Battle Creek Enquirer Sports Columnist Bill Broderick says the death of race car driver and Coldwater native Scott Brayton is a story that sticks with him 20 years later.
Brayton had won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 for the second consecutive year. But he was killed in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway days before the race. Broderick says it was the first story he worked on after starting at the Battle Creek Enquirer 20 years ago. He interviewed Brayton’s parents and his widow for a story on the accident that took the driver’s life in May of 1996.
Broderick says Brayton was one of racing’s biggest stars at the time. He had been in 14 Indy 500’s over his career with several top 10 finishes. The Brayton family is big in racing circles. Scott’s father, Lee Brayton is a former racer who made many of the motors for the cars at Indy. Lee Brayton told Broderick that he witnessed the accident, and at first didn’t think his son had been seriously injured. But Scott Brayton’s car hit the wall sideways, and his head slammed into the wall.
The Brayton family still owns its engineering business in Coldwater. Broderick says they still make engines for race cars, and Brayton’s parents still go to Indy just about every year at least for the time trials. Becky Brayton, Scott’s wife, worked in the family business for a while after his death. She married another race car driver. Brayton’s daughter Carly is now 22 years old. She was only two when her dad died. Becky Brayton told Broderick that Carly now wants to know more about who her dad was.
Broderick says it’s hard for people outside racing to understand how people can stay involved in the sport after losing a family member. But he says people in auto racing realize more than anybody that there can be tragedy. Broderick says racing families accept the risk as part of the sport.
Brayton’s smile and personality were common themes family members mentioned to Broderick. But they also said he had a determination on the track. Scott Brayton was 37 years old when he died practicing for the 1996 Indianapolis 500.