Bradley McCaskill had a hunch that something bad was about to happen as he piloted his No. 18 Late Model Stock Car around East Carolina Motor Speedway (NC) on Saturday, June 4. But what he didn’t know was how much of an impact that “something” was going to have on his life.
As the laps winded down in the first of two 35-lap races that night, McCaskill was driving in the third position behind an intense battle for the lead between Thomas Burbage and Brenden Queen. With three laps remaining, trouble struck off of turn four.
“I think there had been some bad blood between them, the 03 (Queen) and the 9 (Burbage). The 03 just kept using up the 9, and me and the 54 (Michael Fose) both knew that the 03 was going to put them both in the fence before the checkered flag. It was going to happen and we both knew it was going to happen,” McCaskill told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
“I had tried to check up a little bit to give them a little bit of extra room coming up off of four when they made contact, but I guess I got hit from behind and kind of turned sideways. I got wrecked into them at the same time and it’s a pretty self-cleaning track because it’s got so much banking to it, but I guess some guys went spinning. Louis (White) came through there, nothing intentional of course, he was trying to miss all the wrecks. Here I am sitting driver’s side first sideways in the middle of the race track.”
White made hard contact with the driver’s side door of McCaskill’s car and ended up with the front of his car on top of McCaskill’s driver’s side window. The contact immediately punctured the radiator on White’s car and extremely hot water began pouring into McCaskil’s cockpit.
As he tried to fight off the most excruciating pain he had ever experienced, McCaskill attempted to make his way out of the race car.
“That was all that I was thinking about, just get out. I’ve been on fire in a car before and it’s always been the same thing, just get out no matter what it takes,” he explained. “As soon as there was contact made, it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt and I wouldn’t wish that on nobody. I tried to get out the driver’s side of the car but I couldn’t open up the window net. They said it was broke I guess. It did no good because he was parked on top of me anyways.
“According to my crew guys, I climbed out of the right side of the car and never took the steering wheel off. I got some amazing young guys that help me out and it’s more heart than anything on our race team. By the time I got to the right side of my car they were there waiting to pull me out. If it weren’t for them I could have been a lot worse of. I really owe everything to them.”
Once he escaped from the car, McCaskill laid down on the frontstretch while being attended to by medical personnel at the track. Initially, the medical professionals at the track wanted to airlift him straight to the Burn Center at UNC Chapel Hill, but they weren’t able to do that due to bad weather in the area.
McCaskill ended up being transported to a nearby hospital with the goal of stabilizing the excruciating pain he was going through. As he was being transported the only thing on his mind was the future wellbeing of his wife and two kids.
“The biggest thing is that we’re a single-family income, I own my own business. My wife does an amazing job at taking care of our kids, and the biggest issue going through my mind was, ‘How the heck am I going to support my family after being burnt up here laying on the race track?’ We’ve already answered the question easily with all of the support from friends, families and people we didn’t even know about. We’ve had a lot of great people step up.”
Once McCaskill was stabilized at the hospital he was transported the Burn Center at UNC Chapel Hill where he will continue his road to recovery. Doctors at the burn center believe that McCaskill suffered very bad second-degree burns, but that won’t be known until he goes in for surgery on Thursday or Friday.
(Update: McCaskill posted on Instagram that he was heading into surgery around 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning)
“They give me a bath every night, and they scrub me down to try to get all of the loose tissue off, said McCaskill. “They said basically what they’re going to do once we go into surgery, they’ll determine how bad the actual burns are. They say right now that it’s like a bad stage two, but it could be third-degree burns. They don’t really know without taking it apart, and they don’t want to put me through that trauma if it won’t make a difference.”
One factor that McCaskill believes did make a difference during the crash was his use of proper safety equipment including a firesuit, racing gloves and a full-shield helmet. If he wasn’t wearing that equipment he fears that the end result could have been a lot worse.
“I would definitely imagine that it helped a bunch,” McCaskill stated. “We wear all Simpson gear products and luckily I had my face shield down because I have no burns on my face. But I am burnt like on my neck near the back of my helmet. It’s just legs, thighs, calves, hands and arms.”
Since the news came out about McCaskill’s involvement in the scary crash, the racing community has offered loads of support to him and his family. A GoFundMe account was created to assist the family during this tough time and has already raised a total of $6,025 as of Thursday afternoon.
“It makes me feel great. The support system we have around us is ridiculous,” said McCaskill. “I really shouldn’t be surprised by it just because the Short Track Racing world is such a tight knit community. But from the business side of it, as far as running our business goes, where we actually make our money, I have two of the best friends around that have really stepped up and kept it to where my family can rest easy at night knowing that we still have some income. We also have family that is helping us out financially with everything else also.”
And don’t think that just because he’s laid up in a hospital bed that McCaskill isn’t already thinking about racing again. He’s already been asking doctors what the timetable for recovery is, but he hasn’t received that answer just yet.
“Right now the doctors still just laugh at me when I ask them that question,” McCaskill said with a laugh. “I don’t know what the timetable is. We’re racers and we’re going to race again, that’s just what we do. Something like this has a one in a million chance of happening. As long as we’ve been around I’ve never heard of anybody getting burnt this way. That’s always been my biggest fear of racing, being burnt up in a race car.”
McCaskill lived that fear on that Saturday night at East Carolina Motor Speedway, but that’s not going to stop him. He’s a racer, and racer’s race.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Bradley McCaskill Instagram