Racing Again in Mt. Vernon

Racing Again in Mt. Vernon
By: Carly O'Keefe
MT. VERNON, IL --Since August 20, race car driver Doug Higgerson has been missing two members of his pit crew. Donald Roznowski and Jeffery Conner worked to keep Higgerson's car on the track winning races.
Driver Kevin Beattie's car left the track and went crashing into the stands during a qualifying run August 20.
The crash killed 51-year-old Roznowski and 18-year-old Conner, both of Du Quoin, IL.
"I never thought anything like that would happen I thought I'd be the one involved in something and I have been and I never dreamed one my crew members would be affected like this," Higgerson said.
Saturday was Higgerson's first time back racing at the Mount Vernon Speedway. Ironically, prior to the accident, Higgerson was having a great season. 
"We're second in points this year, it's the best year actually."
It was also to be his last year behind the wheel. Higgerson planned to retire at the end of the season, but once Roznowski and Conner were killed, he thought he'd end the season early.
 "I even said at the funeral, we're done."
Thoughts of his fallen crew members kept him from giving up. 
"Donnie would have wanted us to come back, Jeff too, it's just not a time to quit. It's time to go on."
But Higgerson didn't want to drive on as if nothing had happened. He says he wanted to honor the two members of his pit crew that will no longer be in the stands cheering him on. 
"I just felt it'd be better to come back and face the situation and pay our respects," Higgerson said.
Higgerson arranged a memorial service to honor the two men. The drivers took part in an honorary lap around the track. Higgerson lead the pack with two memorial wreaths hung on the front of his car. Ribbons tied to the wreaths each read a name: Donnie and Jeffrey.
"Donnie's lookin' down he'd appreciate everything we're doing. He sure would," said Driver Mike Higginson.
And after the ceremony, the races went on, although many say it will never be the same. 
"I'll have Donnie and Jeff riding with me, I feel like they'll be there with me, so that'll be good, but it'll be different without them," Higgerson said.
Saturday was the first time the track opened for races since the accident. There were a few improvements made to the raceway to ensure crowd safety. Extra concrete retaining walls were placed between the track and the stands and more thick metal cables were added to the barrier fence to keep cars and debris away from the audience. 

Memorial donations can be made in honor of Jeffrey Connor College Scholarship Fund, make checks payable to Sherry Wertz.

Send donations to:
Pam Logan
c/o Marshall Browning Hospital
900 N. Washington St.
Du Quoin, IL 62832
or the Donald Roznowski Memorial Fund: at
Du Quoin State Bank
15 E. Main
Du Quoin, IL 62832