CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Adam Wright didn't die alone.
When his car veered off curvy Flower House Loop in Troutman late Sunday, went airborne and crashed, one of his best friends stayed by his side.
Lizzy, his black Lab, was so protective of the 33-year-old JR Motorsports mechanic that she growled at troopers and emergency responders. They had to call in Iredell County Animal Control to restrain and remove her, State Highway Patrol Trooper J.S. Swagger said. Troopers provided Wright's family contact information to the Animal Control workers so the dog would eventually end up back with his family, he said.
Lizzy and another of Wright's best friends, Bentley, a chihuahua, are now with Wright's dad, Pete, in Troutman, said Lisa Qualls, a Mooresville town commissioner who fought tears on Thursday recalling how Lizzy refused to leave Wright's side in the car.
Qualls' fiance is a crew chief for one of the race teams at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Mooresville-based JR Motorsports. She said Wright had been returning home with Lizzy from a friend's house when he wrecked. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the State Highway Patrol.
Both Lizzy and Bentley attended Wright's funeral at Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville on Thursday afternoon.
In recognition of Wright's love of both children and animals, Wright's family asked that in lieu of flowers, people donate to their local animal shelter or to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
"His life revolved around his dogs," Brittnye Stanfill, Wright's ex-girlfriend, told The (Statesville) Record & Landmark. "If someone kept them, he'd ask for updates every hour. He'd ask me for one more photo of Bentley before bed."
Tributes from the NASCAR community poured in all week, including from top Monster Energy Cup series drivers such as Brian Vickers and Regan Smith and other famous motorsports names, including Darrell Waltrip, Bobby and Terry Labonte, and Winston Kelly, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Wright, too, came from a racing family. He was born in 1984, the same year his dad, a longtime NASCAR crew member, was on Terry Labonte's NASCAR Winston Cup series championship team.
This year, Adam Wright joined driver Michael Annett's JRM Xfinity Series No. 5 team car at JR Motorsports. He was the front-end mechanic.
"Adam wasn't average," JR Motorsports said in a video tribute released on Twitter several hours before his funeral on Thursday. "He was better. He worked harder than most. He was a better teammate than most. And he was a better friend than most.
"When his good friend Dave, a crew chief, was stuck at a race track unable to take his little girl to the daddy-daughter dance, it was Adam who stepped up and took her," JR Motorsports said. "Perhaps that's because Adam was always a family guy at heart. Occasionally, he would leave work early to eat dinner with his mother. And as you would expect, he spent a lot of time with his dad. In fact, a lot of his tools still have his father's name on them. We used to love to tease him about that."
The No. 5 team "was lucky to have him and better because of him," according to the video tribute. "He was always one step ahead. He was the go-to guy in the shop and at the race track.