The opening round of Pro Modified at the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals was chock full of excitement but for all the wrong reasons. Kris Thorne and Steve Matusek crashed their vehicles with both drivers exiting banged up race cars but had no injuries.
Thorne had beaten No. 1 qualifier Jason Scruggs, using a .006 reaction time and 5.768-second elapsed time to pad his lead over the quicker Scruggs. And it was a fortunate set of circumstances for Scruggs as Thorne crossed over in front of him and impacted the wall head-on.
Thorne’s car slid along the retaining wall until it reached the sandtrap, and barrel-rolled twice before coming to a stop.
The violence of the crash was downplayed by Thorne, who described the incident as “the smoothest wreck” he ever had experienced.
“We had a’ chute malfunction,” said Thorne, of Titusville, Fla. “This turbo car ran a really big mile-an-hour. I probably got on the brakes a little too hard, possibly, and she just got a little out of control.”
Three pairs later, Steve Matusek had a few issues of his own, crashing in the opposite lane in his match against Todd Tutterow.
Matusek said he believed the car was on a good run, most likely a 5.75 or so.
His 2020 Ford Mustang crossed the center line then made contact with the wall and rolled, before coming to a rest. Matusek exited the car under his own power.
“The car got over on the centerline, and I was fighting it,” Matusek said. “I was concerned that when you get the parachutes out, the car typically darts to the left. I was ready for it to dart left and I don’t know what made it go to the right on me. It crossed lanes, and rolled over, and from that point I had no control.”