Heartbreak and tragedy color Bartlow's racing weekend

By JEFF CASPERSEN, Jr./The Daily Journal

Brian Bartlow encountered both heartbreak and tragedy in a wild weekend of American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) roadracing at Thunderhill Park in Willows July 19 and 20.

Not only did he narrowly drop a seesaw battle with rival racer Jove Shapiro by a fraction of a second in the 250 Superbike race, but the talented rider and paramedic had to tap into his life-saving skills and medical know-how in another event.

In the midst of the Sunday’s Formula II race, a nasty multi-bike collision red-flagged the race. After pulling into the pit area, Bartlow noticed that several of his racing cohorts were part of the spill.

“It was a bad crash,” Bartlow, a former Ukiah paramedic and one-time Lake County resident, recalled. “Bodies were all over the place. I came into the pit, then rode my bike over to the wreck. I went straight out there, through the debris. I saw that my buddies were OK, then I found a rider not breathing, face down. He looked like a trauma code. He was pure white, blue lips, blue eyes.”

Bartlow, who currently serves as a helicopter flight medic for Fresno-based American Ambulance/Sky Life, proceeded to follow medical procedure in attending to the fallen rider, Jeffrey Jones. An ambulance and flight helicopter responded moments later, but, according to witnesses, it was Bartlow’s heroics that helped save Jones’ life.

“I was pitted directly behind the crash in F-II and I must say it was nasty to say the least,” fellow racer Dave Stanton wrote on an e-mail list distributed amongst AFM riders and crew members. “I also saw something that I believe helped save Jeff’s life. Brian Bartlow pulled over and started CPR on Jeff. Brian was the one who notified the turn workers to get the ambulance there as quickly as possible.

“After the ambulance got there, Brian took control of the situation and was telling the other medics and personnel what to do and how to do it. This all happened after the F-II race which Brian was racing in and while still wearing his leathers. I know it was something that Brian is trained to do and probably deals with on a daily basis, but in my own personal opinion, I feel it was very heroic and helped to avoid a less desirable outcome.”

From the sound of it, Jones will emerge from the accident battered, but alive. Bartlow recently learned Jones was in serious but stable condition and had suffered a severe concussion with some broken ribs.

In yet another ironic twist to the tale, Bartlow typically races the F-II as a tune-up for his main event, the 250 Superbike jaunt.

“I usually just go into the race to make sure my bike is handling well,” he said. “I basically use it as practice session.”

As if the weekend hadn’t progressed wildly enough, Bartlow and the Sawl and Netzer racing team had yet another challenge in store in the 250 race. Relying on skill and not horsepower, Bartlow manned his stock Aprilia 250cc bike to a second-place finish behind his aforementioned rival, Shapiro. The margin of victory, unlike the difference in horsepower between Bartlow and Shapiro’s bikes, was razor thin.

“It was a great race,” Bartlow noted, adding, “It was probably one of my most fun races as far as battling with someone. That was by far the most lead changes of any race I’ve been in. We were changing leads probably five or six times a lap. I was outriding him on the corners and he was out-motoring me on the straights. He beat me by two- or three-tenths of second.”

Bartlow believes a missed shift on his second-to-last lap likely afforded Shapiro, who operated a higher-horsepowered Yamaha, a couple extra seconds.

“If he hadn’t missed toward the end there, it would have been a super-close finish,” said Ukiah resident and Sawl and Netzer racing team manager Jason Gilman.

Shapiro and Bartlow now stand 1-2 in the AFM 250 Superbike points standings, with Shapiro nursing an eight-point lead. Bartlow believes he can surge ahead in the points standings, with races at key skills courses on the horizon.

“Brian is a very skilled rider,” Gilman lauded. “He can almost outbrake anybody I know. It’s amazing. If he had the horsepower to compete with some of the big guns, there’s no question he’d be at the top of the points standings.”

The Sawl and Netzer racing team wraps up its season with races at Buttonwillow (Sept. 6-7), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 19-21) and Infineon Raceway (Oct. 4-5).