DOVER, Del. (September 15, 2000) - Patrick Beckley is the transporter driver and over the wall catch can man for Randy Tolsma's No. 25 CITGO-SUPERGARD Motor Oil Dodge. When Beckley arrives in Dover for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race next...
DOVER, Del. (September 15, 2000) - Patrick Beckley is the transporter driver and over the wall catch can man for Randy Tolsma's No. 25 CITGO-SUPERGARD Motor Oil Dodge. When Beckley arrives in Dover for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race next week, he will have to face the Monster Mile for the first time since he received 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 33% of his body during a freak accident.
On September 16, 1995, Beckley was the over the wall catch can man for Mike Laughlin Racing's No. 35 car in the Busch Grand National Series. During a routine pit stop on lap 82, Beckley and the gas man were emptying the second can of fuel into the car. Out of the corner of his eye, Beckley saw the rear tire changer drop his air wrench on the ground.
"The next thing I saw was a flash of light," recalls Beckley. "I felt heat and realized I was on fire."
Beckley's uniform caught fire from the spark of the air wrench igniting the fuel. He threw the catch can and started rolling on the ground to try to douse the flames. "I could feel my legs burning, and the safety crews were spraying me with fire extinguishers."
Beckley was transported to the infield care center at Dover Downs and then to Kent General Hospital. From there it was a painful 24 day stay in the burn unit at the hospital. Beckley was burned on his face and from the waist down.
"If it wasn't for the safety workers at Dover Downs, Dr. Ashby Carey and the staff of Kent County General, I'm not sure I could have made it through that ordeal. When you get burned like that, the healing process is so painful. The burns on my nose and lips were pretty bad, but somehow they healed without plastic surgery. I had a lot of physical therapy."
While in the hospital, Beckley made a goal for himself to be back into action and pitting the car by the last race of the 1995 season at Homestead Miami Speedway. A week before he was discharged from the Dover hospital, Beckley underwent a 6 1/2 hour skin graft surgery for the burns on his legs. He attended the Homestead race, but was not healed enough to pit the car.
Beckley returned to the over the wall status in July of 1996 as a member of Andy Santerre's team. Since the accident, Beckley has been back to Dover, but due to circumstances, has not pitted a car since.
"Ever since that day, I don't care what I am doing over the wall, I wear a fire suit," stated Beckley. "I'm not taking any chances of that ever happening again. I'm glad NASCAR has made improvements in safety precautions since then and hope they continue to look at safety issues. Me catching on fire like that was a freak accident, and looking at me now you can barely tell but I don't think I will ever forget that day."