A first-lap crash on July 20, in Yakima, Washington, severely broke the arm of driver James Hayes, damaged the car and left his brother, Jerry, and mechanic Brian Finch, plenty of time to prepare for next season. The team had been plagued by minor repair and funding issues during the 2019 season and had been unable to complete a race thus far.
"We were pretty excited about the track," Jerry Hayes said. It's a good, half-mile track and it's a pretty fast track. We didn't finish the first lap before we got run into and wrecked."
Hayes said it was aggravating because it wasn't their team's fault, but nothing could be done about it. The team uses their practice time to determine how to set the gears for the race, and they started out pretty close. Time ran out during their final adjustment, which left the car a little on the slow side.
When the race started, officials inverted the field, which means the fastest cars started in the rear of the pack. The Hayes team started toward the front. A rookie driver with a fast car got impatient, according to Hayes.
About three quarters of the way down the back stretch, with car speeds at 100 MPH plus, the rookie driver plowed into the rear end of the Hayes car. As James Hayes struggled to keep the car under control, it appeared another car hit the front of Hayes' car. which the team believes probably crunched the rack-and-pinion steering and flung Hayes' arm into the inside roll cage, shattering his arm.
"It was so quick, James didn't even really know what had happened," Jerry Hayes said. The car skidded into the infield which caused a "red flag" to stop the race and clean up the track.
Jerry Hayes attempted to contact his brother via radio to see if the car was still driveable but got no response. Several minutes later the driver replied that he needed help.
"It wasn't like he needed a push," Jerry Hayes said. He got permission to run across the track to check on his brother, who was out of the car by then with his left arm in an odd shape.
"It was not good," Hayes said. James was taken to the emergency room at a Yakima hospital, while the rest of the team stayed at the track to gather up their equipment and load the damaged car back onto its trailer, finally arriving at the hospital around midnight. James was released at about 3:30 a.m.
It was bad," Hayes said. His brother's arm was shattered with bone fragments all over. Surgery put the bones back together along with a long plate and about a dozen screws.
The car isn't totaled by any means although the nose was mostly torn off, so it had to be taped back into position. The frame is bent and broken in one place. Team mechanic, Brian Finch, said that the the car suffered surprisingly little damage. Even the radiator remains intact.
With the loss of James as driver for the remaining three races of the season, the team is hanging it up.
"We're in the middle of a bad funding year, so we're calling it done for the year, and we'll see what happens," Hayes said.
Last season, the Hayes team had their best year yet and hoped this season for a finish in the five or six in the Northwest PRO4 Racing circuit. The team missed one race due to funding concerns and a seal failure at an earlier race led to the team dropping from that race as well.
"We thought we got rid of the bugs last year, but this year it's been gremlin after gremlin after gremlin," Hayes said. "It doesn't make for a fun season; I can tell you that."