McCarl on the Mend

TMAC at Knoxville (Paul Gray Photo)

TMAC at Knoxville (Paul Gray Photo)
TMAC at Knoxville (Paul Gray Photo)
From Bill Wright

May 12, 2015 – Terry McCarl is on the mend after a nasty crash last Saturday night at the Knoxville Raceway. The Altoona, Iowa driver was in a prone position when he was hit by another car. A fractured vertebrae was the diagnosis, but TMAC fells blessed that it wasn’t worse and he’s feeling better than expected and hopes to be racing again soon. The TMAC Motorsports #24 will be at the Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois this Friday night for the FVP National Sprint League vs. MOWA “Sprints Gone Wild” event. If TMAC can’t be behind the wheel, then his son Austin will be.

The week started last Wednesday with the Sprint Invaders at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa (home of the 20th Annual $20,000 to win Front Row Challenge on Monday, August 10). “I was actually planning on Austin running at Osky, but I hadn’t run in so long and at that point, it looked like it was going to rain out the weekend again,” says TMAC. “On the first start of the heat (starting fifth), we were able to get the lead. They called that one back for someone else, and that hurt us on the second one. The guys in front of me weren’t going to let that happen again.”

He would finish third in the heat and start ninth in the feature. “We don’t race 360’s very often, and the track kind of fooled us,” says TMAC. “We had a little too much gear in the car. Our Rider engine runs great, we just had too much gear. That showed because we were driving by guys on the bottom early, but once we got to third, and the momentum was up top, I just couldn’t build any speed. That’s where we finished. It was a good way for us to get out there and learn something. You can do that every night, and you need to.”

The NSL hit Eagle Raceway in Nebraska on Friday night. TMAC would time in third quick amongst the stout 30-car field. “I haven’t raced a 410 there for years,” he says. “I did race Jeremy Scadden’s 360 there last year. We went out late in qualifying and turned a really good lap. I was pretty happy with that. Our motors are just running really well. Our whole program…I’m comfortable every time I’m out there, it’s just a matter of whether we’re really good, or we’re perfect and we win. Doug (Rankin) is doing such a good job.”

He would start sixth in the heat and grab the fifth and final transfer spot. “We were a bit tight in the heat,” says TMAC. “This NSL thing is so tough. It’s like an Outlaw show really. You invert six and take five…someone really good is probably not going to make it out. There’s a lot of pressure there, but we made it.”

The redraw for the main event went well for TMAC. “A cute little girl in the grandstands drew a two for us and we were sitting pretty well,” he says. “(Brad) Loyet had the preferred line on the start, and it was going to be difficult to beat him with that moisture on the bottom. We tried to hang with him and wait for something to happen. Unfortunately, our good friend Lynton (Jeffrey) got upside down. That gave us an open red, and we were able to change a shock and make a couple of adjustments to the car that made me feel a lot better.”

On the restart, he set his sights on Loyet. “I was trying to move around a bit,” says TMAC. “It was a fun racetrack. They did a really good job to get the race in with all the rain they had. It made it a tricky racetrack too. The straights by the fence were really slick, there was a lot of moisture on the bottom, and Eagle has the big bank…you want to get up there and build some speed eventually. I was trying to do that and Brian (Brown) got by me. I headed back to the bottom and waited for traffic.”

After a battle in the top three, TMAC would settle for sixth at the checkers in a thriller of a race. “We were able to get by Brown again, and the middle groove was coming in,” he says. “That got me up on the bank with some moisture too. I thought I had a good shot at winning the thing. I just got caught up by a couple of lapped cars. I came up on one I just couldn’t pass. If you follow a lapped car for a lap or two, you get slowed down to their speed and that’s where I was. I think we were second with four laps to go, and we ended up running sixth. It was my fault. It’s my job to get through traffic. Again, we were really fast and right in the hunt. If you make mistakes with this NSL, you’re going to get passed. There’s no margin for error.”

