Racing a car or a motorcycle, while fun, is never quite safe. If you do it long enough, you will surely find yourself taking a vacation off the pavement. Before you end up hitting a tire wall or get your roof sanded off when you flip, you should know what to do in the event of a crash. This also applies to if you’re driving around in your daily life.
Stop the car as quickly as you can! If you’re in a drag car, pull the parachute or floor the brakes if you don’t have a chute. If you’re in a road course car, floor the brakes. If you know that you can’t save it, you might as well crash as slowly as possible. Brace your head against the head rest. Pull your thumbs away from the steering wheel so if it kicks back at you when you land or stop, you won’t have reshaped your knuckles.
As the dust settles, take a deep breath. Can you still breathe? If you can, awesome! Figure out where you landed, but you should figure out if you are on fire first. Normally, the safest place to be is in the car, unless you are on fire. Then you want to get the hell out of your car. If you aren’t on fire, you still have some choices. If the car is still moving, or able to move, try and get it off the track, or to a corner stand where a corner worker can help you out. If the car can’t move, cut the fuel and power, and wave your arms around so safety personnel know you’re alive. If you decide to drive the car off the track, make sure you don’t dump fluids all over the track. Watch your gauges, check your mirrors for smoke and other cars, and if you have a sneaking suspicion that something is going to leak or drag, just wait for the safety crew to come to you. Stay off the racing line or dragstrip groove if you can.
Off the track, things can be just as hard. You might have had a bad crash, but thankfully not bad enough to send you to the hospital. Somehow, the track crew was able to extricate your car from the catch fence or tire wall. Watch them if you can, so they don’t cause further damage. That sounds silly, I know, but it will be easier on you if you can rebuild the car. People don’t come to racetracks expecting to crash. Most tracks will allow owners to store the car for up to a week if need be. While all tracks are different, that’s usually what you can expect. For the most part, the track will cover the cost of repairing the broken tire wall or whatever you hit. Yes, it can be rough, but gather any in-car video or data and go home. The big decisions will come the next morning.
Expect to be sore the next day. Many people have more than just money poured into their race car. Damaging or totaling a car can feel like losing a dear friend or a family member. I know this because I still dearly miss my minivan. Just know that beating yourself up won’t fix the dents. Get out into the garage or driveway and take stock. If it’s just body damage, you can get back onto the track in a couple of weeks. If you damaged the chassis or suspension, you might want to look into a new car. Suspension can get replaced, but it can cause massive problems with the chassis. Depending on the value of your car and the frequency of your racing, check out racing insurance before you have to do a full rebuild.
Many racers say that the best way to get over a crash is to win the next race. It will remind you just how much fun it is to race. Just get out on the track and have fun.