The announcement of NASCAR’s return to Rockingham Speedway with a Camping World Truck series race next year coupled with a packed house at the Rockingham Dragway was making for a great week of racing in Richmond County.
All of those good feelings came crashing back to Earth when Extreme Pro Stock driver Bert Jackson was fatally injured Friday night during the Rockingham Dragway’s Dragstock VIII.
Track side witnesses said Jackson’s car hit the right wall, then careened across the track and struck the left wall before barrel-rolling. Jackson was rushed to First Health Richmond Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Jackson’s death was the first in the six-year history of the American Drag Racing League. In addition, it was the first racing fatally in the 20 years Steve Earwood has owned the Rockingham Dragway.
“We don’t know what happened,” said Jeff Fortune, the ADRL’s executive vice president. “We are still in the early stages of the investigation but the consensus is that he hit the wall and the throttle stuck. It appeared he lost consciousness and couldn’t get the throttle unstuck. He had no control after the initial impact.”
Fortune added Jackson’s accident came at the finish line and near the group’s rescue group.
“Where he stopped it was just past our safety crew,” Fortune said. “It was just seconds before they were at the car. He wasn’t a new driver or an inexperienced one. We may never have the answer.”
Fortune talked about the safety measures the ADRL requires for each of their series’ cars before it makes a pass at 180 MPH down the track. He mentions the HANS device, the seats, the belts, the harnesses, just about everything in the construction of a vehicle is not only built for speed, but safety as well.
But accidents do occur and when a car is traveling at a high rate of speed, a driver’s margin of error is very small.
When I was talking to Earwood about Friday’s accident, a driver from the same series as Jackson nearly slammed into the wall moments after hitting the gas in an elimination race. The driver was able to avoid an accident, but it showed how quickly things can go from perfect to trouble in a split second.
Contact Sports editor Shawn Stinson at 997-3111, ext. 14 or email@example.com