The beginning of the night at Knoxville may have been an omen. TMAC would lose an engine in qualifying. “I’ve been with Tommy Rider and his engines for years and I’ve never blown one,” he says. “I’ve broken a rocker arm and a valve spring. We’ve had some minor things. We sent it back and we’ll see exactly what happened. It shows how strong our engines are that the one lap I had in qualifying, I slid across the bottom into turn two. I nailed three and four. I came down the front straight thinking about how horrible my lap had been. We still ended up sixth quick, which shows you how great our motor is.”

The team got the motor changed and TMAC went from fifth to third in a tough heat race. “We put our backup in that has quite a few laps on it,” he says. “We ran it out in Vegas. It was just a rocket ship. We were able to go from fifth to third in the heat. I watched the heat before ours, and Brown was in the same spot. He didn’t make it out. That goes to show how tough these NSL races are. I was concerned, but it worked out. The ART Chassis and Rider engine were strong.”

He would draw a three for the main event. “The redraw worked out for us,” says TMAC. “On the start we were great on the bottom in one and two and I thought I had a good shot at passing Wayne (Johnson). Down the backstretch, the steering was funny. I thought I was just spinning my tires a little bit. I drove down in three and four and wondered what was going on.”

Unfortunately, it was mechanical. “Something in the front axle broke,” says TMAC. “The top of the wheel kind of fell in. From turn four on, I was just fighting to keep it straight. It was wanting to go left, and I was trying to turn it right. I was teetering back and forth. We were running third coming off of four, so there are 21 cars behind us going 100 miles an hour plus. It’s difficult for those guys to see you. It’s the first lap and they’re all in a big bunch. Unfortunately, for Brian (Brown), he got into our front left and did some damage. It’s upsetting and unfortunate, but really, he’s lucky he didn’t flip his butt off, destroy his car or hurt himself.”

That changed the position of the #24. “When that happened the car turned sideways and I thought, ‘Oh man, this is bad,'” says TMAC. “That’s the last thing I wanted to happen. When I crash, I get as far into the fetal position and close my eyes as tight as I can. I knew someone was going to hit me. I wish I could explain how hard of a hit that was. I’ve been in crashes before, but this one was different. Even by the time (wife) Lori got there all the way from our pit, I still thought I was hurt really bad.”

TMAC is thankful for his safety equipment. “I just can’t say enough about these seats and the safety equipment,” he says. “I’ve broken both my legs, and been hurt every way you can be. I run everything that Butlerbuilt sells. I’ve got the driveline padding, the bell housing stuff, the driveline belt, everything. I’m so happy our sport went to the weight rule back in the day. We have a bar across the back of the seat that keeps the rear-end from going into the tailbone. The rear-end hit me so hard that it bent that bar. It’s exactly in the spot where my back is fractured. Back in the day, it would have been really bad. I also had the Butlerbuilt seat insert. It’s like the Indy car guys have. You pour it in after you sit in your seat and it molds to your body…plus I have another jelly pad that Butlerbuilt gave me a few years ago. Without all that, I would have been a lot worse off.”

You can see TMAC’s head snap in some of the video footage. “Really my neck doesn’t hurt,” he says. “These seats that we have now don’t allow your head to move that much. I’m pretty amazed at how good I do feel. It was such a disappointing thing, but you look back and think about how lucky we were. It’s part of what we do. Accidents are going to happen. Everyone was able to walk away, which is the most important thing. It took the whole front off of Brad’s (Loyet) car and he was able to walk away. If you watch the video, you’ll see RJ Johnson did a great job of missing us, and ran into the fence destroying his car. I know that’s a bummer for him. It was a heck of a crash, but what matters is we all walked away.”

TMAC will know more today about his health. “I’m going to the orthopedic surgeon today,” he says. “Unfortunately, I already know him by first name. After that, we’ll know where we’re at. I feel pretty good. I think I’ll be back soon. We’ll see what the doctor says.”

Missing time means missing out on a fun battle with his competitors at Knoxville and the NSL. “It really motivates me to run against the guys that we are right now like Danny (Lasoski) and Guy Forbrook,” says TMAC. “I’m just disappointed. I wanted to compete with them with no excuses. Although this is a legitimate one, it’s still an excuse. I just wanted to battle them and see how it turned out. That’s the disappointing part of it, but it is what it is. I’ll be back stronger than ever. It just motivates me to get stronger.”

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