By Larry Ott
Special to The News
Marilla’s Jim Bryant has become a social media sensation after his involvement in a spectacular accident during the U.S. Open stock car season finale at Lancaster Speedway and Dragway on Sept. 25.
Bryant moved through the fourth turn on the 22nd lap sandwiched between Dave Wilson Jr. to his outside and Mark Hoch riding below him. Contact with Hoch occurred and Bryant left the race track and traveled head-on toward the inside front stretch pit wall protected by an implement tire.
Bryant’s car crashed head-on at about 70 mph and went airborne, nose to the sky. The car rose more than 20 feet before it flipped backward and crashed onto the track, finally coming to rest on its roof.
He was virtually uninjured.
The accident was video graphed by Speed51.com and pictures were captured by track photographer Joe Grabianowski. The video has appeared on several national media outlets such as YouTube, Fox News and NASCAR.
“The video has gone viral,” Bryant said. “I never thought that would happen. It’s a tough way to have a lot of people who didn’t know who I was before now become familiar with me.”
Bryant, who is a husband and father of three children, described what happened:
“It all kind of started right at the beginning of lap 22,” said Bryant, 48. “Dave Wilson was pretty sideways going through Turn One and Two. I backed out of it and I was just trying to give him a break to get his car corrected before we made contact. We would have taken the whole field out. I cut him that break and he straightened it out down the backstretch. His car was out of control again in Turns Three and Four and again I left him room but I left too much room down low.
“Mark Hoch made contact with me and then he backed out of it and then Zach Myers hit him and he shoved him (Hoch) back into me a second time and that’s what happened.
“I knew I was going to hit and it was going to be hard. I just kind of braced for it because I didn’t want to steer out of it and hit driver’s side first. Also, it just happened so quickly that I had no time to get off the gas and on the brake. I had a little bit of a sore neck like Monday, Tuesday but other than that I walked away unscathed.”
Lancaster’s safety crew was immediately on the scene and radioed that Bryant was okay. The crowd erupted in applause.
“I do have to applaud Mike Myers and his Speed Enterprises Towing safety crew,” Bryant said. “They do a great job out there. Mike is on his game as trying to bring a better safety program to the track. He’s traveled down south to the Carolina’s to see some of the safety equipment of NASCAR.”
Bryant also is most grateful to his car constructor, Bob Kaminski.
“He’s one heck of a welder,” Bryant said.
Bryant is rebuilding the car but says a decision whether he drives it in the future will be made in the coming weeks with his family. Bryant is married to Susan and they have three children, Jillian, 23; Nathan, 17, and Kathleen, 13.
“If it were up to me then selfishly I’d get in the car again tomorrow,” he said. “But’s it not just up to me.”
He also has a request for Lancaster management.
“I don’t want the track getting any bad publicity but they definitely need to change something as far as just putting a big tire in front of the front stretch concrete wall. We all overlook it until something happens and now that something’s happened I hope they have a plan in the works to change something and my thought would be to just get rid of that wall.”