Updated: Jul 3, 2019
I started writing this article a few days after my crash at NJMP. I felt like this article made a bigger deal out of the crash than it was so I never finished it. Crashes happen to a lot of people and when it comes down to it, who really cares that I binned it? So I never published it. But I stumbled upon the article recently and I thought it was too good to delete. So if you like it, great! If you think I sound like a whiny bitch, you’re right! lol
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Before I get into this, I want to give a short disclaimer. I realize my crash isn’t as big of a deal as I have played it out to be. People total their cars and injure themselves in this sport much worse than I did quite frequently. I was lucky in my circumstance where my car is repairable and I was uninjured. Please understand that the point of this article is not for sympathy or to complain. My goal was to write an article about my experience in hopes that it may console another that had a similar experience or possibly save someone from making the same mistake.
To understand the emotion involved you need to know about me. My name is Josh Herbert. I am operations manager of a small amateur race team, driver and performance driving instructor. I love all aspects of performance driving to the point of obsession. I read books, watch videos and study performance driving and how to teach it. It is safe to say that it consumes a majority of my life. The car obviously plays an important role as it is the media in which I can practice my obsession. It is where my extra money goes and is what I am thinking about throughout a significant portion of each day. The driver seat is where I belong and I feel the most alive. When that is taken away due to a mistake on my part, it hurts. And it is extremely important to me to get it back.
It was the last day of the last event of the season. The track, car and myself felt right and tenths were being plucked away from with every lap. Seeing at it was just an instructors HPDE session, I shouldn’t have been pushing as hard as I was, but there was still a lot of potential left in the car. And pushing hard is kinda what we do as performance drivers. I knew it was me that was holding the car back. A 1:16.3 lap time scrolls across my lap timer. Almost 2 seconds faster than in the beginning of the season and a new personal best. As I pushed harder, the lap times stopped improving so drastically. After a few near identically slow laps, I realized I had tensed up. I stretched my fingers on the front straight in an attempt to relax and reminded myself to let the seat and harness do its job to hold me in. Going into turn 1 I clipped the inside rumble and it upset the car. “This lap was shot” I thought. But I shook it off and decided I would carry on as usual throughout the lap and turn my attention to other areas I wanted to improve. Every other corner went very well. Including the tricky turn 5. Coming out of the last corner I noticed I was up on my lap time and pressed the throttle harder into the firewall. As if more pressure against the pedal stop would somehow improve my acceleration. A 1:16.1. Now if I could just nail turn 1 I should be in the 1:15’s right!? I entered turn 1 with all the courage I had. My entry was fast. The car was at the limit. A true zero steer moment. The car was sliding that perfect amount all drivers dream of. As the car crest over turn 1, my vision was fixed on exit. My trajectory was typical of entering too fast. It was going to be close. I knew I was going to dip a tire off the rumble strip then and there. That shouldn’t have been an issue. But the grass was still dewy and around I went. The car seemed to turn on me in a millisecond and all of a sudden I was moving in reverse on the grass. I look to my right and see a barrier. My mind went into save the car mode. I remember thinking that if I was going to hit the wall, I refused to hit it with the difficult to repair back of the car. I cranked the wheel to the left in an attempt to spin the car back around to the right. At this time I also noticed the car was in ice mode and was hardly slowing down. Knowing that the e-brake was mechanical, I yanked it like Lil bow wow in Tokyo drift. That seemed to help. But not enough. Now at my 2 o’ clock, the wall was closing in. Then, contact. I swiped the wall with the front right, then bounced off the rear right, did a quick pirouette and came to a stop facing the wall I had just become regretfully acquainted with.
The way in which I hit wasn’t very jarring. I later joked that I had been hit harder at every dirt track race I ever competed in than in this instance. I sat there for a second. Caught my breath, then remembered my training for these circumstances. There was smoke but it didn’t seem to be a fire. Even though mentally I was two thumbs down, I gave the flagger a thumbs up. He did the same. I looked in my rear view and saw a fellow instructor drive by. “Embarrassing.” I thought to myself. I also noticed something I really didn’t want to see. My gopro shut itself off. Go figure. I looked to my left. There sat pieces of my front bumper and splitter. “That isn’t mine. Those parts were clearly there before this happened.” I thought jokingly in denial. Then the safety crew showed up and carried me away. I got a very brief view of the carnage before I was loaded into the ambulance.
After the ambulance dropped me off in the pits, I was 100% alone. For a few minutes I sat on a trailer and regained my thoughts. Soon I was comforted by the Spec13 crew and many of my track friends. Many of which had some sort of cliche saying. “It’s not if, it’s when.” “The important part is that you are ok.” Yadda yadda yadda. At the time, those sayings don’t help. But I am glad they were there to say it.
The next part was pretty rough. I caught a glimpse of a tow truck and what looked like a junkyard version of my car in tow. Everything in front of the hood was just, gone. It looked like most of it was all bolt on stuff but then I saw the back. My efforts to avoid hitting the rear of the car was almost successful. To my relief a busted tail light and slightly dented rear quarter was the extent of the rear damage.
I always thought I would know how to deal with this type of situation. I always thought I would just walk it off, grab a beer with friends that night and just get over it. That’s how I dealt with my rollover crash in a dirt race nearly a decade prior. But this was different. I had
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And that is where I stopped writing the article. It was a tough costly winter but it really wasn’t that bad. I believe the accident has changed the way I look at performance driving for the better.