Racing is dangerous.
Of course that ought to seem obvious. Cars are run at the absolute limits of adhesion, pushed far past the point of good sense. Former Formula 1 World Champion Phil Hill once noted that in order to win you must at time take grave risks.
But when we think of risks we always think of the drivers. Consider this, I have seen personally seen following men drive: Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue, Peter Revson, Jerry Titus, Francois Cevert, Swede Savage and Greg Moore. I’ve held out flags for Moore. They all died racing.
But the truth is that racing isn’t truly safe for anyone. I’m a corner worker, and we too play on the other side of the spectator fence. We have a barrier to hide behind, legs to run, eyes to see, and a blue flagger to protect us when our back is turned. But none of us has a roll cage, a five-point harness or a fuel cell. We stand out there naked with our flags and fire extinguishers. Things can go bad quickly at 130 MPH.
Today my friend Glenn Miller was killed in a racing accident at Nelson Ledges Road Course. Glenn was an engineer and a teacher, a lean, high-strung man with a quick laugh and beer in his hand around the campfire. He drove in road rally competition. He was a damned good corner worker, and damned serious about what happened out there where race cars dance. In 2004 he suffered a stroke, and spent the season chomping at the bit to get back out on a corner station. He loved pool, racing and his family in indeterminate order.
Glenn called me a friend. He served as crew for me, and when I was sitting in the trailer dejected after stuffing my car into a tree at Summit Point he was the one who came to cheer me up, to get me going again.
Glenn was married with three children. They were all raised at the track and they’re all corner workers. Mindy just got her engineering degree, Candy’s still in college and Doug’s earned an academic scholarship to college. There good kids, happy and smart, at least until now. I never met his wife, and I wish that when we do meet it could come under happier circumstances.
I don’t yet know the details of Glenn’s death, but they really don’t matter. Shit happens in racing, and sometimes shit happens to you. I do know that my friend died doing something he loved.
Every fall at Nelson Ledges the men and women of Lake Erie Communications remember those corner workers who have passed on. They work Station 1, there spirits out there to enjoy the racing and to remind the rest of us what we have to live up to. We blow their whistles and remember them. Until now none have died on track.
I think Glenn’s whistle will prove hard to blow.