TL:DR - The motorsports community is filled with the most generous, caring, and supportive people you will ever meet in your life. This article speaks to some specific instances of people who have affected the life of myself and my family after my near-fatal accident in May 2021.

I released a documentary about my accident called "Survival" in February of 2022 and it was passed around quickly throughout the ranks of the motorsport community. The support for the video and my message of safety has been overwhelmingly positive. Instructing, driving-legend, and all around awesome guy Ross Bentley saw it and told me he'd like to share it with the readers of his excellent Speed Secrets Weekly newsletter (and if you're not a subscriber then you really should be). He had a couple of topics he thought I could write to accompany the video, but I really wanted to share some of the specific stories of support and greatness that my family experienced by our co-conspirators from the world of motorsport. With Ross's permission I'm sharing the entirety of the content from the March 8, 2022 newsletter.


Speed Secrets Weekly

As of the beginning of this year, we’ve featured more articles about how to deal with problems than ever before. This is mostly unintentional, but as I began to notice a small trend, I thought it was time to do more than just share information about how to drive fast. I thought the time had come to do more to ensure that you can continue to do what you do on the track — drive fast — for as long as you wish. It pains me to hear of a driver who has crashed their “baby,” and even worse, gotten hurt. Everything published in Speed Secrets Weekly (and everything else I do) is meant to inspire, educate, and entertain you, and this latest “kids, don’t try this at home” stuff has an important purpose: to help you enjoy our sport more and to continue to learn and improve.
That said, this week’s Speed Secrets Weekly is a special one. It’s also a bit of a tough one to swallow. But mostly it’s valuable because Mark Petronis is willing to share what happened to him last year, and it’s not all nice (although some of it is incredibly nice — the part about the community we are a part of). Most importantly, he wants others to learn from what happened to him, so all of you stay involved in our sport. What he shares is in no way meant to scare anyone away. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. He wants to use what happened to him to help more people get involved in our sport.
If you’re not aware of what happened to Mark, I’ll leave it to him to tell the story, both in his article below, but also in the video we’ve linked below the article. Do not skip watching this video; in fact, you may want to watch it before reading Mark's piece below.
What I’ve learned about Mark, beyond his pure strength, bravery, and commitment, is his fierce desire to want to help others. I encourage you to read the But Wait, There’s More section after the rest of the issue, and consider supporting someone who has given so much to our sport, in ways you may never be fully aware of.
Thank you, Mark. And thank you to your wife Katie, brother Kevin, and all the other people who helped, and continue to help, Mark after his incident.
The Power of Community
by Mark Petronis
When all you need in the world is strength and support, who will be the ones to step up to provide that without question or assumption of payback? How many people do you think you'll have by your side when you need them most? One or two if you're lucky? If you are reading this article that Ross Bentley so generously has given me the opportunity to pen for you here, then there are probably far more than you think.
I am known for a couple of things, but unfortunately I am best known as the man who survived a horrific accident last May during a race in New Jersey. A passing maneuver gone wrong found me leaving the track at 115mph and ultimately collecting a tree with my right rear wheel at 70mph. The 84G impact left me unconscious and on fire, and I was in the car for 3 minutes and 15 seconds before volunteers and safety workers were able to drag me out of the blaze. I suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns over 35% of my body, was in the burn unit for 3 months, and had 15 surgeries during that time. Life will forever be different for me, but at least I have a life to live. So in the words of Rubeus Hagrid, "That's why you're famous, Harry. That's why everyone knows your name - you're the boy who lived."
If you haven't already, now would be a good time to invest 35 minutes and watch the documentary "Survival" (see below) which discusses in grave detail all the elements of my accident, injuries, recovery, and future. We (meaning myself and my brother Kevin) could have spent several hours on the video, but we wanted it to be digestible for the short attention spans of the modern YouTube audience. I also could fill a written volume about the lessons of life, love, and gratitude I've learned in the last 9 months since my accident, but I'd like to utilize this space today to briefly share with you some of the acts of kindness and greatness and thoughtfulness that were bestowed upon me and my family during the hardest time of our lives. I alluded to this in the documentary but didn't want to go into detail since it didn't seem like the proper forum. However, anyone reading this is likely a track junkie and the point of this article is to express just how amazing the members of our track family really are. I hope that you'll never need to have a community come together for your survival like I did, but I do hope you find it uplifting to hear about how truly great this community we all are a part of can be when you need them the most.
