Got a phone call from a good friend of mine – who will probably bitch at me because I didn’t mention his name but – to tell me about an incident that happened to him on the starting line which ended with him in a hospital stay. And it brings to mind something we were probably told about as kids.

How many times did you hear your mother comment she had eyes in the back of her head to see when we were doing something wrong? This sort of brings up the fact of – maybe call it intuition – when you’re walking around the starting line area; or any area in the pits for that matter. I’m certainly not calling anyone out in particular, just bringing up a point.

This “friend” is actually quite an accomplished crew chief, having walked around starting lines at least as long as I have been doing it myself. He currently has built a very fast turbocharged motorcycle driven by a very experienced and talented young woman. As is usually the case of a motorcycle, it requires lining them up properly on the starting line. As he stood on the line signaling where she should aim for, the throttle of the motorcycle inadvertently stuck with the bike in gear, jumping forward, running my friend over, knocking him to the ground. The end result as he puts it is, “several screws, rods and other paraphernalia which will need to be inserted in my legs.” Of course, “eyes in the back of his head” probably wouldn’t have helped as he was staring right at the problem at hand.

That being said, I feel it’s time to remind everyone just how dangerous our sport is. I always got a kick out of the disclaimer tag which is sewed into a Simpson fire jacket simply stating “Auto racing is dangerous.” Duh? However, it’s not only dangerous for those buckled tight in a race car, but also anyone, especially those walking around the starting line or in the pits. You’ve got to develop those “eyes in the back of your head.”

Of course, accidents happen, it’s in their description: “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury;” thank you Mr. Webster. They’re sometimes hard to escape, but we should at least do our best to protect ourselves. Isn’t that what we do when we suit up and buckle tight – you do buckle your belts tight, don’t you? – inside our cars?

I’m sure a lot of you have seen the countless videos of several events where the starting line is jam packed full of people standing around trying to gain a view of the happenings. Or maybe you’ve also been a willing participant in one of those events. Thankfully, there haven’t been any “accidents” that I know of, but there could be. Some of my colleagues have viewed those as “an accident waiting to happen,” and I have to somewhat concur.

If anyone remembers years ago; and I apologize for forgetting the name: but there was an alcohol dragster testing incident where the car inadvertently spun around after leaving the line and headed straight back up the track, hitting the tow vehicle and fatally injuring her son sitting inside. I’ve mentioned this before but, s—t happens.

Incident No. 2, and I hesitate to bring this up so as not to embarrass anyone, but…. I happened to be at a track where I noticed a person in a motorized wheelchair wheeling around the starting line and burnout area lining up his driver. I applaud their enthusiasm, but don’t believe that wheelchair can move all that fast should something happen.

Earlier this year; although I wasn’t there to witness it; noted racer, crew chief, teacher, et al, Roy Hill found himself in one of those predicaments, getting backed over in the burnout box. Here’s a guy who I believe has walked around more starting lines than both myself, my friend and probably countless others combined. A guy who even with those “eyes in the back of his head” found himself in a precarious situation.

It’s somewhat impossible to predict when and where, but at the very least, do your best to protect yourself, and when it comes to walking around on the starting line, you need to develop those “eyes.” Just like a lot of things in life, you need to be aware of your surroundings.

As for “my friend,” through prayers he’ll survive and be able to walk around on the starting line again, but he’s also determined to develop a safer routine in order to line up his motorcycle. But shouldn’t we all develop a “safer routine?” -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO