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Danville race car driver still hopes to return to the track after horrific crash
"I knew I was going to hit it hard," he said, recalling that night last month when his race car smashed into the retaining wall between turn three and four at Lee USA Speedway.
It was Octoberfest — the last race of the season — and Stickney had made a couple of laps around the track without a problem, but everything changed when another car banged into him.
"It doesn't take long to travel 15 feet when you're going 100 mph," he said Friday while recounting the racing accident at a benefit event that raised more than $8,000 to help during his recovery.
"I knew my neck was hurt," said Stickney, a former firefighter who understood that he needed to keep his head and neck still.
His thoughts then turned to his girlfriend, Michele Clark, who was at the other end of the track and was frantically making her way closer to the scene of the wreck.
"You just get that pit in your stomach," Michele Clark said.
The car was owned by Stickney's good friend, J.R. Filippone of Seabrook. He witnessed the race and was one of the first ones to rush over after the accident.
"I didn't know what to think, but I knew he was hurt because I could see that stare in his eyes," he said.
Stickney, a commercial refrigeration technician, is now out of work, unable to drive. He must rely on his girlfriend to help him with his daily tasks. Modifications have been made around his Danville home; he sleeps in a reclining chair.
"Every morning when I open my eyes and every breath I take, I know I'm lucky," he said.
Like sacred ground
Heidi Brown of Epping comes from a racing family and planned Friday night's fundraiser at American Legion Post 51.
Her brother hit the same wall at the Lee track, but the outcome was different.
Many of those who attended the fundraiser also witnessed Brown's deadly accident.
"This track really caused a lot of pain for a lot of families, but it's also brought some absolutely amazing memories. My brother and my father won championships up there. There's a lot of history and it's like sacred ground to me," she said.
Stickney, who's been racing for 20 years, said he hopes to eventually return to the track if he gets the OK from doctors.
But if he does race again, Stickney insisted that he'll be using the "best of the best" when it comes to safety equipment.
"I signed up for the deal," she said.
Stickney is also urging others to take safety precautions.