Cloquet coach and race car driver survives high-speed crashRacing at Amsoil Speedway in Superior on Saturday, Cloquet's Dave Esse was attempting to pass Wisconsin driver Rick Hannestad on the outside when the latter driver moved higher on the race track, touching wheels with Esse’s car. Esse crashed at approximately 100 mph.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
“I appreciate that I’m here.”
C-E-C boys’ hockey coach Dave Esse is a very fortunate man this week, after a high-speed crash of his late-model race car last Saturday left him with a concussion and a bruised heart and sternum.
Racing at Amsoil Speedway in Superior, Esse was attempting to pass Wisconsin driver Rick Hannestad on the outside when the latter driver moved higher on the race track, touching wheels with Esse’s car.
Esse was forced first into a siderail and then hung on for the ride as his car hit a smaller wall at approximately 100 miles per hour, vaulted into the air and hit a restraining fence which rebounded his car to the ground.
Initially knocked unconscious by the force of the crash, Esse got out of his vehicle, which soon caught fire.
One of the first people to reach Esse after he left his car was Hannestad.
“He didn’t mean to do it,” Esse said of his rival. “He’s a good guy and it was a racing thing. He didn’t know I was there when he moved up the track and he apologized to me on the way to the hospital.”
Esse spent Saturday night a SMDC with a concussion and hyperextended neck in addition to his bruises on his heart and sternum.
“To tell you the truth, I sort of feel like a giraffe,” Esse said about his neck injury. "I can’t take a deep breath and it feels like someone is squeezing my heart with a pair of pliers sometimes.”
Esse also suffered cuts from his seat belt along his collarbone and neck. The crash bent the steering wheel of his vehicle approximately six inches.
“I’m very, very thankful I’m here,” Esse said. “I’m thankful that the car did its job. They are professionally designed for the sport, and at high impact they are supposed to break away and this car did.”
I’d rather have an accident in a race car at 100 miles per hour than in a regular car at 30 miles per hour,” he added.
Esse has been told by doctors that he will need at least a month before he will feel back to normal but he intends to resume his teaching duties at Carlton High School this week.
“I’m bored around the house,” he said. “I’ll try to get back this week.”
The question of Esse’s car, however, is another matter.
“Anything can be fixed, but the chassis costs money,” Esse said. “The car is junk and I don’t think anything is salvageable on the front end.”
The fire after the accident also took its toll on the vehicle.
“There’s melted stuff in there,” Esse said. “I feel badly for my dad. He does about 99 percent of the work on the car and he came out of retirement and back to work to help pay for it.”
The response from the racing and hockey communities, though, has been heartwarming. Esse estimates that he has received over 300 voice and text messages from well-wishers since the accident.
“I charged my phone three times on Monday to answer everyone,”he said. “Drivers have called offering parts, they’re telling me about chassis for sale. They’re all friends of mine and concerned. They’re all trying to help out.”
Esse thanked his caregivers at SMDC, L&M Towing for getting his car back to his garage and friends who helped get him to the hospital.
“Friends are offering to do things at my house,” he said. “It’s nice to know who your true friends are. So many people are just good people.”
He’s also fully aware things could have been a lot worse.
“When I was in intensive care, the guy next to me had fallen off a 20-foot ladder at his cabin and broke just about everything in his back and neck,” Esse said. “I felt fortunate compared to him.”
Still, though, Esse can’t get racing out of his blood.
“I appreciate that I’m here, but I’d like to race tomorrow,” he said.