I was live streaming the race during the weekend, and by some odd miracle the camera battery died just as the other car made contact with my rear. A fellow racer and friend who happened to not be at the track that weekend was watching and instantly knew that something bad happened. Word quickly spread through the paddock and the community, and as I was loaded into the Medevac helicopter, my friend Mark and his wife were tracking the flight transporting me from the track to the burn unit in Philadelphia. Within 24 hours of my being admitted to the hospital, they had worked out with my wife Katie and brother that they would take care of Katie's hotel room for the entirety of the time she'd be with me at the burn unit. Three months later, we were finally leaving the hospital, and they still insisted that we contact them if we were going to spend any more nights in any hospital for any reason. Never any question of repayment, and after having done so much for our family, all they wanted in return was the promise that if we needed anything else that we wouldn't hesitate to ask them.
My friend James ALSO contacted Kevin offering to pay for the hotel stay, but obviously that need had already been met. So instead he started a GoFundMe on my behalf and shared it on his Facebook page. The message spread quickly on social media, and the $5,000 goal he had set with my wife eclipsed $36,000 in the first 6 hours. Overwhelmed with the amount of generosity Katie received so quickly, she paused the campaign, but many people requested it be opened back up so they'd have an opportunity to contribute. After a few days, Katie better understood the scope of my recovery and realized it was going to be a lifelong process and we would need all the help we could get, so donations were opened back up. It reached $57,000 a day later and my family decided we simply couldn't accept any more. In total, 547 people donated to the cause and over 85% of that came from within members of the motorsports community.
My friend Adrian was one of the first people at the scene of my accident and, along with other volunteers, was instrumental in getting me out of the car and saving my life. Adrian is also a professional TA2 racer and owner of FAST Auto in New York City and since 2018, his team has done all the work on my car. When it became clear that I wasn't going to die in the hospital, Adrian felt comfortable approaching my brother Kevin and told him he wanted to buy and build me a new C5 racecar to the same level as my destroyed car, and he wanted to have it ready for me by the time I got out of the hospital. My brother basically told him, "That's incredibly generous, but Katie might actually kill you." I've made it clear and public that competitive racing is simply not in the cards for me in the near future, but I'm very excited to get back on track in a safe car in an HPDE setting to instruct and share my story and message with others. So, Adrian insisted that I take his 2010 C6 Corvette Grandsport with many SCCA T1 wins under its belt to borrow as a track toy until I get my own car situation sorted. That was an offer I couldn't refuse, so I picked up his gorgeous racecar last weekend and will use it for light track duty this season.
I've been driving with the Audi Club since 2006 and instructing with them since 2010. When news of my accident spread, the board immediately convened to figure out what they could do for my family above and beyond what everyone else was already doing for us financially. The instructor group raised a bunch of money in a very short amount of time. One of my friends from the club, Tammy, has worked as a physical therapist with experience in burns over many years. She knows how hard all the staff within the burn unit work for their patients, so she suggested the club cater a full lunch every Friday for the entire burn staff while I was in the hospital as a way of saying "thanks for taking care of our guy." It made me the rockstar of the floor and everyone would be sure to come into my room throughout the week and say, "Thanks for lunch Mark!" It was an incredibly sweet and thoughtful gesture from the Audi Club. After I was out of the hospital, the Audi Club still had $4,000 left over which they gave to us, and that money paid for an at-home nurse to be at my house a few hours per day for several weeks after I was released from the hospital. The President of the board knitted me a blanket that was waiting for me when I came home from the hospital, and since as far as I can tell knitting is pretty much black magic, I assume she spent the entire 3 months I was in the hospital making that thing! In November, the Audi Club held a dinner in my hometown where I was the guest of honor and they gave us yet another $3,000 for my recovery, raised from raffles and fundraisers in my name from their various track events they held throughout the season. Finally, while my wife spent 3 months in the hotel room, my friend Kathi from the Audi Club delivered her home cooked meals almost every night. This was made more special by the fact that Kathi worked as a professional private chef for decades, so my wife wasn't exactly eating ramen while she was living out of the Home 2 Suites!
