No prep kingpin and Street Outlaws: New Orleans star Jerry Bird walked away unharmed following a frightening high speed crash during filming for Street Outlaws Live at the Tucson Dragway in Arizona on Saturday evening. Bird, driving he and brother Darryl’s new-to-them Ford Probe, was racing close friend and fellow “Big Easy” runner Scott Taylor in the second round of the $40,000-to-win, 32-car invitational when he lost control just after the 660-foot finish stripe, turning hard left across the centerline and nearly collecting Taylor as he struck the retaining wall and tumbled to a stop in the shutdown area.
Once it came off the ground, it took off like an airplane. It’ll look great on TV, anyway.
The Bird Boyz’ had just purchased the car, a former IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock machine, in early October and after struggling over the last couple of months to cater the chassis and engine to the no prep racing surfaces, felt they’d finally hit it right in Tucson before their fortunes took a harrowing turn.
“We don’t have a wicker bill on it yet. It’s a brand new car to us and we were fighting other problems, and finally got the tune-up right and it was flying. I felt like we were faster than everybody this weekend. The track was pretty good, I was really happy with it. There was a lot of dirt, like sand, out there and as the spectators came in on the other side there was dust flying everywhere.”
Following the ordeal, the Bird brothers trekked from Arizona direct to Wizard Racing in Holden, Louisiana, where fabricator Jason Woods will be tending to the rebuild. Jerry confirms the car is repairable, requiring a donor passenger side quarter panel off another Probe, a replacement bar in the cage, a new front clip and nose and some fresh paint.
“It looks worse than it really is. Because it’s steel, the body is all dented up. It looks like it’s all crashed up. The chassis fine,” he says. “We’ll have to put a front clip on it, but I kind of wanted to do that anyway — it’s an older-style front clip so that’s going to benefit us in the long run. But it just hurt my feelings…we spent all of last year racing and my brother and I saved up the money to buy this car and then we tear it up in a split second. But that’s what we choose to do. I know I could get another one and might go through the same thing. I know I’ll wreck again.”
“It was bad. I knew when it went over it was going to be bad,” Jerry continues. “I haven’t crashed like that in almost 20 years. I knew it was time, that’s sad to say, but it comes with the territory. It happens. I’ve driven through some s—t, been sideways and been able to straighten it out, but that’s what makes me think the lack of wing caused it, because there wasn’t enough downforce and it picked the back of the car up and just immediately turned it upside down. It went airborne and I was done, it was out of my hands from there. Once it came off the ground, it took off like an airplane. It’ll look great on TV, anyway.”
“I don’t have a scratch on me. I had all of my safety gear on, and the car was on fire and I didn’t get a burn mark on me. I couldn’t stop crying, though. I’ve never had anything that nice. The stuff I’ve always had was junk.”
The original Probe, which belongs to a friend of the Bird’s, may potentially be brought back out for a brief period, depending on his sponsor situation, to allow Jerry to continue racing in the interim while the new car is repaired over the next four to six weeks.
I couldn’t stop crying, though. I’ve never had anything that nice. The stuff I’ve always had was junk.
Given the proximity of his car to Taylor’s, Jerry recognizes how fortunate he was to come away unscathed, citing the famous Bruce Allen and Kenny Koretsky Pro Stock crash in Ennis, Texas in 2005 when Allen’s car turned across the racetrack in front of Koretsky and was struck in the undercarriage at nearly 200 mph.
“That’s kind of what this crash was, but I went over and he didn’t hit me. That really scared Scott bad. He saw me coming and knew I had crashed. I’m happy…not happy, but it could have been worse. If Scott would have hit me, it probably would have killed me, because of where I was. That other guy [Allen], he was up top and he got hit at the bottom, but I was at the bottom, so he would have tagged me right underneath the seat.”
Adding insult to injury, Bird won the round over Taylor and would have had a break single in the next round based on his draw, which would have earned him an automatic trip to the semifinals and at least a $5,000 payday.
Despite what could have been and all that went wrong, the fact that Jerry is here to talk about it and continue adding to his impressive no prep resume is proof positive that enough went right. But visions of his torn-up racecar will certainly longer for a while.
“It was a bad deal. It’s good for TV, but it isn’t good for us.”
The Tucson, Arizona event is scheduled to air March 28th on the Discovery Channel.