The news hit hard, he said.
Five miles from where Haas stood preparing his car to race, John Beckett rolled his 1930s Crosley competition coupe at a speed of more than 200 mph during the second day of time trials at the Bonneville National Speedweek - an annual event that draws as many as 20,000 people to the Salt Flats east of Wendover.
The news of Beckett's death sent a ripple of shock through the tight-knit racing community that had come to know the 58-year-old North Carolina man during his more than 20 years behind the wheel.
"This is like one big family," said Haas' nephew Tom Haas. "When something like this happens, it's like losing a brother."
A former president of the East Coast Timing Association, which organizes and regulates top-speed race events along the eastern seaboard, and a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club, Beckett was remembered by friends and racers as an experienced driver and dedicated race organizer.
The Bonneville raceway has two tracks - one five miles long and the other seven miles long. The straight-away tracks run in a V-shape from a central starting point. Beckett crashed at the five-mile mark of the seven-mile track just as he was reaching top speed, race officials said.
Paramedics found Beckett strapped inside his car, which despite the speed and impact of the crash, was mostly intact, said race official Roy Creel. Beckett's car was taken from the track and will undergo investigation as race officials work to determine the cause of the crash, Creel said.
The crash delayed racing for about 90 minutes as crews worked to clean the debris from the track, Creel said.
The race cars must pass a 50-point safety check conducted by two inspectors to qualify for racing. The last death during the annual event, now in its 57th year, was in 2003, Creel said.
Beckett was one of 539 racers to break the 200 mph speed mark on the Salt Flats since 1927. He joined the prestigious group in 1992 at a speed of 210 mph.
"He knew what he was doing and he also knew the risks," David Haas said.
The men had spoken regularly during the past 10 years and worked together organizing events.
"I was really quite upset when I heard the news," he said.
Beckett was a former high school teacher, Haas said. He had driven from North Carolina with a team of about five people, according to Creel.
While news of the crash put a damper on everyone's mood, it did not affect participation, said Creel.
"I know John wouldn't want it any other way. He would say, 'Get out there and keep racing.'"