Speedway spectator, 57, killed by shrapnel after driver crashed into wall


Spectator Paul Ballenger died at the Hartwell Speedway in Georgia (Picture: Hartwell Speedway/Ginn Funeral Home)

A 57-year-old spectator was killed and two others were injured when a Speedway driver crashed into a retaining wall – showering onlookers with shrapnel.

Paul Ballenger, 57, from Royston, Georgia, died on Saturday night at the Hartwell Speedway following the freak accident.

According to county sheriff Mike Cleveland, Ballenger lost his life when one of the drivers, during the later races of the evening, lost control of his car’s steering and crashed into a wall.

Parts of the car flew through the air after the accident, cutting through a chain link fence designed to protect fans in attendance, and hit members of the audience.


Paul Ballenger Jr., 58, of Royston, passed away Saturday evening, July 3, 2021, from injuries at the Hartwell Speedway in Hartwell, GA. Credit: Ginn Funeral Home https://scontent.fbgi2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.6435-9/212432259_10158810009091896_368786781081087249_n.jpg?_nc_cat=109&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=973b4a&_nc_ohc=hCB3FlpcM7YAX8PW429&_nc_ht=scontent.fbgi2-1.fna&oh=37eb96eb3c4330ed0a4d5127e7b48976&oe=60E94507

Paul Ballenger, of Royston, Georgia, died on Saturday evening, July 3, from injuries sustained at the Hartwell Speedway (Picture: Facebook)

Ballenger sadly died at the scene, according to police, while another unidentified man in his 30s was injured as well as a nine-year-old child.

Meanwhile the driver of the Speedway car managed to walk away unharmed.

‘(I’ve) been around racing all my life, my daddy raced, I raced, my whole entire family’s raced, and I’ve never seen anything like that’, said witness Eddie Segars in an interview with FOX Carolina.

He said he was in the pit area where the crash occurred and added: ‘Everybody’s traumatized of what happened especially to what happened last night.

‘All of our racing community’s coming together and waking up and maybe we can figure out some ways to prevent this from happening next time.’ 

Segars explained that Ballenger was a regular at the track and was always willing to talk about racing with him.


Paul Ballenger Jr., 58, of Royston, passed away Saturday evening, July 3, 2021, from injuries at the Hartwell Speedway in Hartwell, GA. Credit: Ginn Funeral Home https://scontent.fbgi2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.6435-9/212432259_10158810009091896_368786781081087249_n.jpg?_nc_cat=109&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=973b4a&_nc_ohc=hCB3FlpcM7YAX8PW429&_nc_ht=scontent.fbgi2-1.fna&oh=37eb96eb3c4330ed0a4d5127e7b48976&oe=60E94507

Ballenger was a passionate motor sports fan (Picture: Facebook)


Hartwell Speedway on their facebook page

Hartwell Speedway released a statement on their facebook page following the incident (Picture: Sharilyn Neidhardt)

In response to the tragedy, Hartwell Speedway posted a statement on Facebook, writing: ‘Everyone at Hartwell Speedway ask that you please keep those involved in the tragic accident tonight at the Speedway in your thoughts and prayers.

‘We would also like to thank all those who came to the aide of those injured.’

WSB-TV reported that investigators are looking into how debris managed to make it past the chain link fence and into the stands.

The Hartwell Speedway is a 3/8 mile clay oval dirt track in the city of Hartwell, which is about 110 miles away from Atlanta. 

Ballenger was an auto body repair technician at the Ed Murdoch Ford Dealership in Lavonia.

An obituary on the Ginn Funeral Home website states that Ballenger is survived by two daughters and a son-in-law, as well as 14 grandchildren.

Ballenger was set to celebrate his 58th birthday this week and a services for the him will be held on Thursday. 

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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