Family rebuilds after crash

TY PILSON, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

There's not much time to think about pain -- or even notice it for that matter -- when you're car is barrell-rolling down a dragstrip at more than 200 m.p.h.

That turned out to be a blessing for Rick Hough.

A violent crash in March at a speedway in Gainesville, Fla., had stunned the 43-year-old Nevada racer into a state of shock and he thankfully couldn't feel his right hand, which had been crushed between the car's protective cage and pavement.

"Actually, I didn't know how bad I was hurt," recalled Hough yesterday at Race City Speedway. "When the car came to a stop and everything was said and done, I was pretty happy to be alive. Because of my neck brace, I couldn't really look down at my hand. But once the emergency crews got there, they wrapped up my arm real fast. So, I didn't get a good look at it. But, by then, I knew I was injured pretty bad."

Rick and his family -- including dad Dave, 65 -- are in town this weekend for the IHRA Iron Man Open (tonight at 7 p.m., tomorrow at 1 p.m.).

The road they took to get here is a remarkable story.

Following that crash -- which made ESPN's top-5 highlight reel that week -- Rick was airlifted to hospital as his family rushed from the track to be by his side and were delivered some grim news.

Rick's hand had to be amputated due to the severity of the injury which devastated the family, said Dave.

"The doctor said there just wasn't enough left of his hand to construct anything usable," said Dave. "When the doctor came out and said he had to take his hand, his mother and wife passed out on the floor.

"I said, 'I'm not going to do this anymore.' I told him 'I'm through. I can't face your mother, I can't face your wife.' He said, 'Dad, we have a dysfunctional family. We don't hunt, we don't fish, we don't bowl, we don't golf. We race. What else are we going to do?'

"He said, 'I'm not going to let this be a handicap.' "

Instead, Rick told his dad if he rebuilt their famous 3,500 horsepower 'Nanook' altered fuel drag car -- which had been in the family since 1965 -- he would become the crew chief.

Rick's brother-in-law, Vince Generalo, who been the crew chief and rebuilt and updated the Nanook before the crash, would take over as the driver.

Despite the accident, Vince -- who races his own top alcohol funny car in Hawaii -- was honoured to be asked to drive the car.

"I built the car he crashed in," said Vince. "When he was in the hospital, he called to say it wasn't the car, it wasn't your fault, something went wrong. I'm still alive so you're car is great."

As for Rick, who had driven Nanook for eight years, he's used to people voicing their amazement at his story and the fact he stayed with racing.

"I'm not happy about crashing the car, obviously," said Rick, who works as a maintenance supervisor for the City of Henderson, just outside Las Vegas. "But racing was such a big part of my life. We had to continue.

"People are amazed at that but, really, I'm not happy I got hurt and this happened but I can't do anything about it. It's not like I can make a new hand or anything. I still function fairly well. Some things are more difficult but I get them done. Hey, this is our life. We travel all over the world because of it it. It's just what we do."

In fact, Dave said rebuilding the car and racing it this season -- Calgary is the 16th event they've attended -- has been a blessing for the family.

"It was a great therapy," said Dave.


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