Driver Dennis Zickrick, of Fort Collins, Colo., was completing a time trial for Speed Week at about 9:30 a.m., when his Lakester, a custom-built racing car, began sliding sideways, went airborne and crashed on its side, said James Lattin, race director and president of the Southern California Timing Association.
Speed Week is an annual event on the Salt Flats that attracts several hundred drivers who compete to set speed records in a range of categories.
The Wendover Fire Department and emergency workers on hand for Speed Week had to extricate Zickrick from the car, which was "pretty well disintegrated," said Matt Chavez, an emergency medical technician for Wendover's ambulance service. Zickrick, in his mid-50s, was taken by helicopter to University Hospital.
The vehicle, which has run the Salt Flats for 19 years, crashed because of driver error, Lattin said.
"It did everything it was supposed to do; it protected the driver. It's a pretty hard crash," he said.
Zickrick, who has driven at the Salt Flats for five years, was conscious and speaking when he was transported from the scene, Lattin said.
"He was mad that he'd crashed the car," he said. "It was very heartbreaking."
- Nate Carlisle and Erin Alberty