Racing Perspectives - Mike Harmon Speaks About His Crash and Career
By now everyone has seen the spine chilling video footage of the horrific crash of NASCAR Busch series driver Mike Harmon, driver of the # 44 Race-Ready Communications Chevy Monte Carlo. The split second event occurred during a practice session last Thursday for Friday's Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The crash defies any adequate description. To say the car was demolished is way more than an understatement. And to say Mike's survival was miraculous doesn't do proper justice to the Good Lord's intervention, either.
By his own words Mike credits God by saying, "I'm telling you that's all it could have been as much as I was flying around in that car...the wall and then my body that close to Johnny, you know. And then the #49 (Derrike Cope) came by on my outside. Everybody says I'm lucky. I think I've been blessed."
I told Mike that Lyndon Amick has said the wall came within one foot of his body and I asked him, from the angle he was in, could he see Sauter's car coming at him? "You know, really I saw the wall and I knew it was real close, but I didn't realize the wall was actually in the car.
I thought it was outside the car, but the car was just caved in and I couldn't see a whole lot. I didn't see Johnny coming at all and I didn't realize I had turned around and was looking back at turn two when he hit me until I saw the video. I didn't see him coming and I'm glad I didn't!"
I do realize these things happen in lightning flash seconds, yet still I asked Mike if he knew whether Johnny, at the moment of the impact of their cars could, see him within the roll cage of the car. The car was completely torn open on the driver's side and Mike was visible within the cockpit. If so, that had to be even more of a terrifying ordeal for him.
"Well, he could see my blue suit, " Mike explained. "I haven't spoken to him yet. I am going to this week. He cut as hard left as he could, but he was so close to me, I have been told, that he thought he had hit me (my body). That's what he was talking about on the radio. Someone told me he said "I killed him, I killed him." Now, that's how close he was."
Even though both impacts were extremely powerful and violent, Harmon never lost consciousness. Harold Holly, crew chief for the PPC Racing #10 Nesquik Ford Taurus driven by Scott Riggs, without any hesitation according to Amick, was the first person to reach the car.
"He was!" continued Harmon. "It happened right in front of everybody. I saw everybody running towards me. I hid my arms in the car because of all the debris. I could see the car was gone,so I did my best to stand up and Harold reached out and got my hand.
What was weird was the guys were running as hard as they could, but when I stood up they all just slowed down. I think they were just shocked!" He has been told that the steering wheel, steering column and floor pan were under Sauter's car.
As soon as he was able, Harmon called home to notify his wife, daughter and mother that he was uninjured. He was worried they would hear or see the crash clip before he was able to reach them. He spoke directly to his mother and chuckled, "She worries about me as much as anybody and she won't take anyone's word for it either until she hears my voice."
Tremendous impacts such as this one, thankfully, are rare. But, when they do happen serious injuries are always anticipated. I discussed Geoff Bodine's 2000 Daytona CTS crash with Mike and the devastating injuries Geoff received.
Mike detailed his injuries as such: a right side bruise from debris hitting between his shoulder and the support, a bruised elbow and a minor cut. That's all! He did experience slight body soreness the next morning and was still experiencing those effects on Tuesday when we spoke.
However, as he moves about that soreness lessens. He is not doing any heavy lifting at present, and in true driver fashion, he is preparing for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Gatorade 200 at Darlington Raceway.
It's amazing that these drivers, week in and week out, face danger with the knowledge that at any given moment serious injury or death can occur. Drivers have stated that they simply do not dwell on that aspect, that they acknowledge the risks and accept them as a possibility in this sport. I truly believe that these athletes, these drivers we have come to respect and support are a unique and special breed of being.
I believe their existence "on the edge" is as natural to them as breathing. Mike explains that his family may not understand why he races, but they accept it as a part of their lives. "They know I will always race, and they know I'm not happy if I'm not racing."
I spoke to Harmon about the metal posts that were not in place at the crossover gate section of the wall where his impact occurred. This is where Michael Waltrip's crash happened in 1991, however Harmon says there has been misinformation released about the posts being missing during Michael's accident.
According to Harmon, those posts were in fact in place then, but the impact was so great the wall gave way. The wall has since been redesigned and reconstructed. Mike states, "Jeff Byrd (Vice President and General Manager of Bristol), you could see it in his eyes, has never made any excuses and has apologized.
He was very sensitive to my wife, as well. He's a great guy and Bristol has been wonderful to me. I don't blame anyone. I'm just glad I'm OK. The Lord took care of that!"
When asked if he had a flat tire that caused him to hit the wall he said he does not know. NASCAR has possession of the car in Conover and will attempt to determine what the initial cause of the accident was. "I entered the corner, and it started cutting through the center and the car just took off right. I knew I was going to hit the wall the minute I lost the steering."
For years, these drivers honed their skills in various series and at various tracks all across the country. They have all earned the right to be in these premier divisions. There are many drivers like these men competing in heat events at dirt tracks and bullrings in nearly every state every Saturday night.
However, when the right set of opportunities were presented, the drivers of NASCAR's upper series stepped up to the challenge and deserve to be acknowledged...every one of them...as the best competitors this sport has to offer.
Sensationalism drives the media. That is fact. So, while Mike is in the spotlight, let's take a closer look at who Mike Harmon is and where he came from. He may be a survivor, but he is also an experienced race car driver and deserves recognition as such
Mike began racing in his home state of Alabama...a state that has given this sport the likes of Bobby and Donnie Allison, Davey and Clifford Allison, Red Farmer, Neil Bonnett and more. He began racing part time, while working, in the '70's and actually was a friend of Neil's.
He posts 3 championships in one season in 1990 in 3 different divisions: Southern All Stars NASCAR Series, Birmingham Track Championship and Heart Of Dixie Track Championship. He's won 19 Southern All Star Series races and 19 poles. That record still stands, if I'm not mistaken. In the past he's won 14 straight regionals in Montgomery among so many other accomplishments.
His career is remarkable and note worthy, for certain. Mike Harmon is a SERIOUS racer! Check his website here for ARCA Series and additional history: www.Mikeharmonmotorsports.com/driver.
Mike wants his fans to know, "I have unfinished business in the Busch Series. I believe the last race was my 41st (total) start in Busch and I'll be at Darlington next weekend. We've been a winner in every series we have run except Busch. It's really tough to go from being the guy to beat and expected to win to just being in the field.
People don't realize how tough that is. Every racer has an ego and wants to win. But I knew it would be tough coming in to this without (primary) sponsorship."
"My fans are used to me winning and running up front. I just want to tell them not to give up on me. When we get something on the quarter panel of that car we'll be prepared. I appreciate everyone's help through this. DF2 Motorsports, too. (It was their car that Harmon started the race with on Friday, but it was a super speedway setup, therefore he was unable to compete.) I have unfinished business here...to show we can compete with the top teams."
Associate sponsors of Mike Harmon and the #44 Mixon Motorsports team include Race-Ready, MegaMania, 123 City.net, Reliance Tool and Manufacturing, Pegasus Satellite Television, Komatsu Construction and Mining Equipment and most recently Cox Communications and Global Industrial Contractors.
For more information on Mike Harmon, Mixon Motorsports, their sponsors or for information on becoming a sponsor please visit their website at: http://www.mikeharmonmotorsports.com/.
Mike Harmon is as dedicated as any other NASCAR Busch Series driver. I truly hope all race fans see him as the competent driver he is and not just one lucky survivor.
I wish Mike a great deal of success and want to thank him for his time and consideration. Stay safe, well and God Bless, Mike!