So many people came to my rescue during the accident. About a dozen volunteers from NASA Northeast watched the scene unfold and they sprinted to the car with fire extinguishers to assist in any way they could. Several of them were treated for smoke inhalation, having put themselves in harm's way choking down more than a few mouthfuls of burning carbon and fiberglass. The safety crews and EMTs fought so hard to get me the care I needed, and many of them reached out to me while I was still in the hospital to share their own terrifying experience. SCDA, HOD, and NASA NE all donated or raised money to help with support, and I sincerely appreciated a visit to the hospital from Brian Casella, race director for the afternoon and also the man who got me through comp school in 2015. He told me how the whole paddock was a wreck after learning about what happened to me and that the prevailing feeling amongst the racers was "how could that happen to Mark?" Everyone knew me as a fast, hard, but very respectful racer and likely the last person that something like this could ever happen to. Well, turns out it can happen and the only reason I'm alive and still able to kiss my wife and hug my son is due to the fast and brave actions of those in the paddock who risked their health and safety to get me out of that burning car.
Before I endured this accident, these and many other acts of kindness which are too numerous to include here, were the types of things I only heard about in Hallmark movies. To wake up in the hospital nearly 5 weeks after my accident with no understanding of what had happened to me, and then to reflect on the greatness of the people who stepped forward with their stories was truly the most uplifting and humbling experience of my life. I've always tried to carry myself in a way to be helpful and respectful to everyone in the paddock - starting from HPDE1 all the way up to my fiercest competitor and so perhaps whatever positive energy I put into this world all came rushing back to me in my time of greatest need. Being given the gift of a second chance at life changes you in profound ways, and it feels even more profound when you realize it was the strength and love from this very tight community we all belong to that pulled me and my family back from the brink. There are so many simple moments in my daily life now that literally bring me to tears because I was so close to not being able to have them - riding up a quiet chairlift with my son or holding my wife's hand on the beach. I guess sometimes it takes a tragedy to realize how special those moments truly are, and I have so many of you to thank for allowing me the opportunity to continue to cherish these moments.
Thanks to you all for reading this and special thanks to those of you who supported us along our journey. Please know that I'm happy to be used as a resource to anyone who might be struggling at some point in life. Through this, I've learned that to struggle is human, and all we can hope to do is struggle well, and through the people we have in our lives and the power of community, hopefully we can struggle well - together.  My personal email is and anyone can reach out any time in the hopes that I can be of service.
See you at the track!
- Mark Petronis
"From success, you learn absolutely nothing. From failure and setbacks conclusions can be drawn. That goes for your private life as well as your career." - Niki Lauda 
Do it for the love of driving.
Here's the scenario. In 5th gear, hurtling down the front straight toward the brake zone for Turn 1, eyes searching for the turn-in to the 2nd gear right-hander, the reference which tends to trigger the timing of everything to make this single section of track flow. Flicking by the 5 and then 4 marker, hard initial pressure on the brake pedal while looking to where the release of the pedal in the corner begins, the reverse-thruster feeling of the shoulder harness counteracting the longitudinal g-loads. In what feels like multiple seconds, but are really tiny fractions of that time measurement, clicking down through the gears rhythmically begins: 4th, 3rd, 2nd, all the while planning the ideal corner entry speed. A couple of car lengths from the end of the red and white curbing on the left, the final modulation of the brakes to fine-tune entry speed and balance begins, and then comes the real magic: blending of controls. Rotating the steering wheel with a light touch, hands at 9 and 3, brake release matching the rate of turning; g-loads changing from straight on to a combination, the left shoulder loading on the harness building, while the helmet begs to head toward the A pillar. The left front tire strains under the workload of changing the car’s direction while continuing to decelerate, its growl of rubber doing everything to interlock with the track surface picks up an octave from the additional lateral load, the steering effort building, sensed through the hands, wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Left arm, shoulder and hip attack the side of the seat as the foot finally and gently eases off the brake pedal, maximizing corner effort, the left rear tire beginning to take its share of the lateral load. Squeezing into the throttle, the steering effort lightens almost unnoticeably, but the fine-tuned receptors in the arms sense the subtle difference, indicating a hint of understeer, the car not changing direction the desired amount. Muscle memory stored in the brain’s database triggered the instant the steering wheel is turned more, only to realize it’s not making a difference, so it rotates it minutely back the opposite direction, a seemingly tiny flick of the wheel, feeding more information to the brain. The progressive application of the throttle hesitates, momentarily halting the rearward load transfer, assisting the lessened steering angle and the car responds, clipping past the apex on the ideal arc towards the blackened red and white exit curb. Head turned and eyes aimed towards the straightaway, instantly scanning back towards the second-to-last red panel of the curbing, just beyond the darkest and most heavily rubber-ed area, and then flicking back up the track again, back and forth, scanning from target back to next waypoint and back again. On the ideal arc, throttle progressively and aggressively heading to 100%, the subtle relaxing of the steering effort begins. The big ask is now of the rear tires, the goal being a hurried launch out of the corner; a momentary rotation of the car as the rears struggle to keep up with the front tires, and an immediate response of increased unwinding of the steering wheel to increase the radius of line, vision directing the way, and a subtle relaxing of lateral g-loads indicating the nearing of the end of the corner. Left-side tires climbing the exit curbing, the fronts parallel with the outer edge fractions of an inch from the dirt, vibrations felt through the entire car, but especially the steering wheel, matching the change in tire noise. Easing off the curbing onto the asphalt, click up to 3rd gear, eyes straining for the next corner....
