• Family hopes to make racing safer in wake of teenage racer's death


    MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Fifteen-year-old Niokoa Johnson was killed after her race car slammed into a concrete barrier at an Ocala racetrack Saturday night.
    On Wednesday investigators inspected the car she was driving, trying to figure out what happened just before the girl lost control.
    Now another local racing family wants to use her case to spark safety changes nationwide. They spoke with Eyewitness News anchor Nancy Alvarez about their new mission.
    For the racing community Niokoa's death is heartbreaking, but for race car driver Jake Perkins it's a call to action.
    "We assume the risk when we get behind the wheel of a race car, but it's very sad when something like this happens," said Perkins.
    Perkins said he has been racing since he was 8 years old. He said he knows the excitement Niokoa felt her first time behind the wheel and he knows the risks.
    "My dad's a dentist and we didn't know the first thing about racing. And so these families who are just getting into it have no means of knowing and not by any fault of theirs, they just don't have the knowledge to know what is the safest way to do this," said Perkins.
    Perkins' said that's why he and his father are starting the Safe Racer Project.
    He said their plan is to create uniformed safety guidelines for amateur tracks and to be a resource for families getting into the sport.
    "We're going to bring the resource to the drivers and racing families so they have a means of what they can do to be as safe as possible," said Perkins.
    That also includes partnerships with companies that make the safety features common in race cars.  
    The Safe Racer Project will offer scholarships to help families with equipment that can cost thousands of dollars.
    "You can't put a price on safety and you shouldn't be on the track if you don't have the proper equipment," said Perkins.

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