Some people just love to race. The allure of racing is too much for these individuals, and despite many of them not having the greatest equipment and not being the greatest drivers, they are often loved by the fans simply due to how enjoyable they are to watch.
In August of 2000, one of these drivers slid into his car for what would be the final time. A life changing crash awaited the journeyman, a driver his fans often called the Racing Principal.
David Anspaugh of Sturgis, Michigan was one such journeyman. Anspaugh’s racing career began in the late 1970s, and he had been competing ever since for the love of the sport.
By trade Anspaugh, who was married with no children, was the superintendent of Waldron, Michigan’s school district. The Racing Principal, as he was called, was a popular face, freely talking about his love for racing, giving ideas and tips to students who shared his love and wanted to start racing themselves, and sometimes even showing up to school in his racing suit. Anspaugh also had his students sign the side of his race cars.
Anspaugh, who owned his own team with his brother Frank, moved to the ASA in the 1990s. He was never a frontrunner, but was a respected driver nonetheless. Anspaugh’s best career finish came at the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Missouri in 1992, where he finished ninth, and he was a frequent midfielder who raced cleanly and enjoyed himself thoroughly.
By the time 2000 arrived however, Anspaugh, 51, found himself struggling to make races. In late August, the ASA wagon train arrived at the Milwaukee Mile for the Time Warner Cable 200 for round 15 of 20. Anspaugh, who hadn’t failed to qualify for any races in 1998 or 1999, had only timed his way into three of the 12 races he’d attempted in 2000. Anspaugh’s name was to show up on the DNQ list yet again when the weekend was over, but this time it would be as a withdrawal.
During the race’s first practice session on August 26th, the #37 1st AYD/Sturgis Middle School 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix suffered a malfunction on the front straight. It was first believed that a brake pad came loose, but later sources claimed that the accelerator hung. In any case, the car spun backwards, hit the wall at top speed, and turned onto its roof, sliding upside down for some distance before eventually rolling back onto its wheels. Anspaugh was unconscious when reached by officials and was extricated from the car through the top. No marks were found on Anspaugh’s helmet, but the beloved superintendent had suffered a severe closed head injury.
Anspaugh was comatose for six weeks before finally awakening, upon which therapy began. Doctors had only given Anspaugh a 1% chance of survival, yet the Racing Principal taught them otherwise, so to speak. Through rigorous therapy, Anspaugh made incredible progress, and when he next returned to his schools in February 2002 for a fundraiser, Anspaugh turned heads. He’d started to walk on his own again, though only for short distances as he otherwise used a wheelchair. He’d regained the ability to swallow, speak full sentences, and read, and his wife was planning on bringing him home. His speech was still somewhat erratic, and he still needed assistance, but Anspaugh was able to perform most actions on his own despite suffering an injury which had killed and incapacitated many other drivers such as Rick Baldwin and Bruce Jacobi. This, unfortunately, was the last update made.
The Racing Principal did not lose his interest in race cars. In fact, when asked in March 2001, Anspaugh indicated that he still wanted to race again, though he never actually got behind the wheel of one again. David Anspaugh passed away on July 23, 2014 at the age of 65 from cancer, though he continues to be a fantastic example of a race car driver returning from the very edge.
“Waldron’s chief suffered brain injuries in stock car”, March 5, 2001 edition of the Toledo Blade
“Victory lap finally in sight”, February 27, 2002 edition of the Toledo Blade
“Death at the Track”, November 11, 2001 special edition of The Charlotte Observer
“Collision with uncertainty”, February 28, 2006 edition of KPC News (date likely wrong, but that’s what is listed)
NASCAR has always had its fair share of weird stories and interesting occurrences. Here’s a list of 99 odd happenings and fun little bits about the United States’ most popular racing series.
Lee Petty entered the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock race at Charlotte in 1949 in a Buick he borrowed from a friend. Lee’s ‘pit crew’, if you could call it one, consisted of his sons Richard, 11, and Maurice, 10. Lee upended the car during the event, forcing him to replace the car and hike home.
NASCAR occasionally allowed foreign marques to compete in select races in the 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, open top cars were permitted at NASCAR’s inaugural road race, held in 1954 at the Linden Airport in New Jersey. At all other ‘international’ races, however, only hardtops were permitted.
During a race in Columbia, South Carolina in 1952, a fan in a pedestrian car attempted to cross the track and was struck by E.C. Ramsey’s Ford, taking Ramsey out of the race. Ramsey, unhurt, hopped out of his wrecked car and pummeled the drunkard until cops arrived.
In 1976, two NASCAR cars were invited to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The cars were popular with the French crowd, but neither did very much. One of them, the #4 Dodge Charger of Hershel McGriff and Doug McGriff, blew up after two laps. The other, the #90 Ford Torino of Dick Brooks, Dick Hutcherson, and local Marcel Mignot, made it 104 laps before it, too, broke.
The only driver to win in his only start is Marvin Burke, who won a race at Oakland in 1951.
Window nets began appearing around the mid-1960s and were optional until mid-1970.
