Brian's Race Report from Firebird Main

10/10/04 Chandler, AZ


Well, coming into this weekend, I knew it was going to be a tough weekend. Not only was it going to be hot, but I was going to have to deal with an underpowered bike on a track with a HUGE straight. Basically, you could go as fast as your bike would take you. I heard rumors of 180 mph+. In addition, I was coming into this weekend with a goal of securing 2nd in SuperTwins (behind Tom, who's in first) and hopefully closing in on 1st in Heavyweight SuperSport behind my friend Eric. I would be in 1st in both classes (I think), but I've missed too many rounds this season.




On Friday evening, I went over to Pat's house to load up the trailers and drive them to Firebird. After we got the toy hauler loaded, we were just waiting for Tom to arrive. He was at his shop working on his bikes trying to get them ready. He was going to race 3 bikes this weekend, including a new bike (to him) ... his wife's CBR 600RR. After we realized it was getting too late to head to Firebird that night, I headed over to Tom's shop to give him a hand prepping the CBR600RR.


Right after we finished prepping his bike, my friends Brian and Aaron showed up from San Diego. They were going to stay at my house this weekend and race with us at Firebird. We didn't actually get into bed until after 1am because we ended up staying up and talking for a long time. That sucked because we had to get up at 5:30am the next morning.




We got up early and headed over to Pat's house to pick up the toy hauler and head to the track. We didn't actually get to Firebird until after 7am, but luckily Tom was able to get there FIRST (go TOM!) and reserve us a nice big pit area. Our pit was huge this weekend, with 9 bikes! We had Tom (3 bikes), Pat (2 bikes), me, Brian, Aaron, and Matt Bollman in our pit. I had to rush in the morning because I had to change my tires first thing before I went out on the track. Dale Keifer at Michelin was quick with my tires and I was able to make it out for 2 laps in the first session. Not enough time to get up to speed, but enough time to figure out which way to turn next! This was my first time on Firebird Main.


After the 1st session for Expert and Amateur racers (before street riders), CCS called an emergency riders meeting. The entrance to the front straight is basically the burn out area for the drag racing cars. You actually cross a big painted area where the "Christmas tree" is for the drag races (a lighting system that tells the cars when to go). It was SUPER slick!! No matter how fast you were going, if you got on the gas at all, it would slide out. Most of the faster guys were spinning their tires 1/2 the way down the 6/8ths of a mile straight. It was WAY TOO UNSAFE to race on. CCS acknowledged this and asked the riders for their input. After a long meeting and about 20 minutes of a truck running back and forth over that section towing tires (to lay down rubber), we decided to try it the next couple sessions before lunch (carefully) and see if it got safer. If not, we'd redirect the course around the painted section. Luckily, it ended up getting MUCH better by the end of the day. It was nice to see CCS willing to sacrifice the track layout in favor of rider safety if needed.


When I went out for the 2nd session, I was ready to start picking up the pace. Even though you could not get a good drive on the straight yet (because of the slippery paint), you still made it up to 160+ mph by the end. After about 10 laps, I was going down the straight at 150+ mph (toward the end) when I felt what I thought had to be a huge nut or bolt from a bike in front of me, hit me HARD in the right shoulder. I assumed it was kicked up by the bike in front of me. At that speed, IT HURT. I made it through the turn at the end of the straight and then my shoulder starting going numb. I tried to finish the lap normally, but could not grip with my right arm at all, so I laid my right arm on the tank and rode out the lap with one hand, no gas, and only clutch play to control my speed. By the time I got back to my pit, I was feeling woozy and could barely stay up on the bike. I managed to get off it and over to Pat who I asked to help me get my leathers off. I figured I had either broken something or was seriously bruised/swollen. As Pat pulled on my leathers, I heard a rip and then immediately found out that I could not lift my right arm at all. I then though maybe it was dislocated. I felt up there and felt something sticking out of my shoulder. I thought it was a bone. With Pat's help, I managed to get the top of my leathers off before I felt like I was going to pass out, so I sat down. Everything was white, blurry and spinning. We discovered a freakin nail was impacted in my shoulder! (click here for video showing nail in my shoulder -- you will need Quicktime. Get it free here) It was all the way down to the head having pinned my leathers and undershirt to my body. I think my leathers are what stopped the head from making it through and the nail continuing further. I have no idea what a nail was doing on the track, or even how long it was (at the time). It felt like it was in bone to me. Bryan Land from the pit next to us brought over his golf cart and the guys took me to the ambulance. I was too faint to do anything....I was totally white they said. The ambulance people gave me oxygen and the guys (about 10 other racers, some of them my teammates) took care of me by shading me with an umbrella (thanks Chad Rolland and Bryan Land), etc. The oxygen and shade helped, because I eventually got my color back and felt good enough to get to the hospital without an ambulance. Pat was awesome enough to drive me to the hospital and miss some track time. Thanks Pat!! I knew I'd be a while, so I told him to just check me in and then I'd call for a ride later. I hoped it would only be an hour or so ordeal....



