It Seemed Like Time Just Stopped
Today, four days later, I still can’t shake the image of three race cars headed towards Pit Steward Dean Gallison, age 50, who was standing down by the wall near the pits at Thunder Road last Sunday.
From where I stand, I don’t have a great angle to see what’s going on where Dean was standing, and has stood for thousands of laps up to this point.
I do recall seeing three Flying Tigers cross the finish line three-wide, taking the white flag. I remember seeing the cars crashing into the wall. No big deal, I’ve seen it many times before.
But then, out of nowhere, I spot Dean and it looks like he’s running. My first thought was he’ll be OK he isn’t in the path of the car but it appears they may be very close.
Then all of a sudden I see Dean flying towards the wall in front of pit grandstands. He appeared to be traveling very fast. Then I saw him lying there and at that point I thought for sure he was dead. I turned away and looked down. I don’t know how long I just stared at the ground. At that time it seemed like time just stopped. But after a while I looked up and saw my son Nick hugging his wife Brit and his 15-month-son Logan. The look on his face was that of pure horror.
I then spotted my son Linc sitting on the ground with his head in his hands. My wife Julie made her way towards me with a blank stare on her face and we hugged.
The place was silent. After a few minutes, a few people started to cry. Not a lot of the fans were talking. A great deal of them were standing. Not many fans left.
As I stood there I made up my mind, I would never go back to Thunder Road and I’m done writing a weekly racing column. Come to find out, there was a second official hit. His name is Jonathan Lemay, he’s 23. He was asked by ACT Head of Tech Pete Knight to replace Randy Potter who worked in tech with Pete in 2018. When he’s not with the Tour he works with the infield crew at WMMP.
I flashed back to about 30 minutes earlier when I was walking towards the grandstands and, as I passed Dean, I said enjoy your day. He stuck out his hand and we shook and he replied you have a great day Grandpa. He’s called me Grandpa ever since my first grandson was born.
I thought back to about five minutes before the crash when Tina, Dean’s wife, was standing up with the bunch of us visiting with the little ones and their moms.
My mind flashed back to the first time I saw Tom Curley after he found out Nick was getting married the same day as a Tour race at Beech Ridge and Dean and Tina told Tom they were going to the wedding and not the race. Tom jokingly blamed me.
I remembered the winter night in January, years ago, when Dean and Tina made the trek across the state to come to my bowling alley’s 50th anniversary.
After a while there was talk of two helicopters in route. That was a good sign, knowing they don’t use ’copters to transport people who have passed.
Then came word they were both awake and alert. Word from the pits was the officials took a poll of the drivers and they decided to not continue racing.
Wow! They both survived. And, yes, I’ll be going back on September 14. Both Dean and Jonathan are expected to make a full recovery.
Officials have announced the Labor Day Classic has been rescheduled for September 14 at 5 p.m. The event had been postponed this past Sunday following an on-track accident that occurred during qualifying.
As part of the rescheduling, Thunder Road’s Barre Granite Association Championship Night has been moved to September 22 at 1:30 p.m. All Thunder Road track champions will be crowned at that event as previously planned.
However, the post-race pit party that was scheduled for Championship Night will remain on September 14 as part of the Labor Day Classic schedule. Thunder Road will now officially celebrate its 60th season of racing following its oldest event – one that began in the track’s inaugural season of 1960.
Much of the Coca-Cola Labor Day Classic remains to be completed. Several qualifying races are still on tap for the ACT Late Model Tour and Flying Tigers. They’ll be followed by the Labor Day Classic 200, the 50-lap Flying Tiger feature, and the 50-lap Burnett Scrap Metals Road Warrior Challenge.
All general admission tickets and pit bracelets from September 1 will be honored at the make-up date. Those who are unable to return on the 14th can mail their tickets or bracelets to the Thunder Road/ACT offices for a full refund. These must be postmarked prior to the 14th.
September 14, the pits open at noon and the front gates open at 2 p.m. The event will be followed by a post-race pit party featuring the 40th U.S. Army Band Iron Sights.
Next up is September 15 at Oxford Plains Speedway
SEPTEMBER 7 – It’s Staunch Security Kids Bike Giveaway “Bullies Suck” Awareness Night.
Fans will see the DIRTcar Sportsman Coupes, USAC DMA Midgets, Limited Late Models and four Cylinders. Gates open at 3 p.m. Racing starts at 6 p.m.
SEPTEMBER 7 – Championship Night for all divisions. Flying Tigers will run the last of their Triple Crown series No. 3 (75 laps). Also Late Models, Strictly Stock Minis, Dwarf Cars and Kids Trucks. The Dwarf Cars will also run a make-up feature from June 29.
SEPTEMBER 7 – Race No. 4 of 5 for the Creative Counters/VT Solid Surface Late Model Series. Fans will also see the Tiger Sportsman, Street Stocks, Daredevils, Bone Stocks plus the Kids Pit Tour. Post time is 6 p.m. The rain date is September 8 at 1 p.m.
• The final race (No. 5) is scheduled for September 22. They’ll run 75 laps on the 7th and 100 laps on the 22nd.