The driver of a Ford Mustang split in half in a wreck while competing in a drag race at Wilkesboro Raceway Park Saturday wasn’t injured but a spectator suffered a broken arm when hit by flying debris from the car.
Wilkes Emergency Medical Services transported the 22-year-old woman from the dragway to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, said Wilkes EMS Director Tim Pennington. She had a fractured right arm with an open wound, he said.
Pennington said Wilkes EMS didn’t transport or treat anyone else at the scene. He said first responders, who were from the Ferguson Fire Department, provided first aid before Wilkes EMS arrived.
Ferguson Fire Chief Jeff Matherly said the driver of the purple Mustang declined treatment when checked on by his department’s first responders. “He said go check on others,” added Matherly.
The wreck occurred when the purple Mustang and a small pickup were racing in a small tire class.
Videos of the race online show the Mustang was in the left lane and the pickup in the right when the car swerved slightly to either side before it turned more sharply to the left and hit the solid guardrail at a point about halfway down the dragstrip, which is one-eighth of a mile long.
The Mustang then went up on the guardrail and briefly straddled it before hitting the right steel post of a scoreboard, breaking the vehicle in half at a point just behind the front seats.
The back half stopped a few feet beyond the scoreboard, but the front half continued another 100 to 200 feet. As it moved down the track, sparks were streaming from where the metal back end of the front half made contact with asphalt.
After the front end stopped, there were a few moments of anxious silence until the driver crawled out on his hands and knees, stood and thrust both arms in the air as the crowd cheered.
The two halves of the Mustang and loose debris were removed from the drag strip and there was no more racing that night.
Wilkesboro Dragway owner Phil Halbedel, interviewed outside the dragway tower about an hour after the wreck as the large crowd was still leaving, said the injured woman was standing near the scoreboard and shouldn’t have been there. He also said the Mustang that wrecked was a poorly-made car.
Halbedel said he was asked to not release the name of the driver of the Mustang. The name of the woman with a broken arm also wasn’t available.
Another Mustang had a similar wreck while competing at the dragway in late June 2013.
In that earlier incident, Dennis Harmon of Newland was driving a modified early 1990s-model Mustang when it went out of control, flipped over a guardrail and hit one of two 12-inch steel beams holding up a scoreboard. Harmon’s injuries included broken ribs and a broken back.
The late Danny Dunn owned Wilkesboro Raceway Park then.
Wilkesboro Raceway Park, in the Mount Pleasant community of western Wilkes, is North Carolina’s oldest operating dragstrip. It opened in 1955.