CRA: Brian Fries returns to racing

Brian Fries Returns to Racing in 2002 Ohio Driver Supports New CRA Safety Rule Salem, Ind. (February 13, 2002) & ...

Brian Fries Returns to Racing in 2002 Ohio Driver Supports New CRA Safety Rule

Salem, Ind. (February 13, 2002) – When Brian Fries’ number 28 Chevrolet burst into flames at Winchester Speedway last June, everybody held their breath and prayed he would crawl out of his blazing machine. Moments that seemed like an eternity passed as Winchester Fire and Safety Crew workers converged on the fireball. Suddenly, Fries rolled out of the fiery wreck onto the racetrack. To the amazement of everyone on hand, he escaped without life-threatening injuries and, after a two-month recovery from broken ribs and skin grafts, is excited about returning to the CRA Sunoco Super Series in 2002.

“I’m really excited about returning to the series,” said Fries, taking a moment away from putting finishing touches on a new car he has already prepared for the 2002 Sunoco Super Series campaign. “We have a team goal of finishing in the top 15 in the final standings. The key to improving is getting some seat time and making every race.”

The scary June incident took place early in the 100- lap contest. Bull Baker was leading a torrid charge with nearly the entire field running bumper-to-bumper around the half-mile steeply banked oval. On the 12th circuit, Fries headed full-throttle down the backstretch. Little did he know the right front A- frame would break as he entered the third corner. With cars all around him, Fries wasn’t able to get down the track and was forced to stop high near the wall coming off turn four. His dead-stick machine was hit from behind by a competitor who was nearly at full speed at the time of impact.

“When it all started, it seemed like an ordinary accident. When the A-Frame broke and I bounced off the wall, I couldn’t get down, so I stopped. The next thing after that, I got hit and the entire car erupted in fire. I don’t remember a lot about the accident, but I had trouble getting out and don’t remember much after that,” said Brian Fries.

“I owe everybody at Winchester Speedway and Randolph County Hospital a huge ‘Thank You’,” continued the 39- year-old driver. “Their bravery and quick efforts helped save my life.”

Fries also credits a neck collar he wore for helping to save his life. “I think it’s a great idea and I’m pleased the series has stepped up and made a neck collar mandatory. It kept the fire from getting into my helmet and I will never race without one,” Fries said. The CRA has made a neck collar or head-and-neck restraint system mandatory in 2002.

Fries suffered eight broken ribs and needed seven skin grafts following the accident. But though it was the most gruesome of his long career, it hasn’t extinguished his fire to compete.

“I’ve been in my share of wrecks…” he said. “I never thought something like that would happen… It was a scary deal, but I’m excited to get back in a racecar.”

Fries, of Christiansburg, Ohio, started his racing career in 1986 at Shadybowl Speedway in the mini- stock division. He then ventured to Winchester Speedway to compete in the modified Pro 4s. He raced in the traveling circuit that was renamed the ARCA Pro 4s. Fries, who has close to 15 wins, was the series champion in 1997 and finished in the top five in points nearly every season. He also has experience in the wedged late model division at Columbus Motor Speedway.

For the 2002 season, Fries has purchased a Port City Racing Chassis and plans to compete in the Sunoco Super Series on a full-time basis. His brother, Tony, will serve as crew chief for the Fries Motorsports entry. The family operation is looking for interested parties that would like to sponsor the number 28 Chevrolet in 2002.

The 2002 Sunoco Super Series season opens at the quarter-mile Anderson (Ind.) Speedway on Saturday, April 20.

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