Just 15 laps into this year's ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway, Indiana racer Will Kimmel found himself sliding across the track, two flat right side tires and no way to stop the car. When his spotter came over the radio and said "lock 'em down and get ready" Kimmel knew he was about to get hit. The resulting nose-to-nose impact basically junked two perfectly good (and fast) cars.
As is common with most big track multi-car accidents this one started when one driver (Chase Elliott) apparently got into the back of another (Buster Graham), turning Graham sideways in front of the field. Cars scatter and most people check up, when one doesn't all heck breaks loose. Kimmel got turned sideways when the car behind him didn't check up as the rest of the field slowed. He slid into the inside retaining wall, bouncing off of it and sliding back into the path of an on-coming car. The other driver never saw him thanks to the combination of sun glare and a side window net with smaller holes than normal. While the net was legal, the smaller holes (an aerodynamic advantage found from wind tunnel testing) obstructed the driver's view of Kimmel coming at him.
Kimmel would later say that it was one of the hardest hits he's ever taken. The resulting analysis of the crash damage to the car illustrates just how hard a hit it actually was. Check out the following pictures and keep in mind that Kimmel walked away from this wreck without so much as even a headache.
After all the carnage was stripped away, it's hard to imagine that Will Kimmel walked away from this wreck without so much as even a headache, until, of course you consider his safety equipment list:
Simpson Helmet—This ultra lightweight helmet is Snell 2010 rated
HANS Device—We've said it before and we'll say it again, these things save lives; no ifs, ands, or buts. If you don't have one, go get one.
Schroth Seatbelt—These belts literally have two shoulder straps. The "Double Shoulder" belts feature the 3-inch body belt and additional 2-inch HANS belt. The additional 2-inch belt runs back over the shoulder and sandwiches the "arms" of his HANS in between itself and the 3-inch belt helping to securely locate the device in the event of an impact.
Balaclava—Granted, there was no fire in this crash but Will always wears a headsock. It gives added fire protection around the neck area.
Headaches & Concussions
While Will didn't have any after effects of the wreck, plenty of short trackers around the country have stuffed it into the wall only to suffer headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision for days and even sometimes weeks after the impact. That is a dangerous arena and not one to be taken lightly.
So what exactly is a concussion? It is defined as a complex pathophysiological process that affects the brain, typically induced by trauma. It can be caused either by a direct blow to the head, or an indirect blow to the body, causing neurological impairments that with time will usually get better without medical intervention. Symptoms usually reflect a functional disturbance to the brain, and may include physical (e.g., headaches, nausea), cognitive (e.g., difficulty with concentration or memory), emotional (e.g., irritability, sadness), and ‘maintenance' (e.g., sleep disturbances, changes in appetite or energy levels) symptoms.
To understand what happens to the brain during a concussion, you have to realize that the adult brain is a 3-pound organ that basically floats inside the skull. It is surrounded by cerebral spinal fluid, which acts as a shock absorber for minor impacts. When the brain moves rapidly inside the skull, a concussion has technically occurred. There are essentially two types of scenarios that can lead to a concussion. The first is what we commonly think of as a direct blow to the head or a whiplash effect to the body. The impact rapidly accelerates the head, causing the brain to strike the inner skull. When the head decelerates and stops its motion, the brain then hits the opposite side of the inner skull.
The second common scenario is a rotational concussion, in which the head rapidly rotates from one side to another causing shearing and straining of brain tissues. In either case, delicate neural pathways in the brain can become damaged, causing neurological disturbances.
1. In this overhead shot you can see that, at a minimum, this car is going to need a whole new front clip.
2. This is where the whole incident started. When Will got turned around he slid into the inside retaining wall at the beginning of pit road, bounced off and careened into on-coming traffic. Most of the damage to the rear is cosmetic. But the dry brake was broken and will need to be replaced. All of which could have been fixed under caution periods had the other car not hit the front.
3. The radiator and much of the front rollbar structure is pushed up and into the engine bay. The team will carefully strip away all of the damaged components to determine if anything is salvageable.
4. Team member Ira Small cuts away part of the front fender to get a better view of how the motor faired.
5. Much of the bracing on the front left side of the car ended up on top of the engine, most notably damaging the distributor.
6. In this shot you can see how the bar completely collapsed the top of the distributor, cracking the cap and potentially causing damage to the distributor shaft and gear or worse…the camshaft and other internals to the engine. The only way they will know for sure is by a complete teardown.