A driver by the name of J. Christopher competed in the inaugural NASCAR road race at Linden. Christopher dropped out of the race halfway through. Christopher was part of an amateur sports car group and would have lost his amateur status if he’d not entered under a false name. J. Christopher’s real name is Conrad Janis – yes, the same Conrad Janis as the one who played Mindy’s dad on Mork & Mindy.
Joey Logano attempted – but did not qualify for – a 250-lap ASA race at the Lanier National Speedway when he was 13. He would qualify for several races that year in the series after he’d turned 14.
Clint Bowyer almost hung up on Richard Childress’ secretary when Childress was calling him to inquire about Bowyer joining his driver development program. Bowyer believed it to be one of his friends playing a joke on him.
Carl Edwards used business cards to promote his driving abilities.
Jimmy Ingram of Jacksonville, Florida ran three Cup races in his career, one in 1951, one in 1952, and one in 1980. This 28-year gap is the largest between starts for a Cup driver.
The record for most DNQs by a driver who never qualified for a NASCAR Cup race is likely St. James Davis, who attempted 16 Cup races without ever qualifying for one. All of these events were combination events with the NASCAR West Series, where West drivers could attempt to time their way in to Cup races.
NASCAR actually ran four races in Japan. The fourth race was held at Motegi in 1999, and counted for NASCAR West Series points. It was won by Kevin Richards. Poor attendance led to it being a one-off.
Lake Speed won the 1978 World Karting Championships over such names as Stefan Bellof and Ayrton Senna. He spent 1979 mulling his options and refining his skills, and made his Winston Cup debut in January 1980 at Riverside, meaning, for all intents and purposes, Speed jumped right from karting to NASCAR Cup.
Jimmy Florian won a race in Canfield, Ohio in 1950 without a shirt on. It was an extremely hot day, and there were no rules saying he had to wear a shirt.
Herman Beam received NASCAR’s first black flag during a qualifying race at Daytona in 1960 for not wearing a helmet. He ignored the black flag for about eight laps, but eventually came into the pits and was parked.
In 1953, at the age of 12, Morgan Shepherd bought his first car. It cost him $12.50, two flying squirrels, a gray squirrel, and a 20 gauge shotgun.
Race cars have ended up in some weird places over the years. Lee Petty once found himself spinning onto a baseball diamond during a race at Soldier Field in Chicago, Wilbur Rakestraw once plummeted into a cesspool after going off at Lakewood Speedway’s third turn, and Rich Woodland, Jr. flipped his car into the parking area at Sonoma Raceway in 1994.
The tire bundles on Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR layout are composed of more than 25000 tires.
John Andretti tested a Lincoln Mark VIII at Charlotte in 1996. Lincoln was planning on possibly re-entering the Cup Series in the near future, but parent company Ford decided they wanted to only enter cars with the Ford name attached.
Toyota debuted in NASCAR in the International Sedan (later Goody’s Dash) Series in 1982. It used the Corolla model. The driver of that Corolla was Davey Allison.
Toyota later returned to NASCAR in the Goody’s Dash Series (again) with the Celica Coupe model in 2000. It was introduced back to NASCAR by road racer Eric Van Cleef. Van Cleef soon returned to road racing, but the Celica Coupe proved popular with drivers, and in 2003, Toyota won the manufacturer’s title with Robert Huffman.
The tallest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is Gregory Vandersluis, an SCCA driving instructor who was entered for the 2017 Xfinity race at Road America for the Obaika team. As was typical of Obaika, they withdrew, and Gregory, who stands at a monumental six foot eight, never raced.
The shortest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is likely Rico Abreu, who drove for Thorsport in the Truck Series for two seasons. He stands at four foot four.
Cup drivers are not required to have a standard driver’s license.
Driver Dink Widenhouse crashed his #B-29 car during a race at Darlington in 1956, and suffered a cut arm. Dink noticed he was bleeding while he climbed out of his car, passed out from the shock, and became entangled in the safety belts. When safety crews reached Dink, who was otherwise uninjured, he was upside-down angled against the car.
Datsuns were mainstays in the Dash Series in the mid-80s, as were Nissans when Nissan acquired Datsun later in the decade.
Mazda ran in the NASCAR Mexico Series for several years using the Mazda6 model.
Rodrigo Peralta drove the field’s only Ford to the NASCAR Mexico title in 2013.
Jeff Gordon, by his own admission, ran the 24h of Daytona in 2017, which his team won, for free.
No one knows what happened to Bob Pronger, a NASCAR competitor in the 50s. He disappeared early in 1971 and his fate remains unknown, though he’s suspected to have been a victim of the mafia.
NASCAR pioneer Buddy Shuman died in 1955 when he fell asleep in a hotel holding a lit cigarette in his hand, leading to a fire. He died of smoke inhalation.
Even when their usage was still commonplace in NASCAR, triple digit numbers were not allowed at the Darlington Raceway with very few exceptions.
Driver Allan Clarke ran a car “numbered” R-D at a race in West Palm Beach in 1954.
Car number X was also used on several occasions in the 50s, most notably by Rex White. Car number X can still be seen occasionally on short tracks. In fact, in some of the earliest races, cars did not require numbers.