Imagine that. Imagine that times ten or so corners, times twenty or so laps, and on each one the track and other cars around you change. The thrill, the managed (and sometimes not managed) anxiety, the physical and mental challenge, the focus, the pure joy in the moment. Prior to and afterward, the smiles, the conversations with fellow drivers, the stories, the cars. Imagine that. Recall it, because I know you’ve experienced it all.
Now imagine not being able to do that. What are you doing to ensure you can continue to do it?
Self-Coaching Question of the Week
The following questions are meant to trigger reflection about your driving, either while you're driving, immediately afterward, or before you get back in the car to drive again. If you take the time to really think about these questions, it'll make you more aware of changes you can make to your driving, and lead to improvement.
What are you doing to improve your chances of staying safe when driving on the track? Is there anything that you think is “good enough,” but maybe isn't?
But Wait, There's More...
As I’m sure you already know, I hope that you’ll consider supporting the people who contribute to Speed Secrets Weekly. I definitely don’t mean that in a charity kind of way, but simply that you consider doing business with them, when it’s appropriate for you. Everyone I ask to be a guest contributor are people who I trust one hundred percent, and strongly recommend. This week is no different.
Mark Petronis runs a business, AMT Motorsport, which provides creative and new solutions to increase the performance of C5 to C8 Corvettes. This involves handling all aspects of design, testing, and manufacturing components in-house at their facility in New York. They do some really cool stuff!
On top of that, and since Mark’s incident, AMT have become dealers for Alpinestars, Sparco, Stilo, Simpson, HANS, and Spa Technique. As you may or may not know, Spa Technique makes fire suppression systems for track/race cars, and they have a product that's triggered automatically when it senses a fire. Just imagine if Mark’s race car had had that system, instead of one that required a conscious and/or thinking driver to push a button to set it off.
I’ve shared my own experience of being on fire in an Indy car at the Speedway, and while I was not burnt anywhere near as bad at Mark, the extreme pain that resulted from it still makes me uncomfortable nearly 30 years later. And here’s the thing: I had a fire system in the car, but when you’re burning and in pain, panic sets in very quickly and you don’t always think the way you should. I never pushed the fire system button. If my car had had an automatic fire suppression system, I would not have been burnt as badly as I was — maybe not at all.
Because Mark really does care about your safety, whether you drive a Corvette or not, he’s offering a 10% discount on all safety equipment to Speed Secrets Weekly subscribers. Either go to or give them a call and use “speedsecrets” to save yourself — possibly in more than just a financial way.
Again, thank you Mark!
Past Issues
Past issues of Speed Secrets Weekly are available by clicking here.
If you want others to enjoy what you get from Speed Secrets Weekly, go ahead and forward this one issue to them and suggest they sign up for themselves by going to But don't get in the habit of sharing these issues (notice the copyright message below) because that's just not fair. Plus, it would be a big pain in the butt to do that every week. Let them work for it like you did!
Copyright Ross Bentley, 2022
The fine print... Opinions expressed here are entirely mine and/or of the contributing author(s), and are meant to be used at your own risk... and all that other legal stuff that usually goes at the bottom that no one tends to read anyway. But it's here, right? So it's all up to you now. You're responsible, okay?