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The latest update as of July 12, 2010
Monday morning blues and they don't come much bluer
If you've come through the front door to this page, then you'll know that something really awful happened in Seattle yesterday afternoon. After crossing the finish line on a winning run in the semi-finals of Top Alcohol Dragster, Mark Niver put out the parachutes, only to have them instantly blow off the car. He continued through the braking area at high speed after his 271 mph pass, but seemed to have slowed considerably when the car entered the sand trap and it appeared that the car wasn't going to hit the catch net too hard. HOwever, the car folded up badly when it impacted the net and it was immediately obvious that the damage was severe.
I watched the entire pass on the TV monitor in the media centre until a few seconds after impact, when the camera feed was suddenly cut off and instantly knew the results were not good. Almost complete silence enveloped the race track for the next hour as the safety crews and paramedics worked to remove Mark from his wrecked car and the safety net was put back into working order. No official announcements were made, but the grapevine updates ranged from mildy positive to highly negative, none of which helped the situation at all.
The full impact of the unfolding tragedy hit me when I walked the short distance from the media room to the Niver pit area and saw several racers and families huddled in the area and exchanging hugs amid flowing tears and displays of raw emotion. At that point no one had to tell me what the outcome of the accident had been and the sinking feeling in my heart nearly knocked the wind out of me. It was just inconceivable to think how badly a seemingly fairly innocent-looking crash could have the worst possible outcome.
I'll never forget the images that keep replaying in my mind of his last run, seeing the crew lining Mark up as he moved forward to stage the car, the camera at one point zooming in and showing him smiling inside his helmet, the sun reflecting off his glasses and a look of pure joy on his face as he prepared to meet Shawn Cowie in the battle to reach the final round of Top Alcohol against Chris Demke. Then the run itself, which had Cowie ahead until the 1000 ft. mark when his engine went sour, and Niver pulling ahead for the win before the chain of catastrophic events played out on the monitor.
By the time it became obvious that we weren't going to receive any good news about his condition, my desire to be at the track, to be in Seattle, to have anything more to do with the Northwest Nationals had completely evaporated. While I didn't know Mark well, I'd talked to him a number of times over the years and was always totally impressed by his demeanor, by his quiet, humble manner, his self-effacing attitude, his general overall friendliness to everyone: fans, racers, the media, literally everyone. He always had time to chat for a bit, answer any questions and project his constant totally positive, upbeat outlook on life and drag racing.
To say that we're all going to miss him is a gross understatement and I'm just one of many, many people who are spending this morning contemplating just how much we as friends and fellow racers, his family, his friends, and his many fans have truly lost with his sudden and tragic passing. Godspeed and long may you run, Mark Niver.
So where do we go from here?
After a long, quiet drive home last night, I barely had enough energy left to unload the trunk and drag my sorry carcass upstairs. Then it was time to pour a long, cold drink and make a silent toast to the memory of Mark Niver. By the time I'd finished that it was nearly midnight and I didn't even look at the final results from the Northwest Nationals, except to read the very short and very sad official announcement that I knew was going to be posted. A longer piece with more details about his career is on the NHRA website.
I made one more visit to the 'net to see if Susan Wade had posted anything on a story she was writing on Mark, and was delighted to see that my introductions to racers Kyle and Jim Rizzoli and Larry Miersch had produced some very heartwarming recollections about Mark Niver. She even quoted me in the article, and while I'm normally thrilled to see my name in print, no matter how peripherally, this was one of those times where I was just glad that my comments completely echoed everyone else's sentiments. Susan's story is here on Competition Plus.
While I'm certain that many more stories and postings will be made on the internet surrounding this event, for my part I'm going to try to put together a feature on the life and career of Mark Niver. I've got quite a few photos of him and his car from the past decade and in my history books in the basement a host of other images and records of his accomplishments through the years. My efforts will probably be a very minor addition to his legacy but his death has had quite an impact on me and I feel like his memory deserves nothing less than a respectful rememberance of his life.
The first order of business however, is finishing the Northwest Nationals report and then moving on to the Niver feature. There's not too much else to focus on this week, with just a national event in Sonoma this coming weekend and nothing on the IHRA or AHRA front(s) to report on. And the next race at local Mission Raceway is nearly two weeks away, so we've got some time to rest up, catch up and get ready for the next event.
Stay tuned for updates and previews on the Canadian National Open as it promises to be one of the biggest and baddest funny car races in the history of Canadian drag racing. Can you say 64 Funny Cars? Okay, how about 32+ ? Count 'em and see! Much more on that story and a few others we're working on later. But if you want a sneak preview of the television ad for Nitrofest! click here. Remember, it's nitro (and alcohol) cars under the lights Saturday night July 24 at Mission Raeway. You just gotta be there.
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