Q & A with Jamie McDonald

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Sprint car driver Jamie McDonald has bounced back from horror crash at Western Springs to win the Gold Cup in Christchurch recently. This was an interview we did with Jamie shortly before his Gold Cup win.

We are all thrilled to see you’re back after the horrific accident you had on the final night of the Porter Hire International Sprint Car Series. What do you remember of the accident and how it happened?

I remember making a mistake and running over the right rear wheel of the car in front and thinking this isn’t going to end well. I remember a 10 second period in the racecar where I was trapped by the seat and roll cage and being in pain. Next thing I remember is coming out of the CT machine in the hospital with all my family and crew up there. So basically, not much! Apparently, I was unconscious for 3-4 minutes. I should have qualified on the front row of the feature that night, instead, we had a part failure in one of the heat races which caused us to start the feature from grid 17. I was probably in a hurry to get back up the front and just didn’t time the outside pass right that I was trying to make. I really want to thank the crash crew and the ambulance crew that worked on the car to get me out and cared for me on my trip to the hospital. Those guys and girls are first class and I really appreciate there help.

We recently ran the New Zealand Title, you’ve been in the top 3 numerous times and have also carried the number 1 on your tail tank, winning the title during the 2006/2007 season here at Western Springs. Can you take us back to that night and how it felt?

Well I have grown up at Western Springs and raced there from 9 years old. To win that NZ Title at home meant a huge amount me. I’m not sure why a one-night championship means so much to everybody, but it just does. I think its because its so damn hard to get everything right on that one night along with having a heap of good luck.

As we all know Speedway is a family sport and you followed your dad Bruce into racing. How much input does he have in your racing and how has your family supported you through your racing career and in particular during the last months since your accident?

Without my parents’ support I would never have raced. They picked up on my passion for it at a very young age and I’m grateful they were able to put me in a racecar. They come to every race meeting anywhere in the country and support me 100%. I guess I get my ‘never give up’ attitude from them, the harder things get the more they dig in and push back. After this last accident they only wanted to know I was ok but once they knew I wanted to get back in a racecar they straight away helped get some parts on the way. My wife has been incredible. Its probably been the hardest on her seeing me all banged up there for a while, but she has been by my side the whole time. Also helping with rehab, driving me around when I couldn’t to all my appointments, looking after our son Jackson and putting up with probably the worst patient of all time.

You and your crew basically have had to re build a new car. Can you tell us about the rebuilding process and also a little about your crew members, how long they have been with you, their jobs on race night and also during the week between races?

Most drivers say they have a good crew, I actually have the best bunch of guys – period. This season has been especially bad they are building the 3rd car for me this season. We started the season with a new one which got torn up when I got caught in another driver’s mistake and had nowhere to go. Then obviously that new car got torn up in the latest accident, so the boys have been working overtime. We are all good mates which makes all the time spent in the workshop more enjoyable but make no mistake the number of hours they spend on our Sprint Car is crazy. Lee is my crew chief and I have known him for over 20 years. He leads the way on the build and sets the car up on race nights. The rest of the team consists of James, Duncan, Allan, Jason and Duane. Without these guys I couldn’t go racing and to be honest I probably wouldn’t want to.

Accident aside, how did you find the Porter Hire International Sprint Car Series and the competition of the international drivers? Who was the toughest international competitor in your opinion?

It was great. I love the big nights and the competition that comes with it. This year was fantastic with Tony Stewart, Shane Stewart and Kyle Hirst, probably the best line up of Americans we have had here. Shane Stewart is the nicest, easiest guy to talk to. We really enjoyed racing and talking with him.

Last word – We’re sure there must be sponsors etc you would like to mention and you’ve had a fair bit of time sitting on the sidelines which can’t be easy so we’ll let you have the last word…

One thing I have realised is that I hate watching racing. I belong on the other side of the fence and I’m hanging out to get back in my Sprint Car. The day I got out of hospital I had every sponsor call me or visit. They all said if I need the rest of the season off then take it. When I said to them I wanted to come back, Andrew from Hitachi and Simon from J A Russell both rang me and found some extra money to help build our new car. They were two awesome phone calls to get and really lifted our spirits. I want to mention KBL Earthmovers, Dynamix, Barfoot & Thompson Commercial, Marley, Bays Car painters and Lee Design. Every one of these guys are hustling to get our new car built. Its pretty easy for me to come up with the last word – GRATEFUL.