When Houston musician Ben Godfrey headed to the Grand Prix of Houston at Reliant Park this past Sunday, he wasn't aware that he would go from simply watching the action to being a part of it.
Godfrey, best known around town for his role in local acts listenlisten and B.E. Godfrey, was struck by fence and car debris after Dario Franchitti crashed when he was bumped by another driver, Takuma Sato.
"It was the last lap, I saw the two leading cars race by," says Godfrey. After a winner was announced over the PA, he continues, "there were more cars coming, but I figured it was all over, so I checked my phone. Next thing I know, there's a loud noise, I look up, and an explosion of dust and debris is forming just to the right of my stand."
Godfrey, who says the three-day event was his first-ever auto race, said a "spray of car parts and a huge section of the fence" flew into the stands where he was sitting.
"The fence basically landed on me and the group of 20 people around me," he says. "I watched in what seemed like slow-motion as the side of the fence slammed right into my forehead. I did make a futile attempt to block it with my arm, but somehow forgot to duck."
According to the Associated Press, a total of 13 spectators were injured as a result to the crash. Of those injured, three were sent to a local hospital for further treatment, and were listed in good condition Sunday night.
As for Franchitti, his injuries were a little more serious. The AP said he sustained two fractured vertebrae, a fractured right ankle and a concussion. Updates from Franchitti's team say that he is doing well, and "will remain in Houston for a few days" before being taken to Indianapolis for further evaluation.
No other drivers were injured in the crash.
"The paramedics were quick to see who needed attention and got us taken care of," said Godfrey. "They just gave me an ice pack and did some basic concussion tests."
Luckily, Godfrey was the only one in his group injured, and was able to walk away from the incident with a lump on his head, a handful of debris "souvenirs" and an extensive amount of photographs from the scene of the accident.
"They were all smart enough to duck," he says. "My friend Daniel Drake is a bartender at La Carafe, and I'm sure he'd love to have folks come hear his tall tale of the time he almost died at the big car race."
According to Godfrey, the group was gathered by Drake's girlfriend Heather, who is a big fan of racing and "wanted to show [the group] what it was all about."
"I feel like we got our money's worth, for sure," Godfrey says.
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Though Godfrey sustained minor injuries at a sport known for its element of danger, he says his first experience has only encouraged him to attend more racing events.
"I personally don't mind a little regular dance with death in my life, but in general I feel like a big part of the excitement in attending something like this is the danger element," he notes. "The thought of 'What if a crash happens right in front of me?' is what brings people to [these events]. The ability to experience that -- to literally have the race reach out and touch you -- but walk away more or less unharmed, is just about the most you can ask for."
B.E. Godfrey recently recorded an EP with the help of SugarHill's Chris Longwood and Robert Ellis, who produced the recordings. Though no release date has been set, Godfrey said "people can expect to hear it by early 2014."
Godfrey will be back to his old tricks this Saturday at Walters Downtown, when B.E. Godfrey will be performing with Wild Child and The Wandering Bufaleros.
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