The ambulance called ahead, so when I got to the hospital I was immediately taken to ER and within 15 minutes I had seen my doctors, had an X-Ray and saw the X-Ray results. I definitely had a nail in my shoulder that was about 3 inches long. It was jammed in between some bones, but had not entered the bone or chipped it. It did look like the nail was bent by the bone when it hit it (see X-Ray pics). The doctors were pretty worried about the location of the nail and didn't want to remove it until seeing X-Rays and having an angiogram. It was basically in a mine field of lung cavities, nerve centers and blood vessels/arteries. If it was "corking" an artery, pulling it out would have seriously bad consequences. If it was, surgery would be required to remove the nail.



The X-Ray cleared the bone and lungs, but they still had to do the angiogram to check the blood flow. The angiogram takes about 1 hour of time, but most of that is prep time. The angiogram people were very happy to treat me as I was "double time" for them (they are off weekends). This made it kinda fun because they were in a good mood. With an angiogram, they basically cut into a major artery down in your groin area (more to the right hip side) and introduce some dye. Then, they insert a long tube with a camera at the end so they can see what's going on. They navigate this tube up the artery system to the shoulder area, so you end up with a long tube stuck up your body that you can actually feel moving around. That's kinda trippy. I liked the angiogram people because they were nice and gave me a couple extra doses of the morphine and drugs. I was high as a kite and really didn't feel anything except for the prepping (dry shaving sucked) and needles entering (there were 2 not counting the IV's). With the angiogram, we could see that the nail had miraculously missed all the veins and all the nerve centers. This was good surgery needed to remove the nail.


As soon as I got back from the angiogram, Amy showed up. She had been driven to the hospital by my brother Aaron (thanks bro) because she was too emotional to drive. You'd think she'd be used to my hospital visits by now...must be the pregnant thing. It was nice to see her, but I felt bad for her because she just had to sit there and wait for me to get out. Pretty boring.


Once they found out all was clear, the doctor came into the room and without telling me, just pulled out the nail. I thought he was just looking at it, but then he just yanked it out. It was probably better telling me, because I didn't have time to tense up for the moment, etc. It FREAKIN HURT when it came out, but it felt much better than it had, after the initial pain went away. Any movement in my body really hurt before because the nail was stuck in a joint. I was able to talk the Doctor into giving me a copy of the X-Rays and letting me keep the nail. Not sure what I'm gonna do with it yet, but I have it.


The rest of the day sucked. After the angiogram, they are very worried about the artery they entered through the groin healing back up right. If it doesn't, you'll loose a LOT of blood and have serious complications within minutes. Because of this, I was required to lay flat as a board, not move my right leg, not sit up and not raise my head for 6 HOURS!!! That sucked. To top it off, I had to get a new tetanus shot because of the rusty nail. Now I have 2 sore shoulders....but I guess that's better than a sore shoulder and a sore butt cheek.


Oh yeah, because of the drugs, the doctors would not let me eat or drink ANYTHING while I was there. They were afraid I'd throw it up and then rupture the artery in my groin. I had not had a single bite to eat all day (skipped breakfast) and had only a couple drinks of water at the track. I was DYING for water, but they wouldn't give me any.


I entered the hospital at 11:15 am and left around 8:15 pm. Amy's parent's came and took us home because we were stranded at the hospital. My truck was at Pat's house and Amy didn't drive because she was too emotional. On our way home, I FINALLY got to eat something and drink something!!!


