Home NHRA safety measures, sand pit and catch fence save the day and driver Tommy Lee

NHRA safety measures, sand pit and catch fence save the day and driver Tommy Lee

Rod Mullins

nhraTommy Lee really rocked the Bristol Dragway crowd on Saturday afternoon. No, not Tommy Lee, the rock and roller, but the NHRA Pro Stock drag racer.

The Statesville, North Carolina driver took an unplanned trip to the far end of the drag strip at Thunder Valley during third round qualifying at the Fitzgerald USA/NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and Lee had no control over his situation.

After powering off the starting line, Lee shot down the track but something didn’t work to slow his rate of speed.

First, it was the parachutes.

The rear deck parachutes on Lee’s speeding Camaro did not deploy. Now the Pro Stock continuing to speed forward on momentum, soon Lee discovered he had another problem; he had no brakes to slow him down either.

So if plan A didn’t work and plan B is thrown out to the wind, as a drag racer, what do you? Hope your car gets slowed up in the “sand/gravel trap” or get caught by the catch fence at the end of Thunder Valley.

Lee’s Camaro hit the catch fence and lifted up and then dropped back on the trunk section of his Camaro before gravity took its course and brought Lee and his Pro Stock dragster to a resounding thud in the sand/gravel pit beneath the catch fence.

Lee climbed out of his Camaro, looked over the catch fence and walked away.

“I got out of my car fine,” replied Lee after the incident. “They have checked me out and cleared me.”

As for the catch fence, it did its job but Lee’s Camaro had to be pulled out and the fence removed and replaced, causing a delay at the track and qualifying action for over thirty minutes.

A close call for Lee and the importance of safety precautions by the National Hot Rod Association and Bristol Dragway.

Without either, it could have been much worse for Lee.

One other driver had a run in with “the pit” later in the afternoon.  Khalid alBalooshi from Dubai hit the sand and gravel after one of his parachutes did not deploy. The car did not get caught up in the fence and was later pulled out but delaying final qualifying for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series.

By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press

Rod Mullins

Rod Mullins

Rod Mullins covers NASCAR for AFP, and co-hosts the mid-week “Street Knowledge” focusing on NASCAR with AFP editor Chris Graham. A graduate of UVA-Wise, Rod began his career in journalism as a reporter for The Cumberland Times, later became the program director/news director/on-air morning show host for WNVA in Norton, Va., and in the early 1990s served as the sports information director at UVA-Wise and was the radio “Voice of the Highland Cavaliers” for football and basketball for seven seasons. In 1995, Rod transitioned to public education, where he has worked as a high school English, literature, and creative writing teacher and now serves as a school program coordinator in addition to serving as a mentor for the robotics team.