Community races to driver’s aid | News, Sports, Jobs – The Sentinel

Submitted photoDriver Andrew Yoder stands with his son, River, and wife, Krista, in victory lane after winning a race last year.

MIDDLEBURG — Race car driver Andrew Yoder is used to racing to the finish line for the checkered flag at area racetracks.

The 28-year-old Middleburg driver is not used to the fast response he received from the community after he and his family suffered a harrowing experience off the track Saturday that damaged his race car and destroyed his trailer and other property.

“I’ve been in some pretty hard hits over the years, had the wind knocked out of me or been a little sore,” said Andrew, who started racing go-karts when he was 11- or 12-years old. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.”

Andrew is referring to driving home with his family – father, Gene; wife, Krista; and 3-year-old son, River – and having the race car trailer they were pulling catch on fire. Andrew had just competed Saturday afternoon in the Late Model feature at Port Royal Speedway.

While the Yoders were able to get his Late Model race out in time, the trailer and the contents were a complete loss. Members of the community have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. As of Tuesday, more than $12,100 had been raised.

The family was on Route 35, passing through Mount Pleasant Mills, when the fire broke out. Andrew and Gene were able to get the race car out of the trailer before it was engulfed in flames. The intense heat melted the front of the car and damaged his pick-up truck.

“We were almost home, coming into Mount Pleasant Mills behind Middleburg,” Andrew explained. “We were joking around before it happened. We were happy we had a really good run. I did terrible in qualifying but did decent in the heart races. I started 14th in the feature but finished ninth.”

The family’s demeanor changed when a bystander ran out onto the road to flag them down, warning them that flames were shooting out of the trailer.

Andrew wasn’t certain why he was being flagged down. Once they learned about the fire, the family baled out of the truck and Andrew and his father rushed to the trailer to try and save his race car. When they opened the trailer doors, the fire intensified.

“Once we opened the back, the air got in and it (fire) took off,” Andrew said. “Luckily my dad popped the toe straps, and we got the car out. We got the back straps off, cut the winch cable and pulled and got it out. It got stuck half out way – the door didn’t go down all the way – but we yanked on it and got it off the trailer.

“All the heat melted the plastic on the front end of the car,” he added. Everything else in the trailer was a total loss, including his gear (helmet, suit, gloves and tools) and new merchandise for fans.

Andrew was also worried about the safety of the nearby houses, so they pulled the burning trailer down the road. “We didn’t want to catch a house on fire,” he said. “It was engulfed as soon as we got the car out.”

The Fremont Fire Department from Mount Pleasant Mills and Richfield Fire Co. responded to the fire.

The family isn’t certain what started the fire, although they believe it started at the front of trailer. “We do not know for sure, but we think the battery to the winch shorted out,” Krista said. “We do not know for sure, and we might not ever know. Thank you to the fire company’s for getting there when they did otherwise, we would have lost the truck, too.”

Andrew has been racing on the Late Model circuit since 2014. He races area tracks, including Bedford, Clinton County, Port Royal, Selinsgrove and Williams Grove, along with Big Diamond Speedway in Pottsville and tracks in Bridgewater, N.J., Cumberland and Hagerstown, Md., and Winchester, Va.

“We are so appreciative to everyone who has reached out to us, to make sure we’re okay and asking what they can do to help,” Krista said. “We’re all okay and that’s the most important thing.

“It was the most horrifying experience to have to grab my sleeping child from his car seat and run through the smoke to get him to safety and feel so helpless watching as so much that Andrew has worked for burn to nothing,” she added.

Despite the setback, Andrew plans to get back on the track this weekend. “I’ve been offered so many things the last few days,” he said. “I have no helmet and no suit. I feel very fortunate.

“I have a guy buying me a helmet,” he added. “All these things … I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the help. I have a good buddy who isn’t racing his limited right now, so he dropped off his trailer. I’ll use it until we get something figured out.”

Andrew’s trailer was covered by comprehensive insurance, which does not include fire, he said. “I had 12 wheels and tires , which are $500 apiece. They all melted into a pile. There were parts and bolts, springs and tools. It adds up to a lot.”

A new trailer can cost between $15,000 to $30,000.

“Thanks for everybody who helped out,” Yoder said. “With all the help we’ve gotten, we are already able to go racing again the week after.”

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