For the first time since suffering third-degree burns in a scary crash at East Carolina Motor Speedway (NC) in June, Bradley McCaskill strapped into his No. 18 Late Model Stock Car to race on Saturday afternoon.
McCaskill suffered third-degree burns to over 30-percent of his body on June 4. His doctors told him he was crazy for thinking he’d be able to race again this year. But there he was climbing back in anyway.
“It felt great, really,” McCaskill told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It felt like I never left the track.”
McCaskill’s burns came when another car landed on top of his and leaked hot radiator water on him as he sat in his driver’s seat. His burns are located mostly on his upper thighs and the back of his hands. McCaskill received skin grafts to heal his burns.
Even with the burns to his hands, McCaskill still wanted to grab the steering wheel, this time with a new type of glove on his hands.
“I have to wear my compression gloves for my skin to get healed,” he said. “Actually, the more layers I wear on my gloves, the more comfortable it makes them feel. It actually felt better to be in the car.”
McCaskill said the hardest part right now is just bending his hand.
“The way I describe it to everyone is you take your hand and set it flat on a table and covered the backside of it with duct tape, then go try to live your life for a few days. That’s what it feels like. Whereas on my legs, it’s the same burn, maybe a little worse, but there’s no movement there. It’s just kind of sitting still. So as long as I don’t touch it with anything or hit it with anything, we’re good to go.”
Saturday’s return, preceded by a test session at the track the previous Tuesday, signified a return to normalcy for McCaskill.
“We went and practiced on Tuesday down there and as soon as I pulled off pit road for the first time it was kind of like a sigh of relief that everything was going to be fine and everything was getting back to normal. That was kind of a relief.”
While racing means that things are close to normal again, returning to racing was not McCaskill’s number-one goal. It wasn’t his top priority. McCaskill’s wife was seven-months pregnant with their third child at the time of the accident.
“I own my own business and my wife takes care of our kids,” he said. “Really, the number one thing on my mind was how am I going to take care of my family when I’m sitting here in the hospital with my hands tied up. The way we took care of that was I had a lot of friends and family and other racers that came through with aid and supported us. That’s what got us through that portion. While yes, I did want to get back racing, the number one thing on my mind was figuring out how I was going to take care of this family that I have now. So yeah there was a lot going on in my mind aside from just racing, you know?”
One thing that the accident did change for McCaskill was how he prioritized his racing. When asked where and when his next race may be, McCaskill said Saturday’s races at Southern National were going to be it for at least the next month. He’s waiting for the big one, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway.
“We all really want to go to Martinsville,” he said. “It seems like we’re always caught up in something near the end of the year and we aren’t able to go up there and risk losing a car. The way we look at it now is we don’t know if we’ll have next year to go and race. There’s always that chance of something happening. So why not go out and have fun and go to the big Martinsville race and see what happens?”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Mary McCaskill