Evan J. Smith
April 21, 2015

Photos courtesy of Rick Riccardi

During the recent Borla Exhaust NMRA/NMCA All-Star event in Commerce, Georgia, Rick Riccardi survived a crash at over 158 mph, when his NMCA Quick Lane 10.5 NA Fox-body Capri snapped loose at the big end causing it to flip on its roof, contacting both retaining walls. Riccardi walked away with just a few bruises, and that’s a testament to the safety standards and to his own preparation.

“I staged, left the line and was on a decent pass,” stated Riccardi. “Then I caught a dip in the track, the engine revved up, it went into a 360 spin and went over. It happened so fast,” he commented. “There was nothing I could do.”

The 7-second all-motor Capri took the brunt of the accident, but the cage did its job protecting the driver. Seconds after the car skidded to a halt, the crew at Atlanta Dragway was there to help free Riccardi from his smashed Mercury Capri.

“Honestly, after it stopped I just wanted to get out. I saw fuel draining from the carbs so I pulled the belts off, I dropped down, and my leg got caught up. Nothing was in the right place, because I was upside down,” he added. “I kind of fell out of the belts and the track safety crew got my door open and helped to guide me out. I couldn’t believe it happened,” he exclaimed.

The wreck occurred while the Fox-body Capri closed in on the finish line—and the drama occurred with little-to-no warning. Pulling the ’chute or lifting wouldn’t have helped. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that anything can happen on track, and once things go wrong it will be too late to pull the belts tight.

The consequences of a wreck at any speed can be devastating. I doubt anyone would want to hit the wall at 150, 100, or even 50 mph. To protect yourself, plan ahead and made sure your car is safe. In other words, safety should not be an afterthought.

Because drag racing crashes are fairly rare, racers tend to get complacent. Most of us feel overly comfortable, but even so, we all need to be aware of the dangers and think about what you would do during, or more importantly, after a crash. Could you get out if you were flipped over, or if you had to get out the passenger side? It’s always a good idea to think beyond the minimums. Sanctioning bodies set standards for roll cages and safety gear, but you can always increase your level of protection.

Thankfully, Riccardi walked away. In fact, hours after he returned to his home in New Jersey, he pulled the engine and transmission and cut the damaged roof off the car. “I got a few hours sleep and my wife Jenni and buddy Dennis Varga got to work. We had the car ready to be straightened the next day. Aside from the bodywork, it damaged a shock, an axle, all the wheels and tires, the hood scoop and carburetor, the windshield and the wheelie bars. I owe a huge thanks to Hell Bent Race Cars. They built it from the ground up and it did its job,” Riccardi added. Riccardi also received help from the racing community, including Robbie Blankenship, Andrew DeMarco, Tim Eichhorn, and a many others who have kicked in with parts and donations.

“I’m touched by all the help I’ve been getting. I want to be out there for my sponsors such as Barnes Oil Systems, Jesel, CFM Carburetors, Mike Lauer at Amsoil, Danny Baca, Rossler, Neil Chance Converters, Weldon Fuel Systems, Wilson Manifolds, Race Fab Engineering, Mickey Thompson Tires, Santhuff, Downs Ford and my engine guys Dave Jack and Bob Oster. I heard many racers made donations and a local place called Capone’s Gourmet Pizza in Toms River is also helping out.”

You can follow the rebuild on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/81mercurycapri. The MM&FF and Mustang-360.com team is glad you are okay, and we wish you luck getting back on the track quickly.