Valley drag strip owner talks to WAFF 48 News about Selmer crash

Valley drag strip owner talks to WAFF 48 News about Selmer crash

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is trying to figure out why a drag-racing car careened out of control killing 6 people and hurting more than a dozen.

It happened Saturday at the Cars for Kids charity event in Selmer, Tennessee.

We're told the driver of the car was performing an exhibition burnout.

All of the victims were in their teens or early twenties.

18 people were taken to hospitals in Tennessee and Mississippi.

The driver of the car is identified as a professional drag racer named Troy Warren Critchley.

Critchley is an Australian now based in Wylie, Texas.

He had minor injuries and was taken to the hospital.

No criminal charges have been filed against him.

Many experts say there are ways to prevent a tragedy like the one in Selmer.

The probability a crash of this magnitude could happen is high, but experts say, more safety measures should have been taken and the circumstances were just too risky.

We spent the day with James Harton.

He's the owner of Moulton Dragway and a driver himself.

We watched amateur video of the wreck and Harton gave us insight into the world of drag racing.

"I see no guardrails.  I see no wall, so I would say that's very dangerous to have such a high horse-powered car doing an event such as a burnout with people lined up alongside the roadway like that," says Harton.

Harton says it was a highly dangerous situation judging from the number of spectators, a mere 20 feet from the fast-moving racecar.

He says it was a huge gamble with an uncontrolled environment.

Harton says the only time he's seen racing in an uncontrolled environment here in the Valley are during street races.

And that is illegal in Alabama.

A concrete wall and a fence separate spectators from the tracks at the Moulton Dragway.

"These are actually concrete barriers that the state uses during highway construction. It's not required by law but it's something we choose to do," says Harton.

The walls are securely bolted.

The only people allowed on the drag way are one pit crew member and one staff member per lane and all staff members are required to wear bright colored shirts so you can see them.

Harton says a burnout gets the tires hot, all your power goes to the rear tires and if the those tires don't stick to the ground, it causes the vehicle to fishtail and lose control, just like in Selmer.

That's why his team spends more than $200 on chemicals for each race.

A machine sprays down the tracks to help the tires stick to the pavement.

It keeps the racing vehicle straight and prevents it from going out-of-control.

While racing will still be a part of many people's lives, those with a car in the race, like Harton, are taking a backseat to chance, and first thinking of those behind the wheel and on the other side of the fence.