BARRE — Motor racing fans were in shock and grief after an accident that seriously injured two race officials at Thunder Road Speedbowl on Sunday.
The severity of the injuries for one race official were serious enough for the DHART helicopter to be dispatched to airlift him back to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The other race official injured was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center.
After the DHART helicopter left the track, the announcer made an announcement about the condition of the officials.
“The officials that were evacuated from the speedway were conscious and alert at the time of departure,” he said, to applause from the crowd. “That’s what we have for information now. We ask that you all just bow your heads and send positive vibes or say a prayer or whatever it is you believe in, to our guys.”
News reports later stated that both men suffered broken legs in the accident. The driver of the race car involved was also reportedly uninjured and his car impounded, pending an investigation.
According to eye-witnesses, the accident occurred during a qualifying heat before racing began at the Labor Day Classic at about 12:30 p.m.
Witnesses said three race cars were travelling three-abreast around the track when the car on the outside edge of the track drove up the side of the banked track and flew over a retaining wall, crashing into the race officials. The officials were standing by a retaining wall, near the right hand side of the exit to the pits.
Todd Weaver, of Monkton, said he witnessed the accident.
“They were three-wide coming through (around the track) and he ramped up... four or five feet, the wall basically launched him – it was very bad.
“One of the cars flew over the top of the wall and there were two officials that were there that got hit by the car,” Weaver said. “One of the (officials) flew against the wall but the other one was actually under the car and they had to pull the car back in order to get him.
“I hope they make it. I hope it turns out good because you never want to see anything happen to anyone,” he added.
Another witness, Bill Pecor, of Rutland, confirmed what happened during the accident.
“Three cars were running side-by-side, and (for) one of them, there was no room, so he went over the wall, and, I could be wrong, but it looks like he pinned that guy to the wall — one of the track officials,” said Pecor. “It was in a qualifying race. There were more cars but there was three cars side-by-side, and you just can’t go three side-by-side in that corner.
“I raced for 10 years over at Canaan speedway in New Hampshire and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he added.
After two meetings between officials and race drivers, the announcer said it was decided to “pull the plug for today” and that ticket holders would be notified about refunds or a reschedule date.
Officials also put out a notice on the Thunder Road Speedbowl website.
“The 41st Labor Day Classic at Barre’s Thunder Road has been postponed due to an on-track accident that occurred during qualifying,” the release said. “An announcement regarding the completion of the program will be made later this week.
“Near the conclusion of a qualifying race Sunday, a race car flew over a retaining wall and struck two track officials,” the release continued. “The officials were transported from the track for further treatment and evaluation. Both officials were awake and alert at the time of their departure. No other information is currently available.
“Out of respect to those involved, drivers from all divisions voted to postpone the completion of the event. Information regarding rainchecks will be announced at the same time as the make-up date
American-Canadian Tour (ACT) qualifying was partially complete at the time of the accident with Tyler Cahoon, Dylan Pavea and Ryan Kuhn taking wins in the heat races,” the release added.