Thursday Thunder's Rick Gandee No Stranger To Speed
Monday, July 26, 2004
Rick Gandee doesn¿t need to race to know what it¿s like to drive fast.
Now a detective lieutenant with the Clayton County Police Department, Gandee spent 13 years on patrol. Some of his worst memories recall high-speed chases and wrecks, including one that he still bears the scars of.
Nine years ago, Rick Gandee was run over by his own police cruiser.
Gandee, a part-time Outlaws driver and father/crew chief of Young Guns competitor Ryan Gandee, earned the unfortunate distinction almost a decade ago following a high-speed chase through south Atlanta.
Gandee was on patrol that night when he spotted a car driving erratically. Suspecting a driver under the influence of alcohol, Gandee flipped on his lights and prepared for the routine stop. But instead of pulling over, the suspect took off and led Gandee on a high-speed tour of the south side.
After 10 minutes of zigging and zagging through the city, realizing he would be unable to shake the police officer in a car, the suspect jumped out of the vehicle and tried to escape on foot.
Gandee slammed his own car into park via the gearshift on the column and hopped out of the car, running mightily toward the suspect. He tackled the suspect just down the road and was getting back up just as his own police cruiser rolled down the street and ran right over him.
¿As I got up, I could see the headlights coming toward me, but I thought it was my partner,¿ Gandee said. ¿I put my hand on the car, but it didn¿t stop coming. Then it just rolled right over me.¿
Gandee was lucky. He was left with just broken ribs, a badly cut arm and detached right ear. After two weeks in the hospital, Gandee was left with no lasting damage, other than a few scars and a spectacular story.
¿That¿s just part of the job,¿ Gandee said. ¿Thank goodness that¿s the only midnight knock my wife ever got.¿
For Ryan Gandee, who was just 4 at the time of his dad¿s accident, the whole incident seems more like a dream than reality.
¿I saw him in the hospital, so I knew he was all right,¿ Ryan Gandee said. ¿But I kept seeing this bad accident on TV, and it was my dad. It was weird.¿
Since then, Rick Gandee has moved out of patrol and into his job as detective, and his typical day is generally less dangerous. Rather than high-speed chases, his days are now spent interviewing suspects and investigating homicides.
But that adrenaline still courses through his veins, and perhaps that helped propel Rick and Ryan Gandee into Bandolero racing.
Ryan Gandee races full-time in the Young Guns division, winning his first career Thursday Thunder race two weeks ago. He followed that up last week with a second-place finish and is now fifth in points as a rookie.
¿He was as happy as he could be,¿ Rick Gandee said of his son¿s win two weeks ago. ¿All he wanted was to get his picture taken in Papa
John¿s Victory Lane.¿
Since then, Rick Gandee has decided not to continue to race his own car, which he raced once this season in the Outlaws division.
Instead, he¿ll focus on being the crew chief for his son¿s efforts.
¿It¿s just too hard to try to work on both cars and race,¿ Rick Gandee said. ¿I¿m much happier to help Ryan and focus on his efforts. Besides, I¿ve had my share of fast cars already.¿
Ryan Gandee and the rest of the Thursday Thunder drivers will be back this week for Mid-State RV Faster Pastor Night presented by J93 (Atlanta) and FM 99 (Macon). As the season winds down and competition heats up, the drivers will all be gunning to improve their position in the division standings.
At intermission, two local pastors will help lighten the mood with a beating-and-banging showcase of jalopy racing. The preachers will trade rubber for six laps for the right to be called the Faster Pastor.
Donations will be collected for local food pantries, and the preacher with the largest donation will start from the pole position.
Tickets are available at Gate 13 the night of the event and are just $5 for adults, $1 for children 6-11 (5 and under are free). Spectator gates open at 6 p.m. with preliminary action starting immediately. Contact the speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 for information, or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.