ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) – A 48-year-old driver died Saturday after a single-car accident at a race in southeastern Wisconsin.

Thomas Thrash Jr., of Houston, was pronounced dead Saturday morning at a Sheboygan, Wis., hospital, the Sports Car Club of America said. He was participating in the SCCA-sanctioned Chicago Region June Sprints event at Road America.

Witnesses reported that he lost control of his E Production class Mazda RX-7, with the car entering the gravel trap and ending up against the tire wall.

Club spokeswoman Erin Cechal said the accident happened during a qualifying session that started around 9:10 a.m.

He left the course before a turn, then crossed over the course before going into the gravel. She did not know how fast he was going, but said he was not trying to avoid another car.

His car was damaged and had to be towed away, she said. His cause of death is under investigation.

He would have been the fastest qualifier for the race later Saturday, she said.

He was a 12-year veteran of SCCA competition and the 2007 SCCA national champion in E Production.

In a statement, SCCA president and chief executive officer Jeff Dahnert described him as a great champion who “epitomized the spirit and competition of SCCA racing.”

The Sheboygan County sheriff’s office referred calls to Road America. A message left there Saturday was not immediately returned.

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AP-ES-06-20-09 1557EDT

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