Heydenreich Escapes Serious Injury in Fiery Crash

LAKELAND, Fla., Dec. 14 - Johnny Heydenreich hopes to be discharged from Lakeland Regional Medical Center Friday. The popular driver from Bloomsburg, Pa. and Indianapolis, Ind. was admitted there Wednesday night following a fiery crash in the Premier Racing Association (PRA) Big Car 100-lap season finale at USA International Speedway in Lakeland.

On Thursday afternoon Heydenreich's car owner, Sharon Bank, said that Heydenreich was being held at the hospital primarily as a precaution after inhaling a small amount of methanol fumes in the accident. She said he suffered no broken bones and only minor burns, primarily to his left ankle.

The accident occurred with 40 laps down while Heydenreich was running eighth in the race, which had 28 starters. While he was holding off three other cars, Heydenreich's Coolfitwear.com Beast Brannan No. 90 was hit from behind by one of his rivals in turn one, sending it barreling into the track's outer wall. The impact of the crash was very hard, rupturing the car's fuel cell, and the fuel ignited.

Heydenreich exited the car under his own power but on fire. He fell to the ground and rolled to try to extinguish the flames, but spilled fuel ignited around him and traveled down the track, where it erupted into another tall fireball. The race was red-flagged while emergency crews put the fire out and transferred Heydenreich to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. The event was restarted and eventually won by Bobby Santos III.

"The Impact safety equipment did an outstanding job; he looks fine," Bank said. "He only has one minor burn on his ankle, which is amazing for what he went through. They had just come down the frontstretch, so they were probably doing close to 160 miles per hour.

"John is so smart that he wears a full balaclava and had everything tucked in so there were no open areas exposed," Bank added. "The doctors were astounded by the job the Impact racing suit, the R-3 head and neck restraint device, and the ISP seat did too.

"He's in incredibly good spirits; he's sore and he has a minor burn, but he looks fine," Bank emphasized. "He's telling jokes and making all the nurses laugh. All in all we're very lucky."

"I tried to hold my breath," Heydenreich said of the accident. "I have a couple burns on my hands too. They're going to give me another chest X-ray tomorrow just to be sure everything is OK. Right now breathing for me is how you feel when you breath air that is really cold, but they say that should get better pretty quickly. The doctors and the staff here are excellent. It's like a five-star hotel. They're on top of things, and the doctors work as a team so they don't miss anything. Hopefully I'll be discharged tomorrow."

-credit: johnnyheydenreich.com.