On April 14, 1978 driver Al Unser was severely injured in an accident at Texas World Speedway, but fast action from Dr. Stephen Olvey saved his life.
Los Angeles, CA—November 14, 2016
“In the early days of racing, safety was sort of an afterthought,” said Dr. Stephen Olvey in the motorsports safety documentary Rapid Response, “and unfortunately if there was a real severe accident the driver was often fatally injured.”
Dr. Olvey was a race fan from an early age, growing up in Indianapolis, IN and watching the Indianapolis 500 with his father. While studying medicine in the late 1960s he had a chance to work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway medical center and became the first doctor to work on the track itself. Eventually he traveled with the United States Auto Club (USAC) to races all over the country as part of a motorsports safety team that responded to on-track accidents and made a significant impact in the safety of drivers involved in serious crashes.
One of the more memorable crashes of Olvey’s career was when driver Al Unser suffered a severe head injury at Texas World Speedway in College Station, TX during a practice session on April 14, 1978. Unser hit the wall of turn 3 of the speedway at nearly 200 mph. Dr. Olvey arrived on the scene of the crash within seconds.
“I got to him and he was unconscious and wasn’t breathing,” said Dr. Olvey, “and I thought, oh my god, he’s dead.”
Dr. Olvey moved quickly to clear Unser’s airway and the driver began breathing again. Unser regained consciousness and was transported to the hospital. The only injury he was diagnosed with was a severe concussion. Not only did Unser recover from his injuries, he returned to race in the Indianapolis 500 the following month and won. The quick response from the safety team saved Unser’s life.
The documentary, Rapid Response, is based on Dr. Olvey’s book, Rapid Response: My inside story as a motor racing life-saver. It’s the true story of a team of doctors and track safety specialists who blazed a trail in racing safety that fundamentally altered the history of motorsports. Rapid Response Productions is currently in production with the documentary which is scheduled to be released in early 2017.
When the researchers at Rapid Response Productions went searching for photos from Texas World Speedway they were unable to find historical archives from this era. Rapid Response Productions is seeking photos or film footage from Al Unser’s crash at Texas World Speedway or from other USAC races at Texas World Speedway during the 1970s.
If you have any information or photographs that could help Rapid Response Productions please contact them through their website at http://rapidresponseprod.com/footage-search/.