HICKORY, NC :: It has been a couple weeks since I’ve written. We were off one week, raced one week, and then rained out the next. I was going to write a recap of last race and the changes we made throughout the week and day, however as I was sitting here on the plane flying back home to prep the car for tomorrow night I was reminded of our rocky season thus far and the things we have went through. I sit here reflecting on the series of events this past week and all the publicity that racing has received, mostly bad it seems… I began to think that Regardless of who you feel is at blame in that accident, that racing has become a much safer sport when safety equipment is used to its potential.
I feel relieved in the steps that engineers and designers have taken to make sure we the drivers are safe while in our cars. I remember back to the beginning of the season and some of the things we encountered. I have always taken safety as a must in my personal car and yet in times past there were some key elements that no one knew we didn’t do. I had purchased a Hutchins device that I used back in 2005 and wore it numerous times but it was so cumbersome that I eventually quit. Then when I began running Limited’s in 2011 I would just go without it. Some who are reading this after the fact may kill me when they read this but I’m just being honest. Looking back it was stupid and idiotic to not take advantage of all the safety equipment that was provided. As we rebuilt the car over this winter we mounted a newer safer containment seat that included a better head and shoulder support system. The guys at Williams Ebeling take great pride in their safety equipment and how it is mounted and there is a reason they do. Our lives are on the line. One improperly mounted seat or belt could cause serious injury or even death. I am thankful we spent the money and time to have this mounted correctly.
As I type this however, there is one thing that concerns me. How many drivers are there out there that are driving these cars at upwards of 60, 70, 90, even 100 mph that are not wearing some sort of proper head and neck restraint? As we are looking at expanding our racing program and have some amazing things coming in store, I realized that eventually it wouldn’t just be a recommended piece of equipment but a required piece of equipment. One that no driver should ever buckle in without. I use to be the one that said oh well, it will never happen to me. I used many reasons as to why I wouldn’t wear one. I would even laugh it off. I thought it would be uncomfortable, hard to work with or would use the line that “I can’t afford it”. There is no excuse for not taking advantage of one of these.
If we can afford a race car then we can afford to invest in our safety equipment. The goal is to make it for another race. My story is short on my realization. In April we were racing and just trying to actually finish our first race of the season when I got hooked in the right rear. This would send me careening head on into the passenger side of a fellow competitor that had already wrecked. I remember looking at his car number coming closer and thinking this is going to hurt. The last thought before I hit was where was my HANS? Now, thankfully I was able to walk away from this accident unhurt with nothing more than just a sore neck, but what if.. What if I hadn’t hit head-on, what if I had been off just slightly, what if his car wasn’t there to prevent me from hitting a concrete wall head on at full speed? God protected me that night. He protected all three drivers that were involved. It could have been ugly, but it wasn’t…
The next time I may not have been that lucky though. I made myself, my team, sponsors, and family a promise that night. I will never drive a racecar again without ALL of the proper equipment. What made all of it worse was that I told my crewchief that night I will wear it next week. We will be fine tonight. I may not have been lucky enough to have a next time. One of my close friends Anthony gave me a real hard time about it as well as my team and sponsors. The funny thing is that now after wearing it a few times, it is like second nature. I don’t feel comfortable without it. I encourage anyone that is reading this to take the time to invest in good safety equipment. Make sure its installed correctly, and most importantly USE IT. Every driver from dirt to asphalt, short track to the big leagues should have a fire retardant suit, shoes, gloves and an approved helmet as well as a proper head and neck device. It just might save your life!