Wrecks are a part of racing. It's not a part of the sport that a true race fan particularly enjoys seeing or reading about, but it is something that can't be avoided when drivers push themselves to the limit to try and win a race. Hopefully when all of the dust settles, everyone walks away without injury and there isn't too much torn up race equipment.
Every so often, there will be a wild wreck where everyone is okay, but those who witnessed it can't understand how that happened. Those are the wrecks that showcase the value of solid racecar construction and good safety equipment. Those are the wrecks that people talk about for weeks, even years, to come. Those are the wrecks that usually only happen once in a blue moon.
During the Saturday racing program at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), however, that type of wreck happened twice. In the 50-lap Late Model feature and the 150-lap PASS North Super Late Model race, there were two wild and almost unbelievable incidents that will leave everyone talked for a long time.
Everyone involved in the wrecks were uninjured.
In one incident, a driver was a up and coming teen and in the other incident, the driver involved was one of the most accomplished short trackers in the land. But both competitors proved to be cool customers and calmly took us through their wild rides not very long after they took place.
The first wreck came when Late Model driver Cody Bodwell ended up taking a quick trip through the pit area and off into the trees surrounding the track. It was the type of incident that nobody likely thought was possible.
After Bodwell's wreck, observers figured that they would have to wait a long time before seeing something so wild happen again at the track. Unfortunately though, they only had to wait another hour or two. That was when Kelly Moore ended up wrecking in the same area during the second half of the PASS North race.
This time, Moore flipped, bounced off walls and ended up parked wrong-side-up on a cluster of Jersey barriers in the pit area.
Even though both wrecks happened in the same spot of the track, it is not an area that is known for trouble. WMMP has been in operation for over 15 years and longtime observers at the facility can only recall a few major incidents in the same area of the track.
A few seasons back, Walt Hammond hit the same area of Jersey barriers where Moore landed on in a stock-framed racecar. After that incident, the barriers were reinforced by a pair of beefy steel and concrete posts.
Last year, Norm Andrews rode the same wall that Moore launched off of, but his car stopped around the time it was halfway up to the actually pit area entrance.
The pit entrance area at White Mountain is also where Mike Rowe caught on fire in Carlton Robie's Super Late Model several years ago in a PASS North event after the fuel cell split open. That scary wreck was captured on film and served as the old backdrop for the Speed51.com front page for several years. However, the fact that this incident occurred in that particular spot had nothing to do with the layout of the track. It is just where Rowe came to a stop after a wreck heavily damaged the rear end of that car.
Both Bodwell and Moore talked to Speed51.com after their wrecks and here are their accounts.
Kelly Moore's Wild Ride
Kelly Moore started on the pole of the PASS North race and led laps early. He settled into the top three as the race wore down, but late in the going everything changed for the driver of the #47 Super Late Model. That was when Moore got together with the lapped #20 car of Steven Legendre on the backstretch.
Moore hit the outside retaining wall on the backstretch. The impact put the #47 up on its side, with the roof visible to all on the fronstretch. Moore's car then landed on all four wheels and shot across the entrance to the outside pit road. It appeared to pick up speed and hit the left side pit road wall hard. The impact occurred right in front of PASS official Bruce McMahon, who narrowly avoided being hit. McMahon was stationed behind the retaining wall during the race to be able to do his job of flagging pit road open or closed.
The impact into the pit road entrance wall shot Moore's car into the air, where it flipped and rotated. The car finally came to rest on its roof on top of a pair of Jersey barriers.
After a few tense moments, rescue workers were able to get Moore out of his car unharmed.
“It was a wild one,” said Moore. “It happened quick. The #20 got loose, it wasn't intentional, but he tagged me. When he did, I just went into the outside wall and I hit it head-on. I was full-bore and when I hit it, I flew. Then I flanded and I believe that I hit the inside, left-side pit wall coming in. That flew me in the air and I rolled over. I landed on top of the Jersey barriers and that bent the [rollcage] halo right down on my head.”
After coming to a stop, Moore had to face the hardest part of his wreck - getting out of the car.
“I was hanging there upside down and the first thing that you think of as a driver when you get in a wreck is fire. When you're right side up, that's one thing. But when you're upside down, that's different. I started unhooking myself and there was a hole about the size of the top of a cooler. The Jersey barrier was about 12 inches from me, so I couldn't get out. So I undid my belts and that dropped me to the roof. Then I was trying to take my helmet off, but I was sitting on my head. So I couldn't get that off and it wasn't good.
“Now I was getting anxious. It was kind of like getting in a fight when someone is holding you. I've been in those and that is when they want to be holding on tight, because I want to get loose. So I couldn't move. They couldn't even get in to see me. Pretty soon, someone climbed over the Jersey barrier and got in the car. They asked if I was alright and I could see their head.”
