SEYMOUR, Tenn. – Terry Gray made sure his Friday night ended on a high note.
Gray, from Bartlett, Tenn., took the lead from polesitter Eric Riggins Jr. on lap 15 of the 30-lap “Thunder in the Smokies” United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour filtercharged by K&N main event Friday night at 411 (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and sped to the win.
The victory was Gray’s first USCS win of the season and came after a massive opening lap crash that saw his teammate Morgan Turpen flip wildly into the catchfence in turn three.
“This one means a whole lot tonight,” Gray said. “Especially after what happened to (Morgan), I wanted to win this bad for her. For both of us, really. I lost one earlier this season at Hohenwald and I wasn’t gonna let that happen again.”
Speaking of his teammate and crew chief, Gray expressed how thankful he was not only that Turpen was alright, but that she came back to cheer him on after her race-ending incident.
“She’s a tough customer,” Gray said. “She’s been through a lot tonight, but I’m glad to have her around here, and real glad she’s okay. She took a hard spill.”
Turpen and Lance Moss were battling for the second position on the opening lap behind Riggins. The pair went down into turn three and Moss drove in and clipped the right rear wheel of Turpen’s No. 10M car, sending her around and launching her into the catchfence in front of the whole field.
Turpen’s car came to rest between turns three and four, and she was gingerly extricated from her car complaining of knee pain and a sore neck, but she was able to exit her car with minor assistance.
Numerous other cars were involved in the fray, with eight of the 22 starters being unable to return after a nearly hour-long red flag halted the racing action for extensive cleanup. In addition to Turpen and Moss, Shawn Murray, Terry Witherspoon, Tim Perry, Greg Merritt and Ray Bugg were collected in the melee. Bugg’s involvement was particularly scary, with his throttle hanging after the incident and his car doing doughnuts wildly out-of-control in turn four.
When the car came to rest, safety officials quickly came to the 76-year-old sprint car veteran’s aid. Bugg was transported to the University of Tennessee medical center for further evaluation. Bugg was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae in his neck, but was awake and alert and speaking with both doctors and series officials at the hospital.
“I don’t remember a whole lot, to be honest,” Turpen said after the feature. “I jsut remember sailing it down into turn 3 and then the next thing I knew we were in the air. I just thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is bad,’ and then we were pinned against the concrete wall.”
“I’m sore right now; my knees are pretty banged up, and I want to get my neck checked out, but if we can get the car fixed and we’re cleared for tomorrow, we’re gonna do our best to race. I want to as long as I can.”