Almost two years ago today, NMCA racer Barbara Nesbitt was rushed into the intensive care unit at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her last elimination pass at zMax Dragway in nearby Concord had gone horribly wrong. As Nesbitt deployed the parachute on her Nostalgia Pro Street 1968 Camaro, the driveshaft let go and came through her driver’s compartment. Nesbitt was left with a shattered elbow, several broken ribs, broken fingers, a bruised lung, laceration to her liver, and contusions from her collarbones to her knees.
Now here’s where the story gets interesting. Today, Goldberg Weisman Cairo, a law firm out of Chicago, Illinois has filed suit on behalf of Ms. Nesbitt. The lawsuit names the NMCA, the NHRA for the lack of rules, ProMedia (the company that owns NMCA), Skinny Kid Race Cars, who built her car, and Ted Peters, the tech inspector who signed off on her chassis certification, as defendants. Nesbitt maintains that her car did not have the required drivetrain cover, and Peters, the tech, signed off on her certification, allowing her to race anyway.
In the wake of the lawsuit, angry racers and fans are coming forward, saying that the NHRA rule books at the time of the accident didn’t include the tunnel that could have potentially prevented such an unfortunate accident. With or with out the rule in question, who do we have to blame but ourselves for making the conscious, willing decision to get behind the wheel of mid-seven second drag car? Undeniably, a big part of drag racing is the risk.
No one goes to the track looking to get hurt, but if not for the adrenaline rush, it wouldn’t be much fun. That said, racing can get scary at times, and the rules and protections that exist are certainly in place for a reason. Even when safety measures are followed to a tee, other racers have had accidents. In 2008, Dale Creasy’s transmission separated from the bellhousing in his Chevy Impala Funny Car. Four years, seven surgeries, and zero lawsuits later, Creasy is back in the sport, and actively racing.
Anyone who has so much as stepped near the starting line of a drag strip has had to sign a waiver and release of liability. Given the sanctioning bodies involved, and the level of racing that Nesbitt was participating in, there’s no doubt that she had done the same. So who is to blame? What safety measures can and should be taken in classes like Nostalgia Pro Street to prevent incidents such as this one? Lastly, what impact will this lawsuit have on the racing industry? Tell us what you think.