A 52-year-old Clovis man had the last ride of his “exciting” and “electric” life Saturday evening.
Donnie Large Sr. suffered what his family believes to be a heart attack while in a four-man race that resulted in a crash at Madera Speedway.
A Madera Police Department spokesperson says Large likely died of natural causes, but the autopsy results are pending.
Large died at the hospital a few hours after the crash. His older brother Terry Large says heart problems run in their family, as their sister and father died of heart complications.
While on lap 21 around the third-mile paved oval, Large possibly suffered a heart attack, crashed into the outside wall, into another racer, then into the inside wall, according to his family.
But, he still took first place in the race. The race was declared over at lap 21 and during that time, Large was leading the race, according to Speedhive.
“You went out the way you wanted in first place,” his brother said in a Facebook post early Sunday morning.
He was driving in the 360 Super Modified division for open-wheel cars, competing against three other drivers in the main event including his son, Donnie Large Jr.
Terry says their entire immediate family was at the speedway Saturday night. “That’s how we supported each other. Everything we did revolved around our family.”
When describing Large, he says, “Donnie was loud, boisterous and happy. People either loved him or hated him, and he didn’t care which.”
The brothers had a special connection. Terry says he let his brother drive his modified car at 17 years old. Their late father was also a driver.
On the racetrack, Large was known as “Mr. Excitement,” because he enjoyed playing the villain and mixed things up whenever he got a chance. With more than 100 victories, the crowd loved to watch him.
Large is survived by his two children, Donnie Large Jr. and Ashley Sanchez. He has seven granddaughters, one grandson and another grandchild on the way. Terry says they were his pride and joy.
The outpouring of love and support for Large’s family is nonstop, Terry says. “When someone that is 52 years old gets taken immediately — our phones are going off nonstop.”
Large’s outgoing and personable nature made him loved by many — on and off the track. “He had an electric personality that just drew you to him,” Terry said.
Terry said their father’s ashes were spread at Madera Speedway and Large’s ashes will likely be spread there, as well. “That was our home track,” Terry says.
Memorial service arrangements are pending, he says. However, he knows one thing is for sure, they will need a “huge” venue to make sure there’s enough room for all those who loved Large.
Holding back tears, Terry says of his brother, “He was larger than life.”