• Revolutionized trackside emergency services
• Set new standards in racing medical care
• Saved countless lives
• Founded motorsports’ first traveling medical team
• Decades-long tenure as IndyCar medical directors
• Both continue as IndyCar medical consultants
• Founding members of International Council of Motorsports Science
• Founding members of the FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety
Olvey, a neurosurgeon, and Trammell, an othoropedic surgeon, revolutionized racetrack emergency services, in so doing setting a standard for every form of racing, saving dozens if not hundreds of lives.
In the 1970s, Dr. Olvey developed the first US traveling motorsports medical team for USAC. He was Director of Medical Affairs for CART until 2003. Dr. Trammell
has been active in trackside medical care since 1973. He has served as an orthopedic consultant to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and as CART’s Director of Medical Services.
During their tenure, the only deaths that occurred were from non-survivable injuries. No driver suffered paralysis or failed to return to competition. All who survived a significant head injury returned to normal activities. Many, including inductees Rick Mears and Alex Zanardi, were saved from amputation or injuries that previously would have been unsurvivable.
Both are founding members of the International Council of Motorsports Science and the FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety. Both remain consultants to IndyCar.
Trammell was awarded the 2021 Louis Schwitzer Award for biomedical engineering advances for driver safety.
By Gordon Kirby
Doctors Steve Olvey and Terry Trammell revolutionized racetrack emergency services during the 1980s and ‘90s. Working with CART’s chief steward Wally Dallenbach, Olvey and Trammell set a new standard for the sport and saved many lives.
Olvey started his life in racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1966 and worked with USAC’s safety team before he was recruited to become CART’s medical director when the organization was formed in 1979. He served in that capacity for a quarter of a century through the organization’s bankruptcy in 2003 and serves today on the FIA’s Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety.
Dr. Trammell is a world-renowned Indianapolis-based orthopedic surgeon who saved Rick Mears’ badly damaged feet in 1984 and served as CART’s Medical Director and Consultant for Orthopedic Injuries from 1984 through 1995. Trammell was also Consultant for Orthopedic Injuries at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1982 through 1995. From 1996 until 2001 he was the Senior Orthopedic Consultant for CART.
Since 2005, Trammell has been an Orthopedic Consultant and Safety Advisor for the IRL and IndyCar. He retired from surgery in 2013 after 32 years of service at OrthoIndy in Indianapolis. Trammell also has served for many years on the FIA’s medical council. The organization provides the FIA with worldwide safety standards for automobile racing and karting and was created by former FIA president Max Mosley and longtime F1 medical chief Professor Sid Watkins.
“We accomplished a whole lot over a period of time and a lot of that was because of Wally Dallenbach,” Trammell says. “He led the whole group and there wasn’t any jockeying for position. We created the standard for safety in racing and that has become the standard for the sport today.”
Olvey and Trammell worked with the teams and car builders to make massive improvements in car construction and crushability. They also developed a purpose-built ambulance with Dallenbach and ambulance builder Carl Horton. And they worked with driver Christian Fittipaldi to develop the HANS device. “Christian sold the idea to the other drivers,” Olvey says, “so we were able to make it mandatory without any problem. After that, F1 followed and so did NASCAR and every other form of motorsports.”
Olvey offers his assessment of CART’s safety team. “Without doubt, we had the best safety and medical program in all of motorsports. We were well ahead of Formula 1 at the time and of course NASCAR adopted many of our ideas when they went to their new car in 2007. If you look inside a NASCAR car today it looks like an Indy car. Their seats and head protection were all developed in Indy car racing.”
Trammell continues to work with the FIA and IndyCar. “We look at all the new things that are being developed and we make recommendations about what should be in the pipeline,” says Trammell. “It’s a little frustrating because the bureaucracy slows things down. I’m a surgeon and I’m used to getting things done now. But we’ve got a lot done over the years. We’ve been pretty effective.”
Gordon Kirby is one of the world’s most accomplished racing writers. He’s covered more than 1,000 races and written 17 racing books, including “Chris Pook’s History of the Long Beach GP” (2020) and “Boost! Roger Bailey’s Extraordinarily Diverse Motor Racing Career” (2022).
MSHFA 2019 Inductee Dario Franchitti (C) with Dr. Terry Trammell (L) and Dr. Steve Olvey (R)