Roush-Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards called one of the victims of Sunday’s lightning strike at Pocono Raceway this week. Ten people were injured, one fatally, in two separate lightning strikes during a severe thunderstorm after the Pennsylvania 400 had been halted.
While taking a break from testing at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia Tuesday, Edwards said track officials told him that one victim who was still hospitalized was a big fan of Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Ford Fusion. Edwards then called the fan, identified only as ‘Tony’.
“He told me the story in detail about what happened to him and his friends and it sounded like a very terrible scene,” Edwards said.
Edwards then went on to address the issue of if track officials and NASCAR had acted appropriately.
“I’ve read a little bit about it and I know there’s a lot of discussion about what NASCAR should have done or the track should have done,” he said. “But, I think, at the end of the day, it’s Mother Nature and it’s very difficult for anyone to take responsibility and say, ‘We should have done this or done that.’ It’s something that I would have never expected. I walked right out from my hauler to my motorhome in the middle of that rainstorm and I ignorantly didn’t think about the dangers that were there.”
“I think we all maybe take that stuff a little too lightly,” Edwards added. “I have to tell you that after talking to that gentleman last night, Tony, my thoughts and prayers are with him and his really good friend who is pretty bad off. He’s recovering and the family that lost their father, it’s tragic. I think all of us would be willing to do anything we could do to prevent something like that from happening in the future. At the end of the day, this is sports. It’s supposed to be fun. Everybody is going out there to have a good time and we need to do things the safest way possible. Tony is a really nice guy. To hear what happened at the track is pretty bad.”
The person who died was identified as 41 year old Brian Zimmerman.
“The gentleman that lost his life, that’s just really sad,” Edwards said Tuesday. “I believe the way (Tony) told the story there were three guys that were injured. Tony, the guy I talked to was injured the least. His one buddy is pretty bad off and his other friend obviously lost his life. From what he told me, I don’t want to speak for him or anything, but it was as big of a surprise to him that something like that happened. They didn’t expect that and I don’t think they saw anything coming. They didn’t think there were at that big of a risk. It’s just tragic.”
Edwards said that avoiding such tragedies in the future really comes down to personal responsibility.
“I don’t want this to come across harsh or anything because I have a huge amount of sympathy for what happened,” Edwards said. “But at the end of the day every person is responsible for themselves. Now, it is NASCAR and our jobs – if we can, anyone with the technology at the track or NASCAR – if we can advise someone and give them information it’s your moral obligation to do that. But I think at the end of the day it’s a good wake-up call for all of us, whether we’re at a race track or walking out of the shopping center to our cars that they issue storm warnings for a reason. I know myself personally I’ve taken that stuff pretty lightly, even growing up in Missouri with all the severe weather we don’t really think it’s gonna happen to us. But I think at the end of the day it’s each person’s individual responsibility.”
The raceway also announced Tuesday that they have established the Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund to benefit the victims of the lighting strike tragedy.
Donations will be accepted at any PNC Branch or by mailing checks/money orders, addressed to “Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund” to the following address:
Attn: Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund
1234 Long Pond Road
Long Pond, PA 18334
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