Margaret Cowherd jumped up as soon as she saw the doctor come out of the emergency room. She asked the doctor with a look of sadness in her eyes, "How is my husband? Is he going to be all right? When can I see him?"
The doctor responded, "I’m sorry. We did all we could, but your husband didn’t make it."
Margaret looked to the heavens and asked, "Why do race car drivers have to die? Doesn’t God care about the sport anymore? Where were you, God, when my husband needed you?"
The doctor asked, "Would you like some time alone with your husband? One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he’s transported to the mortuary."
Margaret asked the nurse to stay with her while she said goodbye to her husband. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick hair.
"Would you like to take his driving suit home?" the nurse asked. Margaret nodded yes.
The nurse took what was left of the driving suit, put it in a plastic bag, and handed it to Margaret.
The drive home was even more difficult knowing that her husband would no longer be by her side, and that she would spend the rest of her life wondering why this had to happen to her husband, of all people.
It has been 10 years since that unforgettable night, a night that started out like any other typical Saturday night of racing at Irwindale Speedway.
But what was about to unfold before the night was over is not only a fan's worst nightmare, but also the families who were involved.
NASCAR racing is, and always will be, a very dangerous sport no matter what level or class is racing.
Just this season alone we have seen some of the most spectacular crashes that could have easily had the same outcome, but because modern technology took over, drivers were able to walk away.
Now, while taking the time to look at how technically advanced these specially-prepared race cars are built, it's easy to see just how dangerous the sport really is at first glance.
From the twisted metal steel that makes up the roll cage, to the six-point racing harness, along with the carbon fiber seat that holds the driver snuggly in place.
These are just a few of the safety features that are very noticeable, along with the rest of the equipment that goes into building some of the safest race cars that are out on the track today.
The NASCAR R&D team spends countless hours testing, designing, and carefully looking for any flaws that might have been missed, while at the same time giving the drivers the comfort of knowing that no expense has been spared when it comes to their safety.
But not even all of these safety features would be enough to allow Keith Cowherd to come home to his family after what should have been a normal night of fun and excitement.
For those race fans that were in the stands, they never expected to witness the death of a driver who was only doing what he enjoyed on the weekends.
As for his family, it was a very somber moment, as well as a very emotional one, especially not knowing if their loved one would survive the horrible wreck.
The suspense was thick enough that you could cut it with a knife, as the safety team tried furiously to extract Cowherd from the mangled wreckage.
After all, short track racing on a Saturday night is meant to be fun and exciting, but there is always that element of danger that is lurking lap after lap.
And it's usually that element, along with the thrill of watching a driver push the limits that can only be pushed on these tracks that keeps fans coming back for more.
The accident happened when Cowherd and Shawn Davidson, who were running sixth and seventh at the time, became entangled with one another. Davidson’s truck hit the outside wall, where it caught fire instantly, while Cowherd's truck slammed into the infield wall.
Davidson climbed out of his truck on his own power, and collapsed on the track.
Cowherd, who needed to be removed from his truck, would not be so lucky, and he would be pronounced dead an hour later.
The noise that came from the initial impact was enough to make your skin crawl, and it was one the worst silent, but deadly booms that was heard around the track.
The accident sent what was left of the crowd of 5,254 into a stunned silence, as the remaining 42 laps of the race were canceled.
Death is one of the most unexplainable, unpredictable, and one the biggest unknown mysteries that we will never get an answer to. Death doesn’t play favorites, has no feelings, and has no concept of age, gender, or nationality.
Death can strike at any time, and it usually strikes within a moment's notice. Death has no remorse as far as who is next on the list, and it will continue to be one of the biggest mysteries known to man because of its element of surprise.
While driving home that night, I looked over at my 16-year-old daughter, and thought back to how uncertain and how surreal our lives really are.
The hardest part was explaining to her that, in the twinkling of an eye, it could all come to an abrupt halt, just as it had done a couple of hours earlier.
Death came down and took the life of a husband, father, son, and a fellow race car driver. And whatever death's claim to fame is, that fame came with a lot of pain, grief, and of course the biggest unanswered question, "Why him?”
NASCAR racing will continue to bring us fans the element of surprise, and with each surprise will also be the dangers that go along with it.
Each and every driver knows beforehand that death can come knocking on his or her door at anytime, and it will continue to have its way as long as there are those who choose to challenge it.
But even then, how many times have you actually thought about the families whose loved ones are out there risking their lives for our enjoyment?
A life that is so precious to those around them, but yet they put it all behind to seek out one of life’s many challenges.
Keith Cowherd was one of those who chose to take on that challenge, but unfortunately he paid the ultimate the price.
R.I.P. Keith Cowherd, and the rest of the drivers who also chose the same route while paying the same price.
RIP, NASCAR, Part 3
5 months ago