Kramer Williamson died doing what he loved.
The well-known Palmyra race car driver passed away Sunday evening less than 24 hours after he was competing at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown in his famous Pink Panther racing car. He was 63.
Williamson was racing in a qualifying heat of the United Racing Company's 360 sprint car series when the wheel of his car clipped that of another car, causing his No. 73 sprinter to hit a fence, land on all four wheels and then bounce onto its roof.
"It was a normal-looking sprint car accident with an abnormal and tragic result," said Alan Kreitzer, the part-owner of Lincoln Speedway.
Williamson had to be air-lifted to York Hospital following the 8:30 p.m. crash Saturday, and he died around 5:30 p.m. Sunday after surgery and being listed in critical condition.
Monday evening, Williamson's car was parked in the front lawn of his North Grant Street home in Palmyra where friends and fans placed flowers and momentos next to the racer. A pink sign that read "God Speed Kramer" and listed the years of his life was adjacent to the No. 73.
"He was fun. We was a practical joker," Kreitzer said. "He was a wise-guy when he wanted to be.
"But he was well respected around the country. His exploits in racing were not just local but also national in scope."
Williamson was enshrined into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa, in 2008 and was inducted into the first United Racing Company's Hall of Fame in 2010.
He has 67 career wins in the 360 sprint car class and three URC point championships, with his last URC win coming at Delaware International Speedway on April 30, 2011.
Dan Culhane, a long-time friend of Williamson who has also covered his career as a journalist for the Daily News, called Williamson an "aggressive" driver, saying, "You can't win races without being aggressive." However, Culhane will remember Williamson for his personality.
"He was the most pleasant person in the world," Culhane said. "When he saw someone he knew through racing, he stopped them and talked to them."
Kreitzer agreed that Williamson's personality is what set him apart.
"How well he got along with everyone," Kreitzer said when asked how he will remember Williamson. "At this stage of his career, he was the elder-statesman."
One of the last times Culhane saw Williamson was in June in Long Pond at a Pocono ARCA race. Culhane was walking to the track when Williamson noticed him and flagged him over to his trailer where he was helping his grandson market racing shocks.
"He was a down-to-earth person," Culhane said.
Culhane also recalled Williamson's generous side.
"On the track, if someone asked him for this or for that,
he gave it to them," Culhane said. "If someone was running against him, he would give the competitors spare parts.
"You can't say anything bad about him, except if you were the one he beat. He was a wonderful person."
Kreitzer and Williamson attended Cumberland Valley High School together, with Williamson graduating in 1969, two years before Kreitzer. Williamson started racing full-time in 1968 and was named Rookie of the Year at Silver Spring Speedway. A year later, he was track champion.
Racing stayed in his blood, and not only did it quickly become his favorite hobby, it also became his business. Williamson began constructing frames for sprint cars, calling his business Kramer Kraft.
"He built many, many race cars," Kreitzer said. "Many of his cars won races. His adult life was racing."
"He lived in a garage. He lived above a garage," he said. "Lately, people brought frames back that were bent and he fixed them."
While he was a renowned car builder, he was best known for the race car he drove - the No. 73 Pink Panther.
"He always did. When he started racing at 18," Kreitzer said when asked how long Williamson has been racing a pink-colored car. "In high school, he had a pink 1968 Mustang. It's not a color you associate racing with normally."
This weekend, Lincoln Speedway, along with the Selinsgrove, Port Royal and Williams Grove tracks, will be collecting funds for the Williamson family. It's a show of support by the four tracks that Williamson raced at with the traveling URC series.
"It's a tribute to Kramer in recognition of what he did in his career," Kreitzer said. "He won at all of these tracks.
"He wasn't committed to any one track. His impact with racing was all over."
Fans attending this Saturday's race in Selinsgrove have been asked to wear pink in Williamson's honor as well.
Saturday's stop at Lincoln was the only one of the season for Williamson and the touring URC cars. But despite the travel involved in the weekend racing, Williamson was never alone, and his family was on hand Saturday night to see his final race.
"He raced as a family. That certainly wasn't unusual," Kreitzer said. "That's the kind of person he was. He was a family man."
Williamson is survived by his wife Sharon, son Kurt, daughter Felecia and brother George. A viewing will be held at Rothermel Funeral Home, 25 W. Pine St. in Palmyra, on Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. and again Thursday from 9-11 a.m. prior to the 11 a.m. funeral service. Burial will be at Gravel Hill Cemetery.