That night was rough because I was sore all over and the drugs started wearing off.




On Saturday, the Dr. had told me that I could do anything I felt up to doing on Sunday as long as I didn't feel the need to take the pain medicine. If I took the pain medicine, no operating vehicles. My wife, the doctor and the nurses all knew what I was asking....can I race on Sunday. I liked his answer. What I didn't like was the nurses told me that I probably shouldn't lift anything more than a milk carton for 4-5 days. They said no strenuous activity for a week. I decided to go with the doctors answer but to pay special attention to the things he told me to watch out for. If the incisions in my groin started bleeding or bruising large, or if the nail hole started bruising bad or bleeding, I needed to call 911 immediately.


Because of the drama Saturday, and lack of food, I was feeling pretty weak on Sunday. I decided to cut my races down a bit and not enter the 5 I had pre-registered for. I only was going to do 2 1/2 races. I wanted to do the GTO to get more track time and learn the track, but I was only going to do about 1/2 of the 25 minute race. I also wanted to do the SuperTwins and HW SuperSport races because I'm still in the hunt for the title in those classes.


In the GTO race, I'm glad I decided to only do 1/2 the race. It was too hot and I was too tired to keep going. I didn't do too bad though. I diced it up with Pat a little bit before I pulled off the track at the crossed flags (1/2 way). At the end, my shoulder got really stiff and started pulsing. I knew it was going to be rough to race, but since no bleeding yet, I was good to go.


After the GTO, I changed my tires to new ones because I had put take offs on for Saturday's practice.


In the HW SuperSport class, I had a goal of finishing above Eric because he's leading the points in this class and I'm trying to catch up. I had some good battles, and finished in front of Eric, but unfortunately he finished right behind me. I ended up with a 5th place finish. I made some points on Eric, but only a couple. Definitely not enough. He's doing a good job of protecting his championship. Same thing at the end of this race as far as the groin and shoulder go, but my shoulder was starting to seep a little bit of fluid. Nothing too bad, so I was going to still do my last race.


In the SuperTwins class, I was pretty disappointed with the small grid. This class would suck if it were not for the fact that all my teammates also compete in this class. It's basically turned into a Ball Sac Racing class. There are other guys, but we lapped all but 4th place in the 9 lap race. On this track, Pat had a huge advantage because he could get 10-15 mph higher by the end of the straight with his 999R. My bike topped out at 165mph on the gauge, but I don't know the actual mph. I have changed the gearing but not recalibrated the speedo. I ran my fastest times of the weekend in this race, but that was only a 1:14.5. Pat won the race and Tom passed me about 1/2 way through. The last couple laps my arm really started hurting, so I backed way off and finished a very safe 3rd place.


The End


I seem to have the worst luck, but at the same time the best. I've NEVER heard of anything like this happening. It's not at all a "racing incident"...more of a fluke. On the other hand, there are so many other places it could have hit me to cause a LOT more damage. For example, what if it had blown out my front tire at 150 mph? Or, what about if it was off by one inch and hit an artery? Or, what if my leathers did not stop the nail from continuing further (THANKS Helimot Leathers!!)? Someone was watching out for me....and yes, the glass is half full.


I never got my times down to where I know I could have, but that's racing. I think Pat got the lowest time of our team, with a 1:12.0. Brian Short made it into the 1:10's, and the lap record is 1:06.3.


On a good note, Tom wrapped up the Amateur Formula 40 Championship in the CCS Pacific AND Southwest regions Sunday!! Way to go Tom! I'm within 130 points of him for the SuperTwins championship, but he just has to finish a lap (essentially) next month to wrap up that championship as well.


I want to thank everyone who came by and helped out Saturday. Especially Pat, Tom, Bryan Land, Chad Rolland, Brian Short, the ambulance people, the nice lady at the hospital with the morphine, my mother and father in law, my brother Aaron, Helimot Leathers, and especially Amy. I also want to thank everyone who stopped by to check on my Sunday...there were a bunch of people, so I won't try and list you all, but I remember and appreciate your concern. Lastly, I'd like to thank our sponsors Helmet Harbor, Pipe City, Desert Truss, Motorex, LP, and VaporBlue.


Brian Kirkland #34


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