NHRA Top Sportsman Drag Racer Janke Killed in Crash at New York Track

NHRA Top Sportsman Drag Racer Janke Dies in Crashsstop - Getty Images

Longtime NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series racer William "Bill" Janke, 57, of Newburgh, N.Y., died from injuries suffered Sunday during Top Sportsman eliminations at the Division 1 race at Lebanon Valley Dragway.

According to New York State Police Trooper Aaron J. Hicks, the department’s public information officer, Janke’s accident occurred around 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Hicks’ report said Janke “lost control of his vehicle for unknown reasons and struck a barrier. Janke was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency medical service personnel.”

Witnesses said Janke’s car burst into flames as he crossed the finish line in a victory against Lawrence Willard and left the New Lebanon, N.Y., racetrack.


Janke’s wife, Meredith Howard Janke, posted on social media:

“I would like to firstly like to thank everyone for their prayers. I'm crying my eyes out posting this. My husband Bill Janke who I love with all my heart has gone to heaven today after a horrible car crash that took his life.

“He absolutely loved drag racing! It was his life and passion. Please know that he loved his drag racing family! You were the world to him!

“I truly loved my husband with all my heart and I really don't know how I'm going to survive this.

“We met on a blind date and fell in love instantly. He asked me to marry him 2 months later and married a year later. This August we would have celebrated 29 years. I can't imagine my life without him. I'm sorry for my rambling. I just loved him with all my heart. He truly was my lifeline.

“Once I have made arrangements I will let everyone know. He loved you all! Thank you!”

An article in the publication County Local News said, “Janke’s impact on the NHRA community extended far beyond the track. He was known for his generosity and willingness to help fellow racers, always offering advice and support to those in need. His warm personality and sense of humor made him a beloved figure in the racing world, and his presence will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”