Daniel Hilsabeck: Wheel Catches Hand, Breaks Bones in Wreck

Daniel Hilsabeck: Wheel Catches Hand, Breaks Bones in Wreck

The dirt late model of Daniel Hilsabeck (22) only had minor damage. However, the crash severely injured Hilsabeck’s wrist and arm, breaking the two forearm bones near the wrist.

Hilsabeck’s hand got caught in a spinning steering wheel after contact with another car. It happened during his heat race on June 22 at Brownstown Speedway in Indiana. He was hoping to make the World of Outlaws Late Model Series feature.

“I didn’t know which groove would be best, so I took a hard left going into the first turn,” Hilsabeck, of Earlham, Iowa, said. “I hooked the right-rear quarter panel and hung the car sideways. Then someone hit my car’s left-front wheel. The impact ripped the steering wheel right out of my hands. It was nothing more than touching wheels.

“I knew something was wrong when I could not pick my arm up when I went to grab the steering wheel again. I thought maybe I had a bad bruise.”

Hilsabeck pulled the car off the track. He then discovered the extent of his injuries.

“When I went to switch the car off, I couldn’t do it,” said Hilsabeck. “I couldn’t hold my arm up.”

World of Outlaws’ Steve Francis checked on Hilsabeck. He then called for medical help.

“The track’s EMTs helped get me out of the car and into the ambulance,” Hilsabeck said. “My left hand was dangling. They had to undo the Hybrid posts, take my helmet off, unbuckle my seat belt, and pull the steering wheel off.”

Hilsabeck panicked after EMTs cut the glove off his injured hand.

“The EMT could not find a pulse in my hand after the bone break,” said Hilsabeck. “My fingers were numb and tingling. The thought of losing my hand and fingers was horrifying.”

They life-flighted Hilsabeck to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. During that time nurses found a pulse in his hand. At the hospital, they set the bones back into place. He later returned to Iowa to have an orthopedic surgeon finish the repairs, which involved screws and plates.

“I had the surgery Wednesday [June 28] — recovery will be a little longer because the tendons in my wrist had to be reconnected,” Hilsabeck said. “I’ll have six weeks of physical therapy. I’m hoping to get back to racing by the end of the season.”

Phil Bozell, a veteran racer who works for steering wheel manufacturer Sweet Manufacturing, offered his perspective.

“The old advice is to let go of steering wheel,” said Bozell. “When you know you are going to hit, get your hands off of wheel. Some people hang on too long.”

However, as Daniel Hilsabeck found out, sometimes things happen in a blink of an eye. While Hilsabeck recovers, he is looking to try a solid steering wheel. Bozell said Sweet Manufacturing does not offer that kind of wheel, but it does offer other custom-built solutions.

“Some racers have requested a ring in the center of the wheel that prevents wrapping your thumb on the inside,” Bozell said. “We have made them for our customers in the past and we could still make that wheel it if requested by a customer.”