agency, said he “lost control of his vehicle for unknown reasons and struck a barrier.” He died competing in a sanctioned race.

Janke was a regular racer at the speedway, said Mark Dawson, director of the National Hot Rod Association’s Northeast Division. Janke’s crash occurred during the NHRA’s Lucas Oil Divisional Series, which features the top sportsman drivers in the sport. Dawson could not confirm details about the crash, and said an investigation is underway.

NHRA Northeast released a statement on Facebook, sending “thoughts and prayers to our racing community and the Janke family.” The post encouraged community members to call the division’s office to be connected with support groups. Dawson recommended the group Racers for Christ as a support service “well-versed” in handling the aftermath of fatal crashes.

Dawson said the speedway has a minimum of two emergency medical technicians on the property at all times and safety teams on site to respond to crashes. “Our guys are trained in all these accidents, they are able to get to the scene as quickly as possible,” Dawson said. Dawson declined to say whether the speedway or NHRA planned to change safety protocols following Janke’s death.

Races that were suspended Sunday after Janke’s crash resumed Monday morning. Dawson said that typically races resume immediately after crashes, but Sunday’s racing card ended while police investigated Janke’s death.

Janke’s wife, Meredith Howard Janke, posted on social media:

“I would like to firstly like to thank everyone for their prayers. I’m crying my eyes out posting this. My husband Bill Janke who I love with all my heart has gone to heaven today after a horrible car crash that took his life.

“He absolutely loved drag racing! It was his life and passion. Please know that he loved his drag racing family! You were the world to him!

“I truly loved my husband with all my heart and I really don’t know how I’m going to survive this.

“We met on a blind date and fell in love instantly. He asked me to marry him 2 months later and married a year later. This August we would have celebrated 29 years. I can’t imagine my life without him. I’m sorry for my rambling. I just loved him with all my heart. He truly was my lifeline.

“Once I have made arrangements I will let everyone know. He loved you all! Thank you!”

 

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