The NASCAR community is in mourning after William "Rowdy" Harrell, a pit crew member for Hendrick Motorsports, was killed in a head-on car collision alongside his new bride while on their honeymoon.
Harrell, 30, and his wife Blakley, 23, died on Tuesday night in the Florida Keys, just three days after their wedding, according to the team.
"Our entire team is absolutely devastated at the loss of Rowdy and Blakley," No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives said in a statement on Wednesday. "They were such positive, giving and passionate people who could not have been a more perfect match. Rowdy had an energetic and infectious personality. He was the heart and soul of our team and always kept us motivated, no matter the circumstance. Rowdy shared his love with the people around him and was loved in return."
"Although he will be greatly missed, his memory will continue to inspire us always. Our prayers are with Rowdy, Blakley and their wonderful family," Ives added.
The fatal crash occurred on 9:40 p.m. when a 2020 Toyota Corolla driven by Harrell passed over the center line on U.S. 1 near Lower Matecumbe Key, according to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol obtained by The Miami Herald.
Harrell's car reportedly collided head-on with a 2013 Ford F-250 pickup truck that had tried to avoid it by driving onto the shoulder of the road.
Both Harrell and his wife were pronounced dead at the scene, while the truck driver — a 62-year-old man from Tennessee — was taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier with minor injuries, the outlet reported.
Two other female passengers in the truck — age 58 and 62 — suffered serious injuries and were transported to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and Jackson South Medical Center in Kendall, respectively, according to The News & Observer.
All drivers and passengers were wearing seatbelts and authorities are investigating whether alcohol was involved in the crash, the newspaper reported.
Harrell was a tire carrier with Hendrick Motorsports for the last eight seasons, most recently working with on the No. 88 in the NASCAR Cup Series for driver Alex Bowman. He also served as a pit crew member in two championship seasons for JR Motorsports.
"Rowdy was everything that made the 88 team, the 88 team," Bowman wrote on his Twitter Wednesday. "The biggest personality and the best person. He was the happiest person you’d ever meet, and that was only reinforced by his wife Blakley. Rip to an absolute legend. You’ll be missed every single day brother."
Other members of the pit crew also paid tribute to Harrell in the wake of his death.
"Rowdy was one of the most happy, kindest souls I’d ever met and one of the greatest on pit road," Kevin Hamlin, a spotter for the No. 88 team, tweeted "I feel so terrible for his and Blakley’s families, and this team won’t be the same without them."
No. 88 fueler Jacob Conley wrote on Facebook, "Life is such a fragile thing and it can change in an instant. You never know when you’ve given someone the last hug or sent them the last text or cracked your last beer with them. The hauler will be a little quieter on race day and the van rides too but the light Rowdy shined on so many people will not burn out anytime soon. I know him and sweet Blakley Harrell will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll miss our late night chats in the hotel rooms on the road talking about nonsense and I’ll crack a busch light for you buddy."
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