SLINGER, Wis. (CBS 58) — Slinger Super Speedway owner Todd Thelen estimates there have been approximately 500,000 laps in “The World’s Fastest Quarter Mile” since the track was resurfaced in 1974. During those hundreds of thousands of turns, many shipwrecks have occurred, but not like Sunday night.
“This is the first time something like this has hit the pedestal,” Thelen said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the sport, but it’s one of those things that we know can happen and we’re prepared for when it does.”
About six laps into Sunday night’s Pro Late Model race, a caution at turn two brought the field to a stop on the front straight. Video obtained by CBS 58 shows the driver of car 01, Ryan Gutknecht, climbing the right rear tire of the car ahead and launching himself into the air for a wild ride that would knock down a significant portion of the security fence and hit the flag. stop.
“When he hit, I knew he was up against the fence,” said Gutknecht, returning to work Wednesday with only a sore foot. He had no idea that he had hit the flag stand.”
Gutknecht said it was a track announcer who informed him that his car had hit the flag stand, with the flag-bearer and junior flag-bearer at the stand at the time. At the time, Gutknecht said his mind immediately went from his race car to his racing family.
“The car can be fixed. The car can be replaced,” Gutknecht said. “Racing is family. Seeing a friend of yours go down like that, it’s tough. Knowing you had a part in it, it was a scary situation.”
The flag man was transported to a local hospital where he was checked out and released that night. The junior flag bearer was shaken but not injured. Thelen says the safety precautions put in place at the track helped ensure the driver, officials and fans made it home safely.
“It’s just common protocol and whatever track you go to, there are security arrangements that are always being watched and we do everything we can and I think that showed on Sunday night,” Thelen said. “Even when something bad happens, we have systems in place so people don’t get hurt.”
The evening’s racing could not be resumed with the fence not being able to be repaired in such a short time. Work is being done on the track throughout the week to prepare the circuit for the season finale, scheduled for this Sunday afternoon. Thelen says the work to make sure everyone on the track is safe is never done.
“The riders accept responsibility, but it’s our job to keep the fans safe and that’s what we did on Sunday night,” Thelen said. “Race cars collide and sometimes it looks really bad, but most of the time people walk away and luckily this is one of those times where everyone walks away.”
Thelen says work is underway to strengthen the security fence at the track and the flag stand itself.
“The systems that are in, they’ve been time-tested,” Thelen said. “But why not make it better and stronger if you can?”
As for Gutknecht, not only did he walk away from the terrifying accident, but he is hopeful of getting back behind the wheel this weekend to try and win a late model pro championship.
“Something like this happens, it’s a rare incident, but sometimes it leads to improvements, which is a good thing,” Gutknecht said. “I’ve never felt in danger getting in the car. If I can find a car, I’ll be there on Sunday.”
Racing begins at 2 pm on Sunday afternoon for the season finale at Slinger Super Speedway. Doors open at noon.