Leon Gonyo, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified driver from New York, died Saturday night at 63 after experiencing a “medical event” during his victory lap at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vt.
Gonyo was celebrating his win in the speedway’s last asphalt Whelen All-American Series Modified race of the season when the “event” occurred and his car hit the frontstretch retaining wall.
A release from the track said Gonyo, a native of Chazy, N,Y, “utilized proper safety equipment including an approved helmet, seat, and restraining belts. The car was inspected following the incident and was deemed to be mechanically and structurally sound.”
Track official Dick Therrien sustained minor injuries when Gonyo’s car struck a ladder that he was standing on.
Unresponsive, Gonyo was taken by ambulance to Rutland Regional Medical Center where he never regained consciousness.
A track official told NBC News a cause of death had not been determined by Monday but that symptoms suggested Gonyo suffered a stroke.
Gonyo was a 40-year race veteran and his win Saturday night was his fifth at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in 2015 and his seventh overall.
Fellow racer Bucko Branham shared his thoughts about Gonyo with the Press Republican in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
“His demeanor didn’t change much,” Branham said. “The biggest thing about him, I mean, he was soft spoken. I think that’s probably why (fans) liked him.”
Plattsburgh is the home of Airborne Park Speedway, where Gonyo had 25 feature wins, his first coming on June 1, 1985.