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After the checkered flag flew over Friday night’s WinStar World Casino & Resort 400, MAKE Motorsports driver Ryan Ellis had to be pulled from his truck and carted off to the infield care center where he was treated and released for the flight home. Throughout the race, the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet complained of burning in his feet and his seat.
“I knew during the race that we were having overheating problems because at lap 2, the floor was on fire, so I knew at that point it was probably going to be a long day,” Ellis said by phone on Saturday. “All of the temps were OK on the truck. The floor just kept getting hotter and the seat kept getting hotter.”
As it turned out, the exhaust was sitting on the floorboard, and it heated up the floor, the seat and pretty much everything else in the car. It even melted part of the shoes Ellis was wearing during the race and boiled the water that he had with him inside the truck.
“I knew I was getting dehydrated, but I couldn’t drink the water in the truck because the water was boiling. I tried to drink it once and it burned my tongue, so that wasn’t fun,” he continued. “I started not being able to drink because only on the stops could I get water. Every time I came in, I would get a bottle of water so I could just chug it. I pretty much drank every single one they handed me and I dumped the rest of it on me.”
As if the heat and dehydration wasn’t enough, exhaust was coming into the truck throughout the race, reducing his oxygen levels and compounding an already demanding race.
“I was telling them that I didn’t know if I could finish the race,” he continued. “But I really wanted to so I just told them to have an ambulance ready after the race. I wanted to get out halfway through, but I really want to run complete races. I really need to. They had the ambulance sitting there and I couldn’t even get out. They had to pull me out and I just couldn’t sit up or anything, so they carted me off to the infield care center.”
After getting oxygen, cooled down and rehydrated, Ellis was able to make the flight home but not before ensuring he was “going to live through the night.”
Turn the clock forward nearly 24 hours and Ellis is feeling “a little bit better, a little bit messed up” but was able to make a successful trip to the gym Saturday afternoon.
“It was the least fun race I’ve ever been involved in, but I really wanted to get the finish because I know a lot of people out there would assume we were start-and-parking,” he said of Friday night’s race. “I just don’t want to put off the wrong message for the team, our sponsors or our fans. I didn’t want fans to think that we lied to them, so I tried as hard as I could to get that done.”
Despite the burns, dehydration and lower oxygen levels, Ellis not only finished the race but brought home a 20th-place finish. He wound up 15 laps down, due in part to loose plug wires shortly after the green flag flew.