Trans Am Series Driver Dead After Crash At Brainerd

Mel Shaw Black

Photo: Trans Am Series

While an investigation and autopsy is still pending, veteran Trans Am series race driver, Mel Shaw, 70 of Voorhees, NJ was found dead in his TA4 Chevrolet Camaro after hitting a concrete safety wall at high speed, during practice 2 on Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. Witnesses say Shaw never slowed for the third corner and went straight off. Other drivers, during the ill-fated session, suggested that in turn two, Shaw was driving erratically — which could indicate a health situation, such as a stroke or heart attack.

Mel Shaw crosses the line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway June 16, 2017. Photo: Tom Stahler

Mel Shaw crosses the line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway June 16, 2017. Photo: Tom Stahler

Spectator Larry Gau, told local paper, the Brainerd Dispatch that “it was very obvious that this particular car was not slowing down enough. He was downshifting, trying to slow down … He basically went straight off the end of the track with the throttle accelerating and went almost straight into the wall.” Shaw was reportedly traveling at over 100 miles per hour as “his car kept revving up,” another spectator, Steve Hindman, told the Dispatch.

Shaw was currently participating in all the Trans Am series races in the 2017 season and had scored four top-10 finishes in class leading up to the Brainerd race weekend. His wife of 27 years, Debbie Gilmore, was also at the race and was consoled by team members and fellow competitors after the crash.

Shaw's wife Debbie Gilmore is consoled by team members. Photo Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch

Shaw’s wife Debbie Gilmore is consoled by team members. Photo Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch

Because of the extreme heat and stress of motor racing, there have been numerous drivers who succumbed to health situations prior to losing control of their competition car. Fellow driver and Brainerd International Raceway owner, Jed Copham said, “Other drivers reported that he was driving erratically after Turn 2, and when he drove off the track, he didn’t let up on the throttle, didn’t hit the brakes and didn’t try to turn. I can’t imagine an alert racer driving straight off a turn like that without attempting to avoid making contact with the wall.”


Photo: Trans Am Series

The SCCA, who sanctions the series were not immediately available for comment, however, SCCA spokesperson, Jim Llewellyn was quoted immediately following the situation, “He was a nice guy. We’re a club, and we do everything to protect our loved ones. When something doesn’t go right, it’s not great. It’s not great.”

This is the first fatality at the 2.5 Mile Minnesota circuit since 2001. offers its sincerest condolences to Debbie and the rest of Shaw’s family.

About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events and spends time with his wife and three daughters in Orange County, California.
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