The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: An Incredible Story Of Track Safety Saving Lives by John Potts -- Thursday October 7, 2010

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Folks, I have to relay a story about something that happened at Corbin Speedway last Saturday evening. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m big on motorsports of all kinds, and I’ve spent more than 60 years watching all types of it.

Also, anybody who is a fan knows that this is dangerous stuff. People get hurt – and worse. Despite all the advances in safety equipment and the care taken, it is still dangerous. There’s a feeling among some that to take the danger completely out of it would ruin it. I’m no philosopher, I won’t expand on that thought.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There are only three real sports – bull fighting, mountain climbing, and auto racing. All others are games.”

I think the guys playing in the NFL right now might take just a little issue with what Papa said, but that’s not my subject.

My subject is safety crews. Specifically the fire-rescue people and ambulance technicians who stand by at nearly each and every race track in the country, and hope they are never needed.

As my co-announcer at Corbin, Shawn Jackson, likes to say, we hope these people aren’t needed, but it’s nice to know they’re here if they are.

I’ve worked events at three big facilities famous for their emergency services crews – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis Raceway Park, and Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee. I worked with those people, watched them in action, and was always glad they were there.

I know there are other tracks out there who are very proud of their safety crews, and I acknowledge that.

However, I never thought I’d see the kind of action at a small local facility like I saw at Corbin Speedway on Saturday evening, October 2.

In the Late Model feature, the cars of Marty Taylor of Keavy and Brian Voiles of Knoxville, Tenn. got tangled coming off the fourth turn, and both crashed hard into the outside concrete wall on the front straightaway. As the commentators on TV are always saying, this was a HARD hit. Twice.

Fire is among the most dramatic and dangerous scenes manifested in motorsports, and thanks to fire crews across the country, most drivers walk away from them unscathed.

Taylor’s car stopped nearly in place, but Voiles slid against the wall and came to a stop right in front of the track access gate, adjacent to the flagstand, and the engine compartment burst into flames.

Fire is something that every driver dreads. And it’s something that excites people, making it hard to stay calm when it appears.

Chuck Davis of Knoxville, our flagman, is an old racer who has experienced fire firsthand, suffering some injuries.

He actually went over the top of the car, and began helping Brian out. Actually he pulled him out.

Fire crews and training have come a long way, folks. Back in the early 60s, I saw a fireman at a USAC sprint car race stand and watch as a driver tried to get out of a car at the edge of the track. He didn’t know that alcohol fuel burns with a colorless flame. I did, and for some reason I had to jump in. We got lucky, and all that got burned was the sleeves of my brand new DA Lubricants jacket.

By the time Chuck had Brian halfway out of the car, there were already members of the Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department on the scene and they were extinguishing the flames. They were also checking the back of the car since the fuel cell had apparently been split.

Let’s just say that this could have had a very unhappy ending if those people hadn’t been on the ball and hadn’t known exactly what to do. The Whitley County Ambulance Service was also right there on the scene in case they were needed. Thankfully, they weren’t.

Other firemen were at Taylor’s car, making sure there was no danger of fire there and assisting Marty.

Many members of the Oak Grove department are NASCAR-certified, having gone through some extensive training to serve on the fire crew at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Never did that training pay off in such great fashion as it did on Saturday evening, and never did those people’s dedication to their craft show through in such glowing fashion.

Brian and Marty both told me later that night that they’d be sore in the morning. Brian also said Chuck was very calm, telling him to just take the wheel off and they’d get him out. They did.

A car owner who saw the whole thing called me Monday and said, “Brag on that fire-rescue crew! I’ve never seen anything like that at a local short track!”

He said Brian told him it felt like he had four or five pair of hands on him before he got his feet on the ground.

I felt like I had to pass on this story to let folks know just what kind of volunteer firemen we have around here.

As far as I’m concerned, they don’t pay enough for anybody to be a police officer or a fireman. And these people are volunteers!

God bless ‘em.

Contact John Potts

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wcfan
10/08/2010 08:15 PM
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Thank you for reminding us fans of the HARD WORK of the many volunteers and safety workers at the track and THANK YOU to all of these workers who volunteer their time so we the fans can enjoy these weekly races.