FONDA - As the closing laps of the sportsman feature at Fonda Speedway clicked off Saturday, the cars of Anthony Alger and Robbie Kollar came together off turn four and slid through the rain-slicked grass on the infield. The momentum carried the cars onto Victory Lane, where Kollar's car struck veteran track photographer Bill McGaffin.
The force of the impact sent McGaffin through a sponsor's billboard behind Victory Lane before landing on the hood of his personal vehicle. The impact shattered the windshield and damaged the hood and fender on the car.
McGaffin was alert and talking with track personnel before being transported by helicopter to Albany Medical Center.
He was kept overnight before being released to recover from his injuries at home.
"I am sore," McGaffin said this morning. "I have four broken ribs, a black eye and staples in my head. It could have been much worse. My wife, Jann, was at the back of the car getting the trophies out and heard something hit the front. She came up front to see what hit the car and it was me."
McGaffin said he remembers seeing a black car heading his way and started to move toward the first turn but could not avoid the sliding car.
"I remember the car coming and turning to run, but after that the first thing I remember is hearing Terri [Track safety official Terri Mohrman]," he said. "I felt more at ease after that."
McGaffin spoke about a past incident where a modified slid onto the infield at another track where he was shooting.
"I froze," he said. "I talked to the driver later and he said it was the best thing because he knew which way to go. Robbie came at me backwards, so that was not an option."
McGaffin said that the incident will not keep him from capturing the racing action on camera for the trade papers, fans and drivers. By Tuesday afternoon, the pictures from Saturday night were posted on the track's website.
"I have stood in that same spot and taken that shot [the winner crossing under the checkered flags] hundreds of times," he said. "This was an accident, pure and simple."
McGaffin said he is grateful for the help he received at the track and time following the accident.
"I really have to thank Terri and her safety crew at the track. They are great and know what they are doing," he said. "The helicopter crew and staff at Albany Med were all great to me. I can't thank everybody enough."
The veteran photographer said the incident will not keep him from being at the races.
"I will be there Thursday," he said. "I won't be shooting because my camera is toast. I have been on the computer looking for a new one. It will probably be a few weeks before I am back shooting, but I will be there. Besides, we still have to give Dave Constantino his trophy for winning the race."
Track management could not be reached for comment.
Fonda is hosting a special 50-lap, $5,000-to-win Empire State Championship along with a 30-lap, $1,000-to-win GRIT series event for the 602 sportsman division.