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Pit crew member injured at Eagle Raceway a ‘tough, tough guy’

MATT OLBERDING Lincoln Journal StarMay 15, 2019

Sprint car driver Adam Gullion said there are two people he’d never want to get in a fight with.

One is a race car driver he knows. The other is Justin Vanderharr.

“He’s a tough, tough guy,” Gullion said of his pit crew member who was severely injured Saturday night at Eagle Raceway.

According to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, a car driven by John Austin of Lincoln had a malfunction that caused the throttle to become stuck at the end of a hobby stock heat race.

The car left the track via a pit exit and became airborne, striking a parked race car, which then struck an all-terrain vehicle.

Those vehicles were pushed into a group of people, including Vanderharr, who was pinned underneath another race car.

The 35-year-old sustained two skull fractures and an open compound fracture of his right leg, Gullion said.

Another man, Michael Ramsey, 55, of Bellevue, was also transported to Bryan West Campus but was later released.

Though Vanderharr remains in critical condition at Bryan West, Gullion said there have been encouraging signs.

He hasn’t been able to see his friend, but he’s been told that Vanderharr was able to track movement with his eyes and move his arms and legs.

“Everything is moving in a pretty positive direction,” Gullion said.

However, Vanderharr has a long recovery ahead, and a number of fundraisers are planned to help his family defray medical costs.

Gullion’s wife, Andrea, started a GoFundMe page for Vanderharr on Monday, and as of early Tuesday afternoon it had raised more than $4,000.

Eagle Raceway announced on its Facebook page that it will hold a silent auction Saturday from 5:30-7 p.m. with proceeds going to help Vanderharr and his family, which includes his wife, Staysha, to whom he’s been married less than a month, and his two children.

Gullion said there are efforts underway to host a pancake feed for Vanderharr as well.

Saturday’s accident is the second in less than a year to injure a nondriver at Eagle Raceway.

In July, Eagle Raceway official Tim Kozak was clipped by a car while he was realigning the field after a wreck on the track. The accident left him with fractured vertebrae in his neck and back.

Another longtime track official, Mike Cacek, was critically injured when a race car struck him in the pits at Eagle in 2007.

Gullion, who has been racing for more than 20 years, acknowledged it is a dangerous sport, but said it’s normally the drivers who get injured.

He said he doesn’t think the Eagle track is or isn’t doing something that is contributing to nondriver injuries.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. We’ve had a string of bad luck,” Gullion said.

He said he wishes it had been him that was injured instead of Vanderharr, who is one of his closest friends and has worked on his pit crew since 2005.

“I wish with every part of my body that I could switch places with him,” Gullion said.

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