TIPTON — Typically, when there’s a crowd around you and someone hands you a cold adult beverage after a race, it’s because you won.
During the Darkside Fall Bash on Friday night at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton, Clarence driver Ben Chapman had a crowd around him, and someone handed him a beer, but not because he won. Chapman had hit the guard rail and fence off Turn 3 at full speed during an IMCA Sport Mod last chance qualifying race, destroying his racecar and sending his heart rate through the roof.
By grace or by chance, Chapman climbed from the car without injury and even was able to joke with the dozens of fellow racers who came up to offer a handshake or a hug and offer a kind word, happy he was OK.
“It just happened so quick,” Chapman said. “I hit the brakes, hit the grass and hit the guard rail.
“It means a lot to have people stop and say something. We’re all one big family, pretty much, so when something bad happens, we check on them. Nobody wishes anyone gets hurt doing this.”
Chapman had broken a left rear shock, which sheared the rear brake line, leaving him only with front brakes. Rain around 7 p.m. Friday had left the ground surrounding the racing surface wet and very slick.
Given the fact that he only had front brakes, Chapman said he felt like the car actually sped up instead of slowed down when he hit the grass. From there it was a few seconds of waiting to hit the wall. That amount of time feels like an eternity when you’re sitting in the seat.
Several who were watching from the back stretch fence called the wreck one of the scariest they’d ever seen.
Darkside Promotions, which was putting on the event, canceled the rest of the races within five minutes of Chapman’s wreck — his car wasn’t even out from under the guard rail yet — which was a decision supported almost unanimously throughout the pits. Chapman's wasn't even the only wreck of its kind all night. Oxford racer Andy Eckrich had a similar accident approximately 40 minutes before that, hitting 20 or so feet to the left of where Chapman did in his IMCA Late Model. Eckrich hit with the rear of his car first, knocking down one of the support poles on the fence.
Chapman was adamant while standing a few feet from his mangled car, though, that he wasn’t upset that Darkside restarted the races after the early evening rain shower delayed the event more than two hours.
“When I hit the grass I sped up,” Chapman said. “This (wreck) has nothing to do with them (the promoters). They tried their best to get this race in. I could’ve stayed on the trailer if I wanted. I had that choice, same as everyone else racing. I have nobody to be mad at.”
One of the people who found Chapman quickly to give him a hug while track workers were getting his car out from under the fence was his chassis builder, Mallet Meyer, owner of Rev Chassis.
They all were able to share a laugh — albeit one of relief — over the fact that Chapman and Meyer, apparently, had discussed a different car for next year, and that now he’d get a new one.
Laughs after a wreck of that intensity are cathartic, in a way, in relieving the tension. Those adult beverages don’t hurt, either.
“I would say so, hands down, yeah, that’s the scariest,” Chapman said through a laugh, of his wreck. “I’m just thankful I had some angels looking over me tonight.
“I could probably go for another (drink) here soon.”
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