A few brief, scary moments followed a crash at a drag race in El Reno this weekend. The driver walked away uninjured, and event organizers said it is because he took all the proper precautions.
The annual Small Town Street Drags are possible through a partnership with the City of El Reno, and safety measures are a must for the event to continue. Crashes like this one are exactly why.
For 25 years, the El Reno Cruisers have been racing every chance they get, but it is not always a smooth ride. There have been two wrecks in the six years of the city-sanctioned event on Old Route 66.
“It’s not if it’s going to happen, in any kind of racing, it’s when,” said race flagger James Miller. “It’s going to happen.”
This weekend’s crash started as a match-up like any other, but soon after the drivers put their pedals to the metal something went very wrong, and cheers turned to screams.
“I see the car go over on its roof and we all just took off running,” Miller said.
City emergency crews swarmed the silver Mustang, which veered to the left and crashed into the concrete barriers in the middle of the road. The car flipped multiple times before landing on its side, still accelerating. The driver, though, was just fine.
“He had a full jacket on, helmet on, five-point harness on, so he was safe as he could be,” said Gene Thomas, one of the El Reno Cruisers.
Investigators think the accelerator got stuck, causing the crash.
Fans were lined up as the Mustang zoomed towards them, but concrete stopped the car in its tracks, literally.
“That’s the first time those barriers were ever hit,” said Ryan Sorrels, an event organizer with El Reno Cruisers. “One of them rolled a pretty good distance, but it did what it was supposed to do, keep the car from going into the crowd.”
Police say they allow the racing not only because the funds raised go to charity, but also because they know the cruisers are serious about safety. The city also stages officers, medical teams and a medical helicopter at the event each year just in case.
“Our primary concern is not only the drivers but also the spectators because it does draw a fairly large crowd,” said El Reno police Chief Ken W. Brown.
Organizers are already coming up with ways to make the races safer next year.
“We’re actually going to barricade right in front of the crowd so we’re triple protected,” Thomas said.
So far, these races have raised more than $70,000 for local nonprofits. The cruisers hope to eventually move to a larger venue that is even safer.