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Note: Any statements attributed to Steve Iverson in this article (other that those directly relating to the settlement conditions) were made in interviews conducted before the settlement was made. – Ed.
The 63-year-old Super Comp racer has a new car, went all the way from Vancouver, Washington, to Texas to fetch it. But he's still reeling from the accident he had last July at Pacific Raceways -- physically and financially.
Steve Iverson spent nearly a month in an induced coma at Seattle's Harborview Hospital, where he was delivered by helicopter. En route, he suffered respiratory failure. Twice the doctors told his wife, Gail, that he likely would not last through the night. But he survived five broken ribs, two punctures to his right lung, a bruised heart and torn tendons in the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) of his right shoulder.
The right shoulder still droops, greatly reducing his mobility and strength on that side of his body -- and the chance of his going back to fulltime work as a contractor anytime soon. Iverson said he's considering surgery, even though it would mean an immobile shoulder for four to six weeks, followed by about six months of physical therapy. The purpose would be cosmetic, for the doctors said they cannot guarantee full use of the shoulder.
Still, Iverson probably can get his body back in shape quicker than he can his credit. The pain of the crash -- caused, the family and fellow racers believe, by poor track conditions -- was compounded by the nightmarish red tape tangled among the NHRA, its insurance company, doctors, and collection agencies.
In the end, but not before Iverson's accounts wound up with collection agencies and ruined his rock-solid credit, the NHRA's insurance company, ACE (through the insurance broker Wells Fargo Motorsports), paid the balance of his bills and compensated him for his destroyed race car.
In return, Iverson agreed to a "gag order" that does not allow him to speak disparagingly of the NHRA, so he is restricted from discussing much of his case.
One of his requirements, he said, was assurance of "no retaliation against the sportsman racers who spoke in my behalf about the condition of the track."
Last November, Iverson said he simply wanted to speak out so other racers wouldn't have to go through some of the experiences he did. "I feel the only way that we're going to get these kind of problems taken care of is for somebody to speak up," he said then.
"I'm still a drag racer. No matter what, I'm always going to be drag racer. I don't have any other hobbies. I don't have so much money that I can just run out and replace cars when they get wrecked. I think NHRA needs to correct their show to where I don't have to worry about doing something like that: I know when I go down the track that the track's going to be right and I don't worry about what happened before me." He said then that sportsman racers deserve the same respect that alcohol-class and pro drivers do, in that someone inspects the track after each pass.
What Iverson felt comfortable saying this week is that he's "on the mend and headed back toward racing. And I want my fellow racers to know: Don't count on this insurance in a bad situation. It isn't there waiting for you."
Moreover, NHRA raised the price of per-race insurance fee 50 percent this year, from $40 to $60. Iverson, acknowledging that racing even at the sportsman level is a dangerous venture, said he doesn't think even $60 is an unreasonable charge. However, he certainly knows from his own experience that the system doesn't always work for the intended customer.