Watkins Glen: GM interview with TrakMed

Road-course ace Ron Fellows is driving the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo this weekend at Watkins Glen, his second stint of the season for DEI, Inc. The Toronto native finished seventh at Infineon Raceway in June. As part of its continuing...

Road-course ace Ron Fellows is driving the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo this weekend at Watkins Glen, his second stint of the season for DEI, Inc. The Toronto native finished seventh at Infineon Raceway in June. As part of its continuing development in leading driver safety, GM Racing is providing the Pennzoil team with the services of TrakMed, a trackside medical support team GM Racing uses in conjunction with the racing efforts of GM's factory-supported Corvette Racing team in the American Le Mans Series.

Marian Smartt , RN, president and founder, TrakMed:

WHAT IS TRAKMED AND WHY DID YOU START IT? "I actually raced a little and as a registered critical care nurse, I saw the need to increase awareness and safety for drivers at the track. TrakMed was actually developed here back in 1998 when Watkins Glen International and ISC allowed me to use the track as a research facility as a nurse. I had no idea I was going to start a company out of what we talked about and discovered. We determined that there was something we could do to increase the safety for the drivers, crew, the fire and rescue personnel, anybody that was at a hot track. Here I met Ron Fellows and we talked about a trackside medical care program. He was the lead development driver for the Corvette Racing program at the time, so he took the information back to Gary Claudio with GM Racing and the Corvette program manager Doug Fehan. After extensive research into who we were, what we do, and what our qualifications were, they interviewed us and later we got a phone call to be in Daytona for the 24 Hours of Daytona in January, and that was in 1999."

WHAT SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE? "We provide a variety of cutting-edge medical services with our board-certified emergency physician Dr. Gregg Summerville, who is our medical director, along with registered nurses who have Sports Medicine training, trauma training, and physical therapists and certified athletic trainers specializing in the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, nutrition, hydration, and therapeutic massage, with additional modalities of alternative therapies. We basically bring a family practice to the track for the drivers, crew members and families. We've treated everything from dehydration to burns and lacerations to fuel in the eyes to the basic flu.

Dr. Gregg Summerville , Medical Director, TrackMed:

(HOW DID YOU BECOME ASSOCIATED WITH TRAKMED? "I'm a board-certified emergency physician, so I work in the emergency room in a hospital in northern New Jersey. I began racing myself in SCCA when I was younger, and when I was at Road Atlanta one weekend while doing my residency at Emory University, they asked me to be a track physician, so that's how I got started. And then through the International Council of Motorsports Scientists, which is a group of physicians and researchers who deal with race driver safety and performance issues, I met Marian. She asked if I wanted to help her provide trackside medical care at races, and I said that was right up my alley. It combines my two passions, racing and medicine, and that's how we got together."

(AS A DOCTOR, WHAT NEEDS HAVE YOU SEEN AT THE TRACK THAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO MEET, SPECIFICALLY PERTAINING TO THE DRIVERS? "I think the reason that GM Racing began to use us was that they realized that there was a problem, or a need, for the drivers to be taken care of. They were getting overheated and they were getting dehydrated in the car to go along with just normal, everyday headaches, colds, and so forth that we provide care for. I think they asked themselves, 'What can we do about this?' Having a medical staff present trackside is what they came up with. Ron introduced us to GM Racing, specifically with help with the heat and dehydration in the closed cockpit of the Corvette C5-R, not unlike the heat generated in a Winston Cup car. While in the race car, the body's mechanism for dissipating heat is hampered by fire suits, less-than-optimum airflow, and with time, partial dehydration. There have been times when a driver has gotten out of the car with a core body temperature of 104 degrees. Extreme temperature is not the only adverse condition the driver encounters. There's extremes in high g-loading, vibration, and the constant need for perfect focused attention. To help combat these extremes, TrakMed has found that the use of a combination of therapies dramatically affects the driver's abilities to maintain adequate fluid levels, electrolyte balance, and lowers the driver's core body temperature. Proper hydration aids the driver's focus and concentration, and at times we've included intravenous hydration immediately prior to the driver starting the race. Crew members are constantly monitored, too, and provided with cool drinks and towels as needed. We view the race driver as an endurance athlete competing under the most adverse of conditions with zero margin for error. We've become very astute at finding out what the drivers need.

DO YOU SEE THE SAME DRIVERS' NEED FOR YOUR SERVICES IN WINSTON CUP AS YOU HAVE IN ENDURANCE RACES WITH THE CORVETTE TEAM IN SPORTS CARS? "This is our first weekend working with a Winston Cup team, so our exposure is limited, but the heat inside the closed cockpit of a Winston Cup car has to be about the same. There's anecdotal reports of drivers getting dehydrated, as well as the environmental exposure to carbon monoxide. We just don't have enough experience right now, but we're looking into it. The races are long, and you don't have the option of switching out the driver after a few hours, so it's got to be harder on the driver in a different way. If you take care of the driver before they get in the car, they're going to last longer in the car and perform."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ron Fellows
Teams Corvette Racing