DI CLASSIC: Jeff ‘Nine Fingers’ Naiser on Losing His Finger
Where would drag racing be without its stories? Performance is impressive and the cars can be stars, but without the stories of the men—and women—behind them, what would be the point? Inherently based on a collection of arbitrary numbers—weight, horsepower, valve clearance, reaction time, ET, speed, margin of victory—drag racing requires its memories and stories if only to provide context and meaning for its very existence.
[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of a story that originally appeared in DI #62 in February of 2012.]
Seriously, no passenger car is going to wind up with better brakes or more dependability, or God knows, better fuel economy because Tony Schumacher went a record-setting 327.90 mph in a thousand feet at Charlotte last year. But you can be darn sure there’s a story to go with that record and that’s what makes it important beyond mere numbers. You just know Schumacher and his crew chief and his clutch guy and his truck driver all have memories of that day to last a lifetime and will entertain who knows how many friends and acquaintances with those stories along the way.
The stories may be humorous, they may be serious, dealing with triumph, tragedy, victory or defeat; they may be intimately personal or dramatically public, but no matter what, they give meaning.
So when Drag Illustrated asked competitors from all walks of drag racing for a few simple stories reflecting their careers, it came as no surprise that they drew on so many varied experiences. From Billy Glidden recounting his first passes down a drag strip, to Mike Hill describing a long-standing rivalry, to Whit Bazemore recognizing a part failure that paid off, their recollections, their stories, provide a glimpse into what gives each one of them meaning. But that may be why the stories are told in the first place, because each storyteller is a meaning seeker of sorts, too, while much the same goes for his audience, learning how each story reinforces its teller’s point.
ADRL Pro Nitrous
I was just working on a manifold, cutting pieces for it. It was on a Sunday and my parents had just left. I had a dull blade. That’s where it started. I was cutting on a 45-degree angle, pushing it through, and when it finally cut I had so much pressure pushing on it that I put my hand in the saw. Basically cut everything. I pulled my fingers out, jerked back, the top of my hand and that one finger just came down and I was like ‘Oh, shit!’
It’s the finger next to my pinkie, my ring finger on my right hand. I’m left handed. When you really look back at it, it could have cut three of them off. I was really lucky. It was a big saw. It wasn’t a little bitty saw.
The first 10 or 15 seconds I didn’t know what to do, but then I realized I needed to calm down. I grabbed a towel, wrapped it all up. I had to grab the shop phone, because I only had one hand and it’s hard to open up a cell phone with one hand. I just grabbed the shop phone, set it down, and called my wife to tell her she needed to come get me and take me to the emergency room.
It seemed like an eternity before she got there, but it was really only a few minutes. So we went to the emergency room and we had to wait two or three hours. My finger really wasn’t hurting; I had it wrapped it up tight and it was up against the other ones. It never really hurt. They asked me what was wrong, what I needed. I told them I basically cut my finger off.
They took my blood pressure, and my blood pressure was so low they couldn’t give me any pain medicine. The doctor wanted to look at it, and that’s when it really started hurting. When I unwrapped it, it really started hurting. He looked at it, cleaned it up, and sent me to a room. The doctor came in and wanted to look at it. He said it doesn’t look good. I asked what that meant, and he said they’d probably have to go in and it would be where you don’t have it anymore. I was kind of bummed out about that. I asked what it would take to put it back on. He said my chances of recovery putting it back on weren’t very great; plus, if it doesn’t work out my finger would just stay stuck out and would never be able to fold back in.
I asked him, ‘Well what would you do if it was your finger?’ He said he would just leave it off. So I took his advice, because he said it would take like nine months of rehabilitation and if we just went ahead and took it off I’d be back at work and racing in two weeks.
So he took it off and I was back at work the next day. As soon as they operated, like 6 or 7 o’clock, I was out of there at 10:00 that night. I was back at work the next day, like nothing had ever happened.