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Elliott Massey Grateful for Each Race at Five Flags After Frightening Battle with COVID

Two years removed from the fight of his life, Elliott Massey doesn't take racing for granted anymore.


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The sun rose and set nine times before Elliott Massey found the strength to stand up.

Confined to his bed because of COVID-19’s second wave, the popular Lucedale, Miss., Late Model driver waged his war against the Delta variant for a week-and-a-half in 2021 at home. Area hospitals had no available beds despite Massey’s worsening condition. Oxygen helped him breathe and IVs nourished his weak body while hospice nurses drew blood twice a day. He lost 35 pounds in that nine-day period.

“My doctor said I was his ICU patient that never ended up in an ICU,” said Massey, who suffered severe COVID pneumonia.

Ashlyn Massey, Elliott's wife, put her nursing skills into action while their two kids stayed with family and worried from afar.

“No one else could’ve handled that,” Elliott Massey, 39, said of Ashlyn. “She kept her composure the whole time. She was in nurse mode. I had never seen her in that kind of scenario.”

Massey eventually recovered thanks to medicine and those twice-a-day blood labs, but his near-fatal battle against COVID’s Delta variant terrified him, Ashlyn, their children and everyone who knows him.

“I feel blessed to be here,” Massey said. “It makes you appreciate things a lot more. I don’t take things for granted anymore.”

Count short-track racing at Five Flags Speedway among those things.

Massey will be in the field Friday night as the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models run their second 100-lap race this season. The Zoom Equipment Pro Trucks (25 laps), The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (25) and the Story & Bleich Crown Stocks (15) share the night’s stage with the PLMs. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday with qualifying set for 7 and racing getting underway at 8. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids.

Massey was back racing shortly after doctors took him off Oxygen in 2021. Breathing remains difficult at times. He still gets winded.

“Long-term COVID is a real thing,” Massey said. “I’ll never be back to 100 percent. Doctors have told me that I’ll have residual scarring in my lungs that will stay there forever.”

He won’t forget those summer months two years ago. Death came knocking, but Massey refused to answer buoyed by science and prayers. The owner of Agricola Hardware and Lumber in Lucedale experienced numerous touch-and-go moments in those nine days.

The Oxygen being delivered in bed prevented Massey from rolling over, so his doctor gave orders for a portable-bottle Oxygen tank.

“That felt like an air hose was pumping air up my nose,” Massey described. “You can’t breathe. It feels like you’re suffocating That was the scariest part.”

He was in for another rude awakening once he finally discovered the energy to climb out of bed. After nine days, he couldn’t stand up.

“You don’t hop back up like I thought I would,” Massey explained. “I jumped up that day, and the nurse said, ‘Whoa! That’s not going to work. One day laying down takes three days of recovery.’ I said, ‘Lord, I’m in for a long road.’ ”

Massey gradually began walking after a week in a wheelchair.

“For the next two or three weeks, it was like I was walking on water or air,” he said.

Massey admits he probably came back to racing too quickly. He was racing at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway not two weeks after having the Oxygen removed. When the first caution came, Massey asked his crew made up of close friends if he could park his family-owned Late Model. He stayed in and finished the race thanks to encouragement from his team, but the struggle was real.

“It was so hard. The seat belt felt so tight to my chest,” Massey said. “Now, I’ve figured out there are different aspects and ways to breathe. I’ve adapted. A couple years now, after the fact, I’ve made a lotta progress with that.”

Progress defines every inch on the road back. As a veteran Late Model driver, Massey understands that time away affects how competitive he can be.

“If you’re not behind the wheel, you fall behind,” he said. “These guys these days are making laps every weekend somewhere. I need to get laps, stay behind the wheel and be on top of it.”

Massey can do that now. He has time.

Something he wasn’t certain he had for two months, specifically nine days, in summer 2021.

-Story by: Chuck Corder
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America

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