What to Watch for in the 37th Chili Bowl Midget Nationals
Jan 14, 2023
Ashton Torgerson was scheduled to race in E1 but after what happened on Wednesday night, there was no reasonable expectation that the 16-year-old would even be in the building, much less able to walk into it on his own.
Walking in with his dad, Danny, both Torgersons took questions about the past three days of the immediate road to recovery, what happened in the first place, and what comes next.
Torgerson was violently ejected from his No. 1I during the Prelim Feature and left outside of his car when the car stopped tumbling. His head popped out of the top of the cockpit as it turned upside down, the entire weight of the car coming back down on him, before spitting him out the other side.
Thomas Meseraull would have been at risk of running him over under a slightly different set of circumstances.
It was a terrifying scene, Torgerson eventually being transported to Francis Hospital in Downtown Tulsa, where he immediately passed spinal tests. The only significant injury suffered was some brain hemorrhaging that had started to alleviate before he was released on Friday morning.
So at the exact same time he should have been racing had the crash been less eventful, he walked into the Tulsa Expo Center alongside his dad, simply feeling blessed to be here in this moment together. His dad, visibly choked up in this moment, was so very grateful to forces both medical and supernatural that saved his son.
"Thank you to everyone, you don't realize how much the prayers mean until something like this happens to you," Danny said. "I told myself I wasn't going to get emotional, and I apologize, but thank you to everyone.
"Sitting next to my son here today, it's amazing. It's not what I expected after what I saw."
He looked over at his son.
"I love you very much."
"I love you too."
The young driver was also grateful, for track workers, and for fellow drivers Rico Abreu and Kevin Thomas Jr. for visiting him on Wednesday night. Abreu, who won the feature they were racing in, gave Torgerson the trophy and declared him the real winner of the evening.
"I can't thank everyone enough," Ashton said. "Rico and KTJ stopped by, two guys I look up a lot. I can't thank everyone for all the prayers. I'm sorry that I scared all of you there. KTJ and Rico, they're very good guys."
The elder Torgerson says they haven’t really gone through the process to understand what went wrong to dislodge the young driver from the cockpit.
"Obviously, his health was our number one priority here," Danny said. "We know, he went out, the belts were tight. In racing, sometimes, things do happen. I think, if anyone says they know what happened, it's 100 percent speculation, guesswork.
"I'll be honesty, I'm not 100 percent concerned about that right now. I'm happy that he's here. There will be a time to look at that and understand what happened. I would never want that to happen to him or anyone else."
Danny says they will try to recreate the strapping him process from Wednesday to see if they can find something. The car was inspected by track officials and returned to the team after the crash.
"We want to see if there is anything that could have caught the belts," Danny said. "We do want answers, we do need those answers."
Ashton says he doesn’t remember any of the race. He remembers pre-race, a little bit of the ambulance ride, and coming back to at the hospital.
"I don’t remember anything after the green flag," Ashton said. "Obviously, it was a very bad wreck. I remember being checked on at the hospital and asking me what hurt. I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t think I want to. I heard it was a pretty bad one."
Danny was grateful for the first responders.
"I’ve said it a thousand times, but if that crash happened literally anywhere else, it could have been a different outcome," he said. "By time I got to the track, and I’m not that fit, but I ran pretty quick, they were already loading him up, tending to him.
"I don’t think they could have done anything better. I can’t thank them enough."
Ashton has been cleared to fly back home to Oregon on Sunday. He will see a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon in two weeks.
Is he already starting to think about getting back into a car?
"I am still pretty sore," Ashton said. "For what happened, how the wreck was and happened I am glad there is no broken bones. Doctors are saying to take it easy. No phone, no TV, no school work. Take it easy on the head. I have to follow up with the doctors when I get home and they will tell me how long it will be before I can get in a race car."