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Benefit ride Sunday for injured racer

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Friends and fans of a local drag racer will gather at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) this weekend, to raise money for the driver in the wake of a serious accident at the track.

A car show and benefit ride will be held Sunday at noon, to honor Jeff Brown, of Locust Grove. Brown, 43, was injured in a crash at AMS Sept. 10, during a Friday Night Drags event.

Matthew Simmons, marketing and promotion coordinator at AMS, confirmed that a driver was injured in a wreck at the speedway and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Simmons did not identify Brown by name.

Steve Kidd, of McDonough, has known Jeff Brown since 1980, and said he was in attendance at AMS when Brown's accident occurred. Kidd said Brown was approaching the finish line during a drag race, when the car he was driving malfunctioned at roughly 150 miles per hour.

"A bolt came out, which caused the car to turn to the immediate right," said Kidd, 47. "He had no control. It was not a driving error. Before [the car] even got to the grass, it was on two wheels and started flipping."

Kidd added that Brown remains in intensive care at Grady Memorial Hospital.

The Benefit for Brown will consist of a car show, which will feature motorcycles, trucks, all-terrain vehicles, and drag racing cars, according to the event's organizer, Jerilynn Robinson, of Hampton. The fee to enter the show is $10 per vehicle, she said.

The fund-raiser, Robinson added, will also include a bake sale, yard sale, food and disc jockeys. The benefit ride will start at 2 p.m., "for whoever wants to join us," said Robinson, 37.

The route begins at AMS, and continues on Ga. Highway 20 to Ga. Highway 81, before returning to the speedway, according to Robinson.

Robinson said she is putting the benefit together with assistance from some of Brown's co-workers and fellow racers. A long-time racing fan, Robinson said, although she did not know Brown personally prior to the wreck, she wants to help him because they both belong to a "family" of racing enthusiasts.

"I'm a fan of dragsters, and a fan of NASCAR," said Robinson. "I'm going to stick with my family."

Damon Cantrell, 40, of Hampton, said he participated in a prayer vigil for Brown Tuesday. "I've been spending time with his family in prayer, and trying to keep their spirits up," he said. "All we are trying to do is to raise money for Jeff's medical care, and any needs they have at this time."

Cantrell said 100 percent of the proceeds from the benefit will be donated to a fund in Brown's name at the First National Bank of Griffin.

"It will give the family something to fall back on," Cantrell said.

Robert Baker, of Stockbridge, has worked with Brown for more than 20 years, in the air-freight business. He described Brown as "private" and a generous person. "He is the type of person who would be willing to help anybody who needed a helping hand," said Baker. "He's got a great personality, and seems to get along with anybody he meets."

Baker, 61, said the aftermath of Brown's accident has been difficult for the driver's co-workers to cope with. Baker said donations will be accepted on Sunday, to help Brown's family with his medical expenses.

For more details, call Jerilynn Robinson at (678) 492-7707, or Damon Cantrell at (770) 294-4613.