Eyes Wide Open


I don’t remember how old I was at the time, and it’s certain that time and age have taken some details, but I was sitting next to my mom at the time. We were in the stands at Middletown, a half mile dirt track in New York. My dad was on the track racing.

In turns one and two he fell down. The bike moved in one direction and he went another. He slid on his butt sitting upright to the outside of the track where he hit a white concrete wall back first at somewhere near sixty miles per hour. His body collapsed slumping motionless against the wall.

I have retained an image of the crash, but no emotion. I have a vague recollection of being in a miserable hospital, and my dad being home for several months wearing a back brace and sitting on the couch.

I replayed the image in my head tonight when I watched Kyle Busch hit a white concrete wall earlier today at Daytona. Busch won’t race tomorrow as he is recovering from a compound fracture of his leg.

There isn’t a racer alive or dead that did not get on his bike or in his car without knowing he could be broken or killed before making it back to pit road. And every one of them is fine with that. They are a different breed.

It’s for that reason that they must be protected from themselves. My father’s injuries would have been different if hay bails had ringed the concrete wall on the perimeter of the track. Kyle Busch would be in the 500 tomorrow, instead of a hospital bed, if he hit a soft wall instead of a concrete wall.

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