Saturday afternoon, 16-year-old Jordan Ives strapped into his No. 18 Super Late Model expecting to simply take his car out onto the race track for another practice run at New Smyrna Speedway. He did that and all seemed to be going well…until he came around the track for his final lap of the practice session.
Ives, who experienced brake issues in a previous practice session, went into turn three of the half-mile oval at full speed attempting to gauge where his car was at in preparation for the 49th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. When he attempted to press down on the brake pedal to slow the car, the pedal went straight to the floor. There was nothing he could do. The rear end of the car slipped out from under him and made hard contact with the wall between turns three and four.
At first, the crash looked like one that you’d see on a regular Saturday night at your local short track. But just seconds after, the scene was chaotic. What had began as a normal practice run turned into the scariest moment of the teenager’s young life.
Ives’ family-owned No. 18 machine burst into flames. As he sat in the cockpit of his race car not knowing his car was on fire, the Gladstone, Michigan driver was thinking to himself about loading the car up and heading home. That’s when Ives noticed flames shooting through the window of the car.
As safety crews rushed to the scene of the accident, he heard only two words echoed repetitively from his spotter over the radio: “Get out! Get out! Get out!” When he began to exit the car the only words out of his mouth were “I’m on fire!”
“I just sat back and I’m like, ‘I either have to crawl through the fire or die.’ so I whipped all my belts off and got the window net down,” Ives told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I remember looking and seeing the flames shoot through my helmet and hit me in the face. I quickly got out and when I jumped down I looked down and I was standing in the fire. I ran behind all of the safety trucks and waited for them to get the fire out.”
From that point on, all he could do was watch. Despite the safety crew’s efforts, there was no saving the race car. A black cloud of smoke hovered above the track as crews did their best to simply stop the fire from spreading as fuel spilled down the race track.
While crews attended to the scene, a very emotional Ives was able to find his father and share a hug as the two watched all of their hard work preparing the car go up in flames.
“Once I got out and saw the car on fire I was just devastated,” Ives recalls. “That was all of our hard work put into that thing and it was just a ball of fire. I was standing behind the truck and my dad told me that he was about to run into the car because he didn’t see me get out, but once he saw me he came over and gave me a hug. He said that we’ll get a new car ready for you. It was just hard seeing it burn down and not being able to do anything about it.
“When I was standing there I was just thinking in my head about what just happened. How could this have happened to us? We’re just out there trying to make laps and learn, and then this happens.”
Thanks to a timely exit from the burning race car and the proper safety equipment, Ives was able to escape the car with just minor burns to his face. He told Speed51.com on Tuesday that he can still feel the pain from the burns, but that they are minor.
“I’m just glad that I didn’t get hurt inside the car. I don’t think that I’d be here today if I couldn’t have got out when I did.”
Just a few short days after the crash, Ives and his father already have plans to return to the race track soon.
“We already talked to Pathfinder (chassis) and we already have a car being built for us,” said Ives. “We’re going to get it back going and hopefully be back out there as soon as possible.”
So far, a number of people have stepped up and offered assistance to the Ives family as they work to get back on the race track.
“I’ve had a lot of offers for help,” said Ives. “Five Star Race Car Bodies offered a body if I need. Local people have asked me if I need parts or anything. Friends and family have also been very supportive and have offered their help to rebuild the car.”
Although Ives believes the quickest way to forget the horrific crash will be to get back into the seat of a race car, the accident is one that will be difficult to forget anytime soon.
“Just every day so far I have been replaying the wreck over and over in my head.”
-By Brandon Paul and Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com
– Photo credit: Speed51.com