Seeing Stars: Shirley Recovering for World Finals
Goal to reclaim top-five points ranking
CONCORD, N.C. – Sept. 29, 2016 – It was a little dent on the top of Brian Shirley’s Bell helmet. But in that divet was a story that was equally horrific and relieving. Shirley, on the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series national tour for his first full year, experienced first-hand the assumed risks of racing.
To open the month of September, the Chatham, Ill.-native led the 24-car field into the green flag for the 75-lap Working Man at Lernerville Speedway. With the stars aligning toward his fourth series win, Shirley did what he typically does best – skate the top of the cushion, building up maximum speed into each of the straightaways.
But on this 4/10-mile oval, riding the cushion was flirting with disaster. Though Shirley recorded consistent sub-16 second lap times all weekend, the fourth lap of the Craftsman Club® feature would strike at the blink of an eye.
Labor Day weekend goes down as one of Shirley’s worst flips since he embarked on auto racing in 2001. Now Shirley is on the road to recovery from a concussion, which is simultaneously the road to the prestigious Bad Boy Off Road World Finals.
Shirley’s No. 3s Bob Cullen Racing/ Arnie Ranta Longhorn machine somersaulted into the air off the turn one cushion, barreling some-five times before rolling to the bottom of the berm. Upside down, the red flag waved and crew chief Chad Simondsen bolted to him from across the track; he was his spotter in turn three.
“I started running across the infield right away as he started flipping,” Simondsen said. “I’ve seen a couple flips in my career, but it’s a completely different feeling when it’s not only your driver, but also your best friend.”
Shirley said his right-rear tire barely got over the lip of the track, and the racecar began to dig into the Pennsylvania clay. Though the track is slightly banked, it was steep enough for the frame-rail to catch. Using the point of contact as a launching pad, Shirley said it ended up being “a pretty nasty wreck.”
First responders tended to Shirley while an emotional Simondsen needed to be held back from the accident. It was only when the ambulance arrived when he could make sure Shirley was all right. When Shirley made it back to the rig, Simondsen and his crew were chaotically collecting their cargo to head to tomorrow’s Selinsgrove Speedway about three hours away.
Assessing Shirley through the havoc, Simonsden said he looked to be well enough to race the next day; a little bit of a headache seemed normal for a driver that was thrown into the sky. Shirley simply told Simondsen that he would see how he was feeling in the morning and just go from there. They loaded up and headed East.
“Once I flipped, I thought I was ok,” Shirley said. “I’ve flipped before, but I’ve usually raced the next day. I’ve never wrecked that bad.”
Simonsden remembers the first hour of their trip to Selinsgrove vividly. Shirley sat in between him and the truck driver, and for the first hour the rig navigated through the hills and hollers of the Keystone State. With about an hour left in the trip, the team stopped for fuel and food.
Shirley, reluctant to eat, sat in the rig as the others went into the gas station. They then returned to what they feared. In a one-eighty, Shirley was struggling – headaches, dizzy spells and sensitivity to light. With clear symptoms of a concussion, the rig rerouted to a nearby hospital. At 3 a.m. and nearly four hours there, the team was headed back to Illinois. Shirley was in no condition to race.
After a thorough inspection of the car, Simondsen suspected that the dent in Shirley’s helmet was from the roll cage. Thankfully, the helmet neither cracked nor split. As for the car, the major damage was in the frame.
With the crash behind him, Shirley and Simondsen both tackle the bigger task at hand – preparing for World Finals. Simonsden has been in the shop with the rest of the crew building cars, while Shirley is on the tail-end of the injuries he sustained.
The timetable for his return is promising and luckily for Shirley it is. Pending clearance from his doctor, he is anxious to get back to racing. Shirley said the goal is to get a few weekends of local racing in before the big show. As for the injury, he reassured his fans that he will be 100 percent both mentally and physically.”
“When I get back racing, we’ll put it to the wood right off the bat,” Shirley said. “If you’re going to second guess getting hurt, shit, there ain’t no reason for me to be doing it.”
Simondsen expects the same old “Squirrel” behind the wheel. He said readjusting back to racing will not be difficult for him. Though he has not been behind the wheel since the flip, Shirley said he expects to be just as competitive.
“Any time you’re not racing, it messes with you,” Shirley said. “You’re always trying to perfect your racecar and get better and anytime you’re not racing, you lose a little bit. But we’ve raced enough this year where we won’t be too far off the pace. We’ll be able to get back up to speed.”
The World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Bad Boy Off Road (Official Side-by-Side Vehicle), Craftsman (Official Tool), Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Tire), Morton Buildings (Official Building), Sears (Official Home Store), The Kenny Wallace Dirt Racing Experience (Official Racing Experience, VP Racing Fuels (Official Racing Fuel) and DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award); in addition to contingency sponsors, including: Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, MSD, Penske Shocks, QA1, QuarterMaster, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum; along with manufacturer sponsors, including: Capital Race Cars, Integra Shocks, Impact Racing Products, Intercomp, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis and TNT Rescue