Friends, family mourn Phoenix drag racer who died in crash

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SEATTLE and PHOENIX -- An autopsy will be performed today on a Phoenix drag racer who was killed just after crossing the finish line at a race outside Seattle Sunday.

Mark Niver, 60, was driving in the Top Alcohol dragster class in the National Hot Rod Association's Lucas Oil Northwest Nationals.

When Niver deployed his parachute at the end of the race, it ripped off the back of his car. While he wasn't able to stop, he did manage to slow down somewhat before his dragster slammed into the netting at the end of the track. The impact folded the car.

Niver's death is the second in a month and the third this year at an NHRA event.

A New Jersey man died during a qualifying round at the NHRA SuperNationals in June.

Back in February, a spectator was killed at Firebird International Raceway during the NHRA Arizona Nationals. During a first-round Top Fuel run, a tire came off Antron Brown's dragster and bounced into the stands, hitting and killing the Wisconsin woman.

An NHRA spokesman declined to comment on Sunday's wreck, saying only that the investigation had just started. The NHRA has extended its sympathies to Niver's family.

Niver, who built his own cars and engines, had been racing in the NHRA for more than 20 years. He won his first race just two years ago in Topkea, Kan. He had two national wins in Top Alcohol Dragster, including a 2008 victory in Seattle.