Robert River remembers the crash vividly – and fortunately, he walked away.

River, who competes on a limited NHRA Pro Stock schedule, was involved in a horrific accident while competing in a Nostalgia Pro Stock event at the World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova (Ill.) International Raceway on Aug. 28.

Robert and his father, David, a fellow Pro Stock racer, had never been in a racing accident.

Robert, 28, was driving his family-owned 1989 Firebird and just completed his run against Kevin Lawrence in the exhibition event. River clocked a 7.69-second elapsed time at 176 mph. David River bought the Firebird in the fall of 1997.

When Robert pulled his parachute, his trouble began.

River recounted the accident on a Facebook post, which is below.

Thank you everybody for all the supportive and concerned messages/calls. I am in good shape other than the expected bumps and bruises. I am also humbled by the amount of people that have personally reached out and offered anything they can or solid advice. The racing family is truly a family!

If you didn’t hear or catch all of the details, I was in a top end crash Saturday night. I deployed the parachute and part of it got tangled up in the wheelie bars before the chute actually opened. When it did open it sent the Firebird airborne and almost head on into the guard wall. After a barrel roll and coming to a stop I was ultimately able to exit the vehicle on my own after getting the emergency personnel’s “okay” and then walk to the ambulance to get checked out.

In less than an hour I was released and back to normal life. I attribute this to having and wearing all of the proper safety equipment. Hitting a wall almost head on at 150+ the HANS probably did more good for me than I will ever know. I highly suggest investing in proper neck/head restraints. 

Lastly a HUGE thank you to all of the Emergency and Fire personnel. You were all very good to work with and professional yet personable and made me feel at ease. Thank you!

David River, a veteran Pro Stock racer, was at the starting line when his son made the pass that ended in a crash.

“Fortunately, Kevin had a really good run in that Warren Johnson tribute car, and was way ahead of Robert,” David said. “I told Robert the time he ran on the radio and then it went to sh*t. The parachute got sucked under the car and it got down under the wheelie cars and picked the car up. They said he probably hit the wall head-on at over 150 mph. He was in the left lane and his car swung around and had a real hard impact on the right rear where it almost went over the wall. It rolled. Hit something again and came to rest right side up. It was a nasty wreck. We are getting a replacement car because that one is done. 

“The car died a hero, and my son is OK and I’m OK with that. We are very, very blessed, and very lucky. I can’t tell you how thankful we are.”

The elder River acknowledged there were plenty of nervous moments as he as he and his wife sped down to the top end of the track.

“From the starting line I could see somebody crashed and I didn’t know who,” David said. “My wife was a wreck. When we got to the top end of the track, I told her to stay in the golf cart. I just told her to pray on the way down the track. When got close to the car he was out and walking. I told my wife he is alive, and he doesn’t have a broken neck or back and he’s going to be OK.”

Robert said the entire experience was something he’s been trying to digest.

“I have had such good support, especially right after it happened,” he said. “I had other drivers come up and talk to me, drivers like Larry Dixon come up and talked one-on-one with me. They gave me wise words and support. It wouldn’t have mattered if it were somebody’s first pass in that car or millionth pass. The way things happened it didn’t matter who was behind the wheel. I was conscious the whole time. The strangest thing is when part of the parachute got wrapped up in the wheelie bars and the parachute blossomed and it lifted the car and car went airborne one of the strangest things ever in drag racing is when things go silent and that’s what happened. It lifted in the air and all I could do was hold on. I felt the first impact and it rolled over and I felt another impact and it flopped around and finally came to rest on all four wheels. It took me a couple of seconds to realize, ‘Holy crap!’ That wasn’t a dream, that was real. As soon as I got out of the car, that’s when my parents and one of the crew members showed up and luckily, I felt good, and I was physically walking, and I was able to tell them I was OK. I feel very fortunate and blessed. 

“The next day, I took a few hours to relax, and my dad and I went golfing. I can’t explain how lucky I feel after an incident like that.”

Robert is entered in the Pro Stock field, in his family’s Chevy Cobalt, at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis, Sept. 24-26. It’s his first NHRA Pro Stock race of the 2021 season.

“You can’t get too high or too low. You have to accept it for what it is,” Robert said. “I’m ready to hop back in the seat and make another lap. We’ve had some electrical issues, gremlin kind of deals we have been dealing with and if we can get that sorted out, I will be trying to qualify in St. Louis.”