GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) - Twisted metal from the accident sits untouched feet away from the crash site. Drivers took the track Sunday to race in honor of their friend Blake Williams.
Williams, 23, was tragically killed at the Yello Belly Drag Strip in Grand Prairie just over a week ago.
Grand Prairie police and sheriff's department investigators say Williams was racing in an '80s model Thunderbird when the driver of the Mustang he was racing against lost control and crashed into him. As a result, Williams ran off the track, smashed into a tree and his car exploded. He was ejected from the car.
Many drivers are now taking extra precaution since the tragedy by installing roll cages around their cars. The cages aren't required at Yello Belly, but it's added safety in the event of a crash.
Drivers and friends of Williams didn't return to the track Sunday just to race, however. The group friends were there to help raise money for the family. In all, the effort raised nearly $15,000.
"It's hard hitting. It's a personal blow, not just to me but to the racing community," said witness and racing enthusiast Allen Roberson Jr.
The Yello Belly Drag Strip has been open for more than 50 years and is a legal alternative to street racing. It is only open on Thursdays and Sundays.
CBS11 looked into regulations and learned Yello Belly did not have a license to operate when the crash happened. The fire marshal began overseeing businesses such as this last year. The owner has since applied for a license, but civil charges could be filed in this case.
Roberson Jr. explained that the owners of the track have worked to make it safer, and have made improvements over the years. "There are now more sanctions. We have what's called a Christmas tree at the starting line," he said. "The track is glued down, so we put what's called VHT from the beginning to the end of track -- to where it's more sticky. Basically, it's tire glue or rubber cement. It helps the cars stay on the track better and not slide so much."
Roberson and other regulars at the 1/8-mile long track said that speeds can top 150 mph in just seconds and, while wrecks do happen, severe or deadly crashes are rare. "Most of the time, if you have an accident out here or at a lot of drag strips that I know of... it's just the car. The car is injured and then the driver or motorcyclist they get up and they walk away."
The driver of the Mustang also ran into a tree and was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. He is expected to be okay. Authorities are treating this as an accident and do not expect to file any charges. "People get a little loose sometimes," said Roberson, "but I haven't seen an accident in the last couple of months, at least."
Witnesses at the track said that Williams was not new to racing and was well-known around the racing community, but that his car did not have a roll cage.
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