By Jim Zufall (Staff Series Spotlight)


February 23, 2014


(Pulaski, PA)...The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series has begun a partnership with a growing program aimed at raising safety awareness among teen drivers.  Doug Herbert’s B.R.A.K.E.S.  Teen Pro-Active Driving School aims at teaching young drivers safety on the road in a way few other driver education programs can. B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) was started by NHRA Top Fuel Dragster driver Doug Herbert after the tragic death of his two sons Jon and James.


Herbert was in Phoenix testing his dragster when he got the news no parent ever wants to hear. His older son, a typically inexperienced teen, was driving through and weaving in and out of traffic when crossed the road and hit another, much larger car.  By all accounts the Herbert boys were killed instantly.  “No parent wants to get the call that I got on that January morning,” says Herbert in a video created for the B.R.A.K.E.S.  program.  “But every day in America, about 15 families do.”


Herbert started B.R.A.K.E.S.  with the specific purpose of reducing the number of families that have to get that awful news.  Since the program began it has trained over 10,000 students from 28 states.  In western Pennsylvania, Shirley Phillips leads the charge to train teens in the safe and realistic driving experience offered by BRAKES.


Phillips also has personal experience with the heartbreaking news of a family member losing their life in an automobile accident. “After losing my daughter Danielle in a car accident in 2006, for several years it was hard to function," explained Phillips.  "My husband and I are big NHRA fans.  We saw on TV that Doug Herbert had lost his two sons on January 26, 2008.  Not long after, Doug started the B.R.A.K.E.S.  program.  The end of 2008 I had formed a memorial fund in honor of Danielle.  When I saw the program it was something I felt I need to do with her memorial fund.  After talking to B.R.A.K.E.S., I was able to finally bring them to Pennsylvania in 2011.”


Vicki Emig, co-director of the RUSH Dirt Late Model and RUSH Sportsman Modified Series, sees the opportunity to form a partnership with B.R.A.K.E.S. a good fit for the organization. “I really think we, as RUSH, have a very unique opportunity to reach out to the young fans and their families in our audience as we travel throughout the Northeast region," expressed Emig.  “A few years ago I became very aware that we were blessed with a very large group of extremely talented young race car drivers; so much so that we created our "Futures Cup" program.  Over the past three years we have crowned Ryan Montgomery, Nico Dabecco, and Eric Wilson as its champions.  Not only are they great racers, but also well beyond their years in so many ways and I just know that they are going to be great ambassadors of the B.R.A.K.E.S. program to the hundreds of young teenage drivers throughout the Northeast region that will attend one of our events this year.”


No parent of a teen or young adult driver wants to get the news that Herbert and Phillips got.  But it’s not only the loss of family members that changes our lives forever; the loss of a good friend has encouraged one particular driver in the RUSH Sportsman Modified Division to get the word out about BRAKES as well.


Harrisburg, NC resident Don Blaney will be traveling north this season with his 2009 Teo Modified with the purpose of running in the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified Series.  Blaney carries the B.R.A.K.E.S.  logo on the car because the program hits home with him.


“I lost a good friend last year before Thanksgiving in a tragic auto accident in Sharon, Pa.," stated Blaney.  "Johnny Zdelar was a really good friend of mine. Doug Herbert lost both his boys the same way a few years ago and started this B.R.A.K.E.S.  program.  I have never met Mr. Herbert personally and I have not gotten a penny from him for sponsorship from B.R.A.K.E.S.”


Blaney carries the B.R.A.K.E.S.  logo for reasons beyond money.  “I am doing this because I feel we do not need to lose any more young adults or friends," continue Blaney.  "I am a professional truck driver by trade and see a lot of really dumb things happening on the roads around Charlotte  where I currently live.  I have two young adults myself; Kasey 19 and George 18.  They understand it is a privilege to get a driver’s license not something the state just gives you because you’re old enough to drive.”


So how do the Sweeney RUSH Dirt Late Model and Sportsman Modified Series propose to get the word out about the B.R.A.K.E.S.  program?  Emig explains: “First of course through our normal avenues of PR via press releases, social media, website exposure, informational announcements at both our Touring and Weekly events, and of course the display of the B.R.A.K.E.S. logo on numerous RUSH cars throughout the season."


“Already several of our young drivers have volunteered to help in any way possible to spread the important message of B.R.A.K.E.S. to their young counterparts," explained Emig.  "Together through the professionalism of our Touring announcer Brian Spaid I know they will be able to reach these kids in a way perhaps that none of us could.”


Phillips hopes to bring the B.R.A.K.E.S. program back to Pittsburgh International Race Complex (formerly BeaveRun).  “If Pitt Race is willing to help again, I would love to have their help.  I am also looking for someplace that maybe would be a little more open so the public could see what the program is about.”


With Herbert’s vision, Phillips’ drive, and Emig’s passion for young people, the partnership between the RUSH Series and B.R.A.K.E.S. can go a long way toward saving lives in a very unique way.  As Emig puts it: “If only one teenager stops and remembers the message about safe driving that they may have heard from one of our young RUSH racers and a tragedy is prevented then all of our efforts will be worthwhile!”


Information about the B.R.A.K.E.S. program can be seen at www.putonthebrakes.org or by clicking the logo.


E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at [email protected] and snail mail to 4368 Route 422, Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The RUSH Racing Series website is www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and www.facebook.com/rushsportsmanmods, and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM and @RUSHSportMods