Moore is the winningest driver in the history of what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He's been around racing for decades and taken his share of licks through the years. So even a wild ride like the one at White Mountain wasn't a shocking occurrence for him.
“I knew what was going on, I've been through enough wrecks,” said Moore. “They feel like they are in slow motion when they happen. They happen fast, but if you replay it it feels like slow motion. There's a boom….boom….boom.”
Even though everyone at the track was horrified to witness Moore's wreck, the soft-spoken driver wasn't very rattled at all when it was going on.
“Everyone else was more scared that I was,” said Moore. “For me, it was just happening.”
While Moore's car served its purpose and protected its driver, the car is now finished with its racing days.
“The car is definitely junk,” said Moore. “You can't just put a snout on it, you'd have to put a whole new halo. I bent that right on my head. That cement barrier came right in through the roof.
“It's just unfortunate because my guys work so hard, the NAPA guys really support me. And I've been having a great time. But we can replace a car.”
Bodwell Takes a Trip Into The Trees
During the 50-lap Late Model feature at White Mountain, Cody Bodwell got involved in one of the many wrecks during the race. He was caught up in a turn two incident and then headed to the outside pit road. That is when things went from routine to wild.
When Bodwell headed up the pit entrance ramp, he found that there were no brakes on his #73 car. Bodwell had built up a good head of steam heading back to the pits, so he needed to find some way to stop. The Jersey barriers right in front of him would have meant a head-on hit, so Bodwell turned to the right.
That is when Bodwell hit a chain link fence and shot across the dirt pit area. He pointed his racecar where nobody was standing or walking and went between two open trailers with Mini Trucks loaded on them and the pit area of fellow Late Model driver Dan Colby's team. After going across the pit area, Bodwell hit another chain link fence. This time, he went right through it.
Amazingly, Bodwell hit in an area between two fenceposts. The chain link curled up to allow his car to pass through and then curled down immediately. The fence was not damaged, nor did it look like anything was out of the ordinary afterwards - other than the fact that there was now green and purple racecar seeing on the other side of the fence wedged into the trees.
After going through that second fence, Bodwell's car sailed through the air. It landed hard and was stopped by approximately six small trees. This kept the car from heading down a tall embankment and into a neighboring river.
After the incident, word spread through the pit area that the wreck was caused by a stuck throttle. That was not the case though.
“Everyone kept saying that my throttle hung open, but the throttle was fine,” said Bodwell. “I had no brakes. Around lap 10, the brakes were starting to go a little bit, but I still had them. Then, after I spun out, I started to head up the ramp and there was nothing at all.”
Bodwell didn't panic. He thought quickly instead.
“I decided that I needed to do something,” said Bodwell. “Turning left there is really difficult and I didn't want to hit the wall [Jersey barriers], so I decided to just turn right. Nobody was standing there and I missed the trailers and the trucks. I missed all of that and didn't hit anything there. I don't know how I did it, but that's what I went with.”
Yet while Bodwell managed to avoid hitting anyone, or anything, else, he still though that he was going to end up going down the embankment and into the river.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “That fence wasn't going to stop me. The trees did stop me, but those were softer than anything else.”
After his impact, Bodwell climbed out of his car and back up into the pit area with a little bit of assistance. He was uninjured except for a small cut above his eye.
Ever the racer, Bodwell soon turned his thought to assessing the damage to his car. Amazingly, Bodwell believes the car will be back in action this coming weekend.
“I don't know. Really, after we looked at the car, it isn't too bad. The damage is mostly cosmetic and the front clip is bent. But we can fix that. The radiator is junk and I don't know how the rear end is yet, but really it didn't get a lot of damage. We'll bring it home and start taking it apart to see what we can do. We'll figure it out. I think we'll be back next weekend.”
Getting the car out of the woods was not an easy task. After a brief red flag to make sure everyone was okay, it took a few hours to develop and implment a plan of attack to get the car back into the pits.
Eventually, portions of the fence was taken down and a John Deere diesel front end loader / backhoe was used to pull the car out. Chainsaws also came in hand, as several trees needed to be cut down for the recovery.
Bodwell is a 19-year-old rising star at White Mountain Motorsports Park. His father, Charlie, raced and won with his signature lime sherbet-colored racecars at Lee USA Speedway (NH) for many years before hanging up his own helmet to help his son go racing. Since then, the younger Bodwell has advanced through the classes at White Mountain, starting in the Mini Truck division and now starting his second season in the headlining Late Model class.
“The last few years, I've had fun here,” said Bodwell. “But that is a first for me going into the trees. Hopefully, it is a last."