There are certain scenarios you don’t want to find yourself in at the end of a run behind the wheel of a Pro Mod, the worst is not being able to stop. Marc Caruso found himself living that very nightmare after a five-second pass at Bristol Dragway during the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. A failure in the parachute system sent Caruso careening towards the sand trap at a high rate of speed with no way to stop.
Every driver has their own routine when it comes to a run from the time they enter the water box, to when they are getting ready to turn off the racing surface. For Caruso, that routine was interrupted when his parachutes didn’t deploy after he finished a full pass and lit the boards with a 5.87 at 245 MPH.
“I tried to deploy the chutes like I always do and they didn’t deploy. That moment I usually feel them grab it didn’t happen, so knew something was up. I went to get on the brakes at that point and the pedal just went to the floor. I tried pumping the brakes and by the time I got done trying to pump the brakes, I knew I was going into the sand. I didn’t have any other option because at that point I hadn’t scrubbed off any speed at all so making the turn wasn’t going to happen. My goal was to try and get centered on the sand trap and prepare for impact,” Caruso says.
This was Caruso’s first time hitting the sand trap ever, but he was able to make sure the car was centered up for its trip to the beach. By keeping the car in the center Caruso prevented it from rolling over or taking flight when it entered the trap.
When the car did hit the netting and barrels at the end, Caruso said it registered a brutal negative 12 G’s on his data recorder, and then a positive 1.8 G’s when it shot back in the opposite direction.
“The impact ripped the fuel cell area off the chassis, but it’s designed to do that. It was launched up into the mountains and there’s a picture someone sent me where the fuel cell was on fire as I got out of the car. The other scary part was after the dust settled and I opened my eyes the injector hat was stuck inside the windshield staring at me,” Caruso says.
At this point, Caruso doesn’t know why the chutes didn’t deploy or why the track’s automatic system didn’t deploy them. The car was impounded by the NHRA and he hasn’t seen it since his release from the hospital but he hopes to have answers soon.
“Right now our season is over for a couple of different reasons. First, financially it was a big hit and it’s going to take as much to fix the car as I paid for it possibly. It could be upwards of $75,000 to fix the car and we didn’t have that in the budget for the season. Second, I fractured my L3 lower lumbar and actually lost 45% of it. My doctor doesn’t want me driving a normal car right now and it will take at least six months before I’m cleared to get in a race car,” Caruso explains.
We here at Dragzine wish Marc a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing back at the track when he’s ready.