Driver unfazed by horrific crash

Posted July 01, 2010, at 10 p.m.

    HERMON — Hudson’s Josh Curtis is sore.

But it certainly beats the alternative.

He was involved in an accident nine days ago during a Wacky Wednesday Big Enduro feature that forced Speedway 95 track personnel to use a special saw to cut him out of his car through the roof. He was rushed to Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center where he was diagnosed with three broken bones in his lower back, another in the middle of his back, a ruptured lung and bruised ribs.

“My engine started dying and that slowed me down. The [race] leaders came up and one of them spun me. Then another car T-boned me,” said Curtis who took a direct hit in the driver’s side of his racecar.

He could have been hurt much worse.

The night before the race, he had a roll bar installed in his car.

Roll bars aren’t required in the Enduro classes. They are used to prevent the roof from collapsing in on the driver. They also help limit the damage from the sides caving in.

Speedway 95 safety director Wayne Elston supplied him with the roll bar and Curtis had somebody else weld it in for him.

  “I had rolled my car over the previous Wednesday so I had it put in just in case I rolled it over again,” said Curtis.

“If he didn’t have the roll bar, he might not be with us,” said Elston.

Curtis had asked his brother-in-law, Adam Gardner, to bring him a five-point safety harness that would have kept him glued to his seat.

But Gardner forgot the harness and that turned out to be a blessing and a possible lifesaver.

Curtis said if he was strapped in with a five-point harness, “it wouldn’t have been good” because the impact of the car hitting his driver’s side door would have been much worse. He would have absorbed much more of the contact.

“When the car hit me, it threw me sideways. I wound up on the passenger’s side floor,” said Curtis, who was knocked out. “It turned out to be a good thing.”

When he came to, the track’s safety personnel were inside the car working to extract him.

He has learned a valuable lesson.

“I’m going to have a roll cage in my next race car,” he said.

A roll cage is much more protective than a roll bar and is required in the Saturday night classes, explained Elston.

“If he had a roll cage, he probably would have walked away from the accident [without any major injuries],” Elston said.

Elston and Speedway 95 co-owner Del Merritt are looking at requiring roll cages for the Wacky Wednesday races next season.

“We don’t want anyone getting hurt,” said Merritt.

Merritt explained that the reason he hasn’t required a roll cage or a roll bar in the Enduros is because “the cars in the Enduro [Little and Big] classes used to go a lot slower.”

But that has changed.

“They’re much faster than they used to be,” said Elston. “They’re learning all the secrets and what to do to get the set-ups right. And more drivers are staying in the Wednesday night shows instead of going to Saturday nights because of the economy. That means the drivers are better [on Wednesday nights] than they used to be.”

It didn’t take Curtis long to return to the track.

Three hours after being released from EMMC on Saturday, he was back at the Speedway 95 watching the action.

“I love racing. I love going fast,” said Curtis who returned to racing this year after a two-year absence and is wearing an upper body jacket under his clothes to help him heal. He will wear it for six weeks.

He won’t race again this year but is already planning his return next season.

“I won’t be scared to get back into a race car. I don’t have any fear of cars,” said the 24-year-old Curtis, who rolled over his own street car in Stetson seven years ago and suffered a head injury.

“I’m going to start building a Big Enduro car soon,” said Curtis, a laid-off construction worker who was driving his own street car, a 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass, when he was hurt nine days ago.

He said he is able to walk around without any problem although admitting that he is still “pretty sore.”

But he said he’s getting better and he considers himself lucky to be alive.

    Wednesday burnouts popular

  Speedway 95 has begun a burnout competition on Wacky Wednesdays.

Cars and trucks get 30 seconds to do a burnout by spinning their tires to create smoke. They must be moving. They can’t be stationary. They can either go forward or spin around.

The applause of the fans dictates the winner.

Merritt and Elston said it has been well-received by the fans.

“It’s fun, it’s something different,” said Merritt who credited Elston with suggesting it.

“I had seen it done at other tracks,” said Elston. “And they do it at Winterport Dragway.”

Merritt said it has added to a successful start for Wacky Wednesday.

“Wednesday’s have been real healthy,” said Merritt who is still concerned about car counts and attendance on Saturday evenings.

The Little Enduros had 26 cars on Wednesday which has been the highest total so far this season.

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