Behind the scenes: The speedway safety crew

The number one priority for Yampa Valley Auto Racing Association President Justin Gallegos is safety for the drivers at the Hayden Speedway.

One of the most important components for safety is the West Routt County Fire Department and Ambulance Service.

"For the fans, it sometimes seems like maybe we don't need the safety equipment out there since it is rarely used," Gallegos said. "But I've been taken off the track in an ambulance before and I never appreciated them more."

The track association has a contract with the fire and ambulance service that pays a small amount to have the safety equipment and operators at the track, but the pay isn't what keeps the firefighters and EMTs coming back.

"We're just like anyone out there in the stands watching as race fans," said firefighter Jerry Morehead, who raced at the Colorado National Speedway when it was a dirt track. "The track is part of the community so we want to make sure all goes well."

The safety crew has one of the best seats in the house with the fire engine and ambulance parked by the entrance to the track for the vehicles. The duties of the crew don't just involve fire and health.

Three weeks ago two super trucks were on their way to the oval when one of the trucks stalled. In an effort to get the truck going, the trailing driver gave a little love tap. The tap ended up locking the trucks at the bumper and after a while members of the safety crew were jumping up and down on the trucks trying to get them unlocked.

"I don't think you would find in our job description anything about bouncing cars apart," Morehead said. "But we're here to help in any way we can."

Gallegos said track insurance requires the safety crew to be out there but it doesn't specify who needs to be at the track. Yet the quality of the current crew leaves no doubt that the right people are out watching over the track.

"I haven't ever seen an accident or fire that they haven't been out there immediately and gotten under control," he said.

"The one time they've been dispatched this year they were out there so quick they almost beat me to the car."

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