Chuck Demory had no idea. From the outside everything looked normal.
When he started the long trek, Barbara Nesbitt launched on a single pass. By the time Demory reached the top end, Nesbitt’s car was at a stop in the shutdown area short of the turn off, sitting still in the middle of the track.
Nesbitt has been a friend to the Demory family for years, so once he’d driven his admittedly “slow” golf cart to the final turn-off, he handed his son his time slip, then drove 400 feet further up track to give his friend a ribbing.
“I was going to go out and tease her; to tell her to get her car off the track,” said Demory, a former mountain motor Pro Stock driver. “I figured she just shut it off or stalled it and she's not big enough to push that puppy.”
Demory hadn’t noticed any emergency vehicles rolling from the top end or from the starting line, so as he rolled his golf cart onto the track he was planning to help Nesbitt get her car off the track.
The closer Demory got to the stalled race car the more he realized something was terribly wrong.
“They don't allow you to circle on the track on a golf cart; but I figured they wanted the car off the track so they could continue running,” Demory explained. “As I approached the car I saw the driver's door underneath the car, which scared me. I jumped off the golf cart and ran over there.”
The sight was one Demory will never forget.
“She had the presence of mind to kick the door off to try to get somebody's attention,” Demory said. “She recognized me. As I ran up to the car she was screaming and moaning in anguish to help her. Her arm and the drive shaft were entangled. I am surprised it didn't pull her arm out of the socket. Her arm was wrapped around the driveshaft probably twice. When it came up through the floor it probably grabbed her arm, rolled it around and she was just screaming and she felt the blood running down her arm. She was pulled to the side so (her) helmet was actually choking her.”
Awaiting the arrival of the safety crews, Demory untangled her arm from the driveshaft, moved it to her lap, untied her helmet and released her safety belts in an attempt to calm the injured Nesbitt. He alertly turned off the power to the car once he realized the fuel pumps were still running.
“This elapsed time, from me leaving the starting line with the golf cart to (getting to her race car) this has gotta be five to six minutes,” Demory estimated.
According to Demory, Parent, who had just raced his son, fired his race car and drove to the emergency vehicles in the shutdown area to get an ambulance rolling. Just as Parent fired, the first responder from the starting line on a four-wheeler arrived on the scene.
The emergency workers arrived, according to Demory, as Nesbitt’s condition took a turn for the worse.
“She was near shock,” he recalled. “The woman was obviously in a lot of pain. It took them a long time to get her out of the car. They did it very cautiously. They did it very professionally.”
Demory admitted Nesbitt’s run didn’t look anything out of the ordinary and certainly gave no indication of the hell which had transpired within the cockpit just shy of the finish line.
“The door was still on when I first went by,” Demory said. “After I made the turn, then I saw the door down. So, no indication to me about what possibly could have gone wrong with the car. That driveshaft, the picture on Competionplus.com, that's a piece of it. The longer piece had a 180 degree bend in it. Sharp bend. That's where her arm was entangled.”
Rhonda McCole, photographer for Attitude’s CompetitionPlus.com, captured part of the driveshaft exiting Nesbitt’s Camaro.
“When my son lifted up the passenger door, it fell off,” Demory continued. “Obviously that driveshaft did a long of damage inside that car. Her arm, her right hand, was literally dragging on the ground because the driveshaft obviously grabbed it and pulled her down.”
Nesbitt remains in Carolina Medical Center [Charlotte, NC] with several contusions on the right side of her body after the car’s driveshaft or other parts entered the cockpit and struck her. Among her internal injuries are a lacerated, but not bleeding, liver and bruised lung. She has a crushed right elbow, several broken ribs, a broken index finger on the left hand, bruises and cuts from her collar bone to her knee.
She has undergone one surgery to remove loose bone fragments and clean up her injuries.
A post by her daughter on the NMCA’s message board forum said the surgeons at Carolina Medical Center have never seen such an extensive elbow injury. Despite her wounds, Nesbitt is still able to move her hand and fingers.
The accident has generated many questions. Why the safety response was delayed and what in the future can be done to prevent a similar freak accident and if it does transpire, lessen the risk of injury?
The safety team for the NMCA/NMRA event was provided by zMax Dragway.
Christian Byrd, General Manager for zMax Dragway, said his crew followed the proper protocol for a stalled race car which was all Nesbitt’s car appeared to be.
“From all of our observation points, there was nothing to lead us to believe anything had happened other than the rear end locked up. There was nothing odd about the pass.
“As soon as we were aware there was a medical condition, appropriate medic, fire, and response team reacted. A lot of our fire personnel are trained EMT’s as well.
“Based on the nature of the incident and there being no visual cues that anything was wrong with the race car other than it came to a stop on the race track, everything was responded to as quickly as possible. As a team we responded as quickly as possible.”
As for the safety aspects of the car, Demory believes there are adjustments which could be made to the race cars.
“[Nostalgia Pro Street] It's pretty close to the Top Sportsman NHRA safety rules,” Demory said. “They [NMCA tech] go over the cars pretty well. You have to have a front hoop and back hoop; so that if it does get loose hopefully it stays contained in the two hoops. It doesn't require a tunnel like in Pro Stock. Maybe they should look at that. That's not an expensive item to put in a car.
“I think if you are going to run a steel driveshaft they should increase the diameter of them. A three inch driveshaft with a 3,000 pound car, with 1700 horsepower with those nitrous cars, I don't think they can hold it.
“Something went wrong with the car. The back of the transmission – you can see the whole back of the case is gone. Something let go. It's a freak accident. She is probably lucky she is alive. The driveshaft hits her any higher God knows what it would have done. She is really lucky it didn't rip her arm out of the socket.”
For Demory, Nesbitt’s accident doesn’t discourage him from letting son Chuck Jr. race.
“The way his car is built, we got two big hoops in there, we got a tunnel in there; I use an aluminum big piece drive shaft,” Demory explained. “If that was to break it would break in a million little pieces. I've run those on my cars. I don't run a steel drive shaft. We're running some heavy cars out there. If you're going to run a steel driveshaft you better run a big one because they break.”
Demory understands accidents will happen. This is hurts more than others because he has been friends with Nesbitt for a long time.
“Obviously it was a terrible ending to a weekend because it's not only seeing someone else get hurt, it's somebody we care for a whole lot. A good friend of ours.”
The one part of the incident which bothers Demory is the response time.
“If it was my son sitting in that car for 10 minutes waiting for an ambulance there would be a lot of people in ambulances today,” an emotional Demory said. “I have been to hundreds of National events in my life, primarily as a participant. You get stalled on the track; they hustle out there. One, to make sure there is nothing on the track. Two, to get you off the track to keep the program running and to make sure you’re not hurt.”
In the same posting on the NMCA’s forum by Nesbitt’s daughter updating her condition, the family has praised the facility for the efforts made by zMax Dragway’s management.
“Zmax Dragway has gone above and beyond everything that I could have expected,” daughter Susan posted.
For now, zMax Dragway has stepped up with support for the family by accommodating family members traveling to Charlotte to be by her side.
“Our staff at zMax Dragway and Charlotte Motor Speedway have continued to communicate with the Nesbitt family to receive updates as well as make accommodations for relatives coming to Charlotte,” confirmed Byrd. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara Nesbitt and the family.”
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