Friday’s collision between Dale Creasy Jr. and Dave Richards in the first Funny Car qualifying session not only sidelined both teams for the event but put an early end to their seasons, but both of the privateer teams plan to rebuild and return next year.
The scary incident began when Creasy’s TekPak entry lost traction a few hundred feet into the run, then suddenly darted into the right lane and into the path of Richards’ Verstran Mustang, which then collided with the right rear of Creasy’s machine.
Creasy’s car hit the left wall while Richards glanced off the right wall, then plummeted across the centerline minus steering and brakes and hit the left wall in front of Creasy.
“It was just going along and I know I was drifting right and I'm pulling it back pulling back and the next thing I know it's over there in his lane,” said Creasy. “Our [data recorder] shows it started spinning at 2.7 seconds and I was off the gas at 2.8, but it didn’t matter. I had already let off the gas before it crossed and I was trying to bring it back, but they don't turn that well and the next thing I know it was just stuff flying and the body lifted up.”
“I had no idea was bad as it was until we stopped. I was just in their survival mode.”
Richards had experienced some issues staging the car so left the line more than a tenth of a second behind Creasy, which also played into the collision.
“I've been trying some new things during staging and I actually rolled in deep,” said Richards. “At that point, I'm not even thinking about reaction time.
“Then when I saw him, it was too late. I was already going towards the centerline and I was yanking it back and then he was there. As a driver, you’re focused ahead of you at the finish line and not looking out the window. I just barely moved the car when I saw him, but not enough.
“I hit the right wall -- that wasn't bad -- but then the steering was gone as I was going back to the left I had nothing, no brakes, no real steering.”
An accident like this, which basically destroyed both cars but left the drivers only bruised, is costly to any team but devastating to independent teams like those of Richards and Creasy.
“We were really looking forward to this weekend,” said Richards. “We've had a lot of bad engine problems and oiling problems and stuff and finally got it all fixed. I really thought this weekend was going to be a real breakout weekend, instead of running for 4.13 every run it was gonna be 4.0s and 3.90s and that we'd maybe even go on to [the next event in] Las Vegas. We were looking forward to four good runs in good weather, plus the Motorplex put up incentive money of $5,000 for any team that made all four qualifying sessions, and things like that mean a lot to teams like ours."
The Richards team is sponsored by Vesatran, maker of truck utility bodies and a subsidiary of Scag Power Equipment; the Richards got introduced to the company by one of their friends, one of the biggest SCAG mower dealers in Florida.
“We’ll be back,” he said. “This chassis is junk but we’re looking at options to get another one. We already have a spare body, and we’re looking forward to running 15 races next season.”
The Creasy family, which has been in Funny Car racing since the early 1970s with Dale Jr. taking over in 1997, doesn’t even have a backup body, but they also are vowing a rebuild.
"I don't know what we're gonna do, but we're going to try and do something,’ said Creasy. “We actually had some money saved up that we were going to use to front-half this car next week, so I guess now we’re going to ‘all-half’ a car.
“It's gonna take some time to figure out how I'm gonna get it done. The good thing is I drive the rig home by myself, so I'll have time to think about it. I start questioning my driving just because of what's happened, or something could have been wrong with the chassis, but I always blame me because I'm the only one in control. I went over there and gave Dave a hug and apologized; there’s not much else I can do.
“My sponsor [Tony Beyer of TekPak] called me this morning. And said, ‘We'll be fine. Just get a plan and show it to me, and we'll see what we can do.’ We’ll be back.”