A Difficult First Trip to WERA at Las Vegas

I’ve been walking around in a bit of a daze for the better part of the evening trying to figure out how I’m going to write up this little “race report,” for lack of better words.

Should I write it like I normally would trying to make jokes and being happy-go-lucky? Should I talk about what some of you already know happened? While I’m still sitting here, pondering on it, I sometimes think it’s best to speak of things (or write them) as you think them…so that’s what I’m doing now.

First of all, I want to mention that a WERA racer passed away yesterday in a solo accident during his race. His name was Joe. He was a Salinas Police Officer. He had a wife. He had children.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone lose their life at the racetrack. A few years ago, I saw Allen Rice hit a k-wall at Infineon, never to breathe again. He was a good friend of people that I know. I didn’t know him personally, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget his name. Or what he looked like as he lay there.

Yesterday, I watched, with my 400mm lens, Joseph Pusateri crash his motorcycle, ending his life. I watched his wife run out onto the track crying and trying to fight her way past the corner workers who were trying to hold her back. At that moment, I felt somewhat removed from the situation as I’ve learned to do over the years; watching people crash…some harder than others. Usually they just get up. Or they twitch…or move…at least after a few seconds, there’s SOME type of tell-tale sign of life.

You sorta become immune to it. There’s no more adrenaline rush like I used to get when someone would crash right in front of me… There’s no more tightening of the chest in a sort of empathetic physical reaction like there used to be…There’s nothing more than simply being a robot who documents things that unfold in front of him. Yesterday, while bursting off a sequence of photos of Joe crashing, was no different. It didn’t even seem that severe, to be honest. I fully expected him to get up and limp around a bit and maybe punch the air a few times in dissapointment. He didn’t move. I assumed maybe he was knocked out. He wasn’t.

I’ve seen friends and family members hop fences to try to tend to their loved ones in the past. I simply watched Joe’s wife crossing the track while speculating on what the extent of Joe’s injuries might have been.

It wasn’t until about an hour later that I’d learned the Joe passed away. Suddenly, as I was being told, the image of Joe’s wife flashed through my head. It hit me hard. I don’t even know how to explain it. Suddenly all this emotion that I’ve learned to put to the side to do the job I do hit me hard. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s she’s going through right now. What Joe’s family is having to deal with right now.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this right now…I’ve just been typing as I think. All I know is that a complete stranger to me passed away yesterday doing something that he loved, that I loved, that everyone at that racetrack loved, and I’m pretty torn up about it all. I wish I could turn back time and simply tell him not to race that race, and he’d have gone back home with his wife to Salinas.

Rest in Peace, Joe. I’m so very sorry to all the family and offer my deepest condolences.

Officer Joseph Pusateri, 43, of Salinas

Facebook Comments


  1. Although I never met Joe, I can see how much he loved the sport as so many of us do, myself included. I am truly sorry
    for your loss Mrs. Pusateri. AS Joe(4theriders) stated, there are many of us here to lend a shoulder to lean on or to cry on, so please don’t hesitate to call on any one of us. God Bless you and your family, and thank you for your support in
    this great sport!! My deepest condolences.
    Razor Ray!!

  2. We are going to miss you Joe.
    and that’s right, im sure there are bikes n racetracks, you will be watching us from heaven, and saving us a spot over there, until it’s our time.

    Rest In Peace JOE”

  3. I was with Joe his first race and his last and every one in between it’s true he did call me a girl he was always there for me I would give him every excuse and he would take them all away and say just do it I’ll miss u and continue with this season for u Joe…… God bless and until we race again in the heavens..miss u Joe … And to the rest of my racing family thanks for the support and love you know who you are…

  4. Author

    hi, veronica. i’m so terribly sorry. if there’s anything myself or my team can do to help, please feel free to let me know. i know you have tough times ahead, and there’s lots of us that are here for you and your family.

  5. First of all, I would like to Thank each and everyone of you who were part of my husband’s passion,”Motorcycles”. That was Joe it was in his blood. No matter how much fear I had evrytime he went on the the track, I could never let him see that. He loved it and I loved him. It was Joe. He left us doing something that he loved. And for that I am proud of him and will always continue to support him. Always. I feel at peace deep down inside. Thank you again for sharing such an Amazing man with me and our family.

  6. Author

    thanks for the update, matthew. that’s REALLY awesome to hear that there was such a turnout for his services. that’s fantastic! i agree with you whole-heartedly… while a somber experience, i’m sure he’d feel the same; go out doing what he loved and adored.

  7. I saw all the shots you sent over to Mark. Thanks for being there for us. I saw a couple from race six. That was the last time I saw him up and moving. He came along side me as we crossed the finish line together just ahead of Ed.

    I just came home from Joe’s memorial service and funeral. There were well over 1000 people in attendance. It was very overwhelming to see the outpouring of support from everyone. I had to smile at the children making happy noises at this time of closure for Joe Pusateri. It was the cycle of life starting again.

    It’s never easy to say goodbye. Especially so when it comes earlier than expected. I am left with this thought: I would rather go out surrounded by friends, family and my desires than to die alone and away.

    I am going to miss that huge smile. I know I’ll see it again.

  8. Joe Pu you will forever be in my heart. TQM. “Andale hasi mira andale” (while snapping your fingers at me). I’m smiling for you : ) Rest In Peace.

  9. I want everyone to know that Joe was absolutely obsessed with riding. He went to my shop on a daily basis to make sure that I wasnt gonna pull an all-nighter wrenching the day before the race, like usual. He made me give him status reports on my progress on my bike. I totally didnt want to disappoint him! I never would of heard the end of it!! That was Joe. When him and Ed crashed on Saturday he told Ed to stop being a girl and fix his bike so he could tech and race on sunday. That was Joe. We all had the best of times together on and off the track and Joe was a great friend and motivator. We will miss his attitude and friendship more than you can possibly imagine. I am glad to be of service to your family Joe. I commit myself to make sure that you are remembered forever!! Love Ya Bro’!! Someday we will ride together again cuz in heaven there are motorcycles and racetracks. Heres to seeing you at the apex again someday and giving you a nod!! I cant wait to ride with you again!!

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I am truly saddened by the news of this event.

    RIP Joe.

    – Mehran

  11. FaceBook page for Joe: In Memory of Joe Pusateri

  12. Joe, thanks for the right up dude. i wish i would have been there, Joe P was an awsome guy, and a good friend.. my prayers are with his family

    Big Tony

  13. Thanks for that! I now see a different side of you that I hadn’t seen before!
    Bless you for the sensitive write up and the very nice photo of Joe above!
    Many people are going to cherish this image….I know I am !

  14. R.I.P. Joe! You will be deeply missed but never forgotten! You were like a brother in law and a great step dad to my nephew. Love You Joe.

  15. The day it DOESN’T bother you, is the day you need to check your pulse.

    Thanks for capturing the last wonderful moments of his life doing what he loved to do.

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