Safety is key at BCMSP

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 2004

When a racecar driver straps in prior to a race, they are aware they could be seriously injured or even killed.

A 27-year-old driver paid the ultimate price earlier this month when his race car sailed over the banking at a Cullman County dirt track and hit a piece of heavy equipment.

Keith Hays of Morris was going between 80 and 100 mph when his car went airborne over the banking and then traveled between 100 and 150 yards outside the track before hitting a log skidder. Cullman County Coroner Gary Murphree said Hays died of massive closed-head injuries.

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With the possibility of serious accidents looming every Saturday night, Butler County Motorsports Park track owner Bo Thagard said he uses all precautions necessary to make sure drivers are safe.

&uot;We have a fairly safe racetrack,&uot; Thagard said. &uot;We built it with a lot of safety in mind. That’s the reason we have a rescue squad there waiting just in case something happens. So many tracks don’t have rescue squads there on the scene. We have two very capable men sitting there waiting to assist anybody that has any problems.&uot;

Thagard pays for the rescue crew out of his pocket each week. He said having the crews would set his mind at ease if he was zipping around the racetrack each Saturday.

&uot;If I was out there racing, I would sure feel a whole lot safer with rescue squads on hand,&uot; Thagard said. &uot;If somebody was to have a bad wreck, I don’t know how to go out there and get him out of the car without hurting him. We want to have somebody on the scene that can do that. It’s a dangerous sport, but it’s assuring to know there’s somebody sitting there to help you, if you need help.&uot;

Thagard has owned the racetrack off and on for the past nine years. He said he’s been fortunate that no terrible accidents have occurred at the track during those years. He said some drivers have suffered broken bones and bruises, but nothing life threatening.

In an effort to assure drivers are safe, Thagard said track officials perform pre-race inspections before every race.

&uot;We look at all the vehicles and make sure they have a fire extinguisher in them and make sure they have a good harness system and a good roll cage in them.&uot;