YOU'RE IN GOOD HANDS
Rescue Keeps IHRA Drivers and Fans Safe
is a sport defined by milliseconds. When a 1/4 mile race may only
last for 5 seconds, the slightest imperfection in the motor, a hesitation
by the driver, or a minor change in the atmospheric conditions can
alter the outcome of a race. It sounds strange to say, but by breaking
the sport down into small circumstances, one can understand just
how delicate a drag race is. While these thunderous, boisterous
beasts blast down the quarter-mile, evoking a symphony of horror,
inside the cockpit, drivers are juggling eggs with the often-irritable
Based on years
of trial and error and advancements in technology, the vehicles
are constructed to withstand the worst accidents. With a properly
constructed roll cage and strict adherence to other safety measures,
a driver can live through just about any wreck. But the procedures
utilized by a safety team after a wreck are just as important as
the measures taken to prevent the wreck.
2004, was a day Bruce Litton will never forget, nor will anyone
in attendance at San Antonio Raceway that day. During the semifinal
round of Top Fuel, Litton defeated opponent Grant Flowers. However,
immediately after crossing the finish line at over 300mph, the dragster
veered right, into the wall, bounced across the track and into the
left wall before coming to a halt. Litton was airlifted to Brooks
Army Medical Center, a Level One Trauma Center in San Antonio. After
a few hours, Litton was released and back to the track with a concussion
and a headache.
know, today my life was spared and I just hope that everyone saw
the angels surrounding this car," remarked Litton later that
evening. "God spared my life today."
In 2002, IHRA
began a partnership with Sarasota, Fla.-based TRACK
RESCUE. The company is headed by Chief Craig Clarke,
a veteran in the safety and rescue business with over 25 years of
experience. Clarke's first endeavor into motorsports was at Desoto
Speedway in Bradenton, Florida.
local crews weren't really doing much to advance safety at the events,"
said Clarke. "From my involvement at Desoto, I quickly saw
motorsports' need for increased and enhanced safety services."
his TRACK RESCUE business
are well respected in the industry. Due to his vast knowledge of
safety and rescue, Clarke was called as an expert witness during
the Wolfgang vs. Mid-America trial after a crash in 1992 at a track
in Kansas City. According to Clarke, the case changed the way liability
releases are written today.
has worked in just about every form of motorsport, including AMA,
Supercross, Motocross, Circle Track racing. In addition to all Hooters
IHRA Drag Racing Series events, they also cover USAR Hooters Pro
which is made up of certified firefighters and/or EMTs, typically
consists of seven people, two rescue trucks, two four wheelers and
two local ambulance units. To ensure proper preparation for any
occurrence, the team combines guidelines established by the National
Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Council of
Motorsports Safety (ICMS), and standards dictated by IHRA to create
a secure environment above and beyond that of protocol. The main
duties of TRACK RESCUE
include but are not limited to fire suppression, extrication, rescue
and track cleanup.
though we are cross-trained in medical, our role is to make the
scene of the accident safe," said Clarke. "Usually the
ambulance crew can't come into a scene until it is safe. Once the
area is secure, we can hand the patient off to the EMT's and physicians."
key ingredient to IHRA's safety team is the on-site physician, to
access the driver's condition and administer any necessary medical
action. IHRA has five physicians: Dr. Jon Beezley, Dr. William Caudill,
Dr. Carlos Falcon, Dr. Rob Genzel and Dr. Dave Templeton.
Dr. Rob Genzel
was the physician on-duty during Litton's crash at San Antonio Raceway.
Genzel, originally from Webster, N.Y., started his career as an
EMT at the age of 18, becoming a paramedic at 20. A graduate of
Cornell University, he's been a staff doctor since 1995. Today,
Genzel is a staff physician in the Emergency Room at the Medical
Center of Plano. He is also the Medical Director for Texas Motor
Speedway, Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point Raceway), Southwest
Helicopters (an EMS helicopter service), Frito Lay, Dean Foods...if
you don't get the point, Genzel knows his stuff.
TRACK RESCUE team and the on-site, emergency physician,
IHRA's safety team has established a well thought-out plan to provide
a safe weekend. Each event now has state-of-the-art equipment and
supplies. It's a traveling hospital, with products such as a LIFEPAK®12
defibrillator/monitor from Medtronic Corporation, airway equipment,
IV supplies and an entire drug/medicine box. However, pre-event
planning is just as important.
venue that you go to is different," said Genzel. "And
a major part of what we do is get some advance information and make
requirements of the local promoter. We need the local ambulance
services on-site and to know the location of local medical facilities
and airlift services."
key components add up to one of comprehensive medical teams capable
of handling any medical situation, even a wreck at 300mph.
wreck is a pretty typical wreck," said Genzel. "We were
down at the top end and he was traveling towards us, so we didn't
move until the vehicle came to a stop. His event occurred at the
finish line, he slid down and basically stopped in front of the
Once the vehicle
came to a stop and the rescue crew determined the scene clear of
any threat, they jumped the wall and ran over to the car, it was
so close. They radioed the tower and according to emergency plans
already in place, many IHRA officials helped secure the scene. The
rescue crew assessed Litton in the vehicle, and the decision was
quickly made to call in the airlift.
Bruce, called for the helicopter, and then we needed to cut him
out of the vehicle because we were concerned about neck or back
injuries," said Genzel. They decided which part of the roll
cage to cut, and began the process. "Bruce was talking to us
at this point."
As the rescue
team moved Litton and stabilized him on a stretcher, the aircraft
was on final approach. He was given oxygen and an IV was started.
The rescue team consulted with the airlift team, and Litton was
airlifted to the trauma center.
the entire process took about 15 to 17 minutes," said Clarke.
cars are designed for driver safety," said Genzel. "He
stayed within the roll cage. That is why we have certain safety
standards. Drivers who abide by those standards can come through
some pretty horrendous-looking wrecks."
all the proper procedures," said Clarke. "I felt it went
smooth as far as rescue goes; everyone did their job to aid the
safety team is just one example of the advancements IHRA has developed
to ensure everyone enjoys the "IHRA experience," said
IHRA Director of Competition and Technical Services Mike Baker.
"IHRA has taken steps in the last three to five years to create
for fans, officials, and most importantly our drivers a safe and
secure venue. The safety team is a highly specialized group of workers
and one of the few private groups to travel with a series.
more attention is paid to administrative planning - where is the
closest hospital, where is the airlift. We've invested an extended
amount of time and effort into this program and the result has been
a significant improvement to our overall safety."