Other bizarre numbers, all of them used in the “old era” of the NASCAR Modifieds, include #7777, #10-10, #10%, and #L-M.
No one knows the actual age of Red Farmer, a longtime part-timer in both NASCAR and ARCA who still ran sporadic dirt track events well into the 2000s. Birth certificates were still not mandatory and were sometimes not given out to the dirt-poor, and Farmer himself does not remember. Several sources give his DoB as October 15th, 1932, though Farmer seems to go with sometime in 1928.
In 1951, Frank Mundy carpooled with Marshall Teague in order to get to a race in Gardena, California. Mundy didn’t have a car available, and rented a ’50 Chevy from a local dealership, which he used in the race to finish 11th. Mundy had to return the car at night so the employees didn’t notice the balded tires. However, they apparently did notice, to which Mundy said the alignment was probably out and left.
The minnow pond that led to Darlington being so oddly shaped no longer exists.
Kevin Harvick finished last for the first time, after almost 1100 races in NASCAR’s top 3 series, when he crashed out of the 2018 Coke 600.
In 1956, Lee Petty took it upon himself to end a crash riddled race at the Tulsa Fairgrounds by snatching the red flag out of the flagman’s hand and waving drivers down. Conditions had been awful that day, and of the 13 starters, only seven were still running on lap 32, when Lee, who himself had just wrecked out, ended the race. The crowd was understandably not pleased, but eventually they left. The race was annulled and was not rescheduled.
The NASCAR West Series has run the Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca on a few occasions, most recently in 2001.
Fonty Flock passed the time during several races in 1952 by playing radio music.
Carl Kiekhaefer reportedly once built a bonfire out of the engines of his business rivals, then danced around the flames.
Superspeedway ringer Phil Barkdoll, who ran a NASCAR team for about 15 years, apparently started racing on a dare from a friend.
Tim Flock suffered a concussion and was out for a month when a car ran over his head while he was napping before a race to be held in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1953.
If his own word is to be believed, Greenville, South Carolina’s Jimmy Vaughn ran both the supporting Bama 400 Grand Touring race and the inaugural Alabama 500 at Talladega in 1969 on the same set of tires. He completed almost 750 miles combined.
J.D. McDuffie used McCreary tires when he stunningly won the pole for a race at Dover in 1978. McCreary tires are, or at least were, notable for providing excellent speed but not lasting very long, and indeed, the tires wore out after eight laps. He lost the lead two laps later, and lost the engine on lap 80. It was still enough to qualify for the inaugural Busch Clash race for pole winners in 1979.
McDuffie won $10,000 in the inaugural Clash despite finishing ninth (last). This was about double what McDuffie won in all of 1978.
The inaugural Southern 500 in 1950 was interesting, to say the least. For example, Hershel McGriff of Oregon drove his car to the race and spent a few days sleeping on the county courthouse lawn.
At the inaugural Southern 500, many drivers, not used to such a long race, brought an assortment of drinks, with one driver reportedly bringing some beer to drink during it. According to Buck Baker, the beer quickly foamed up, and the back of the car began to look like a washing machine as the booze sloshed out the window.
Baker himself wrecked out on lap 176, and was shaken but all right. Baker had brought a jug of tomato juice, which went flying everywhere. When a first responder reached Baker, covered in red liquid and slumped, he thought Baker’d been beheaded.
The #98jr of race winner Johnny Mantz’s infamous truck tires, on which he lapped the track at low speed but without a tire change – a several minute process at the time – were Firestones. They were the only Firestones on the grid.
The inaugural Southern 500 only paid out money to the top 18 finishers and to a couple drivers who did well in qualifying. 19th place Joe Eubanks, despite finishing ahead of 56 other drivers, received nothing.
According to some heavy cross-referencing, seven drivers flipped in the infamous pileup on the first lap of the NASCAR Modified-Sportsman race in 1960: #25 Bill Wark, #30 Larry Frank, #38 Ralph Earnhardt, #40 Stan Kross, #74 Dick Freeman, #84 Acey Taylor, and #89 Wendell Scott. Scott actually returned to the race.
During a Busch North (now East) race at Lime Rock in 2005, Dale Quarterley flipped his car on the first lap after being stuffed into the tire wall, drove the wrecked car back to the pits, and eventually returned to the race. The car itself was reportedly very fast despite the flip, even capable of unlapping itself.
In 1955, Tiny Lund flipped his car at the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway in Arkansas. The safety belts broke and Lund was thrown from the car, but thankfully he escaped with little more than a broken arm and bruises. Lund’s sponsor that day was Rupert Safety Belts.
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Michael Waltrip are tied for most confirmed flips by a NASCAR driver, with five, though Junior Johnson may have flipped as many as six times.
Within a span of two races, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and Daytona Beach and Road Course, in 1956, ten drivers flipped their cars. Sherman Clark, Jim Stapley, Bill Stammer, Bob Ruppert, and Howard Phillipi flipped at the Fairgrounds, and Buddy Krebs, Jim Wilson, Russ Truelove, Junior Johnson, and Ralph Moody flipped at Daytona Beach.
Fireball Roberts’ real name was Glenn. He was nicknamed Fireball because he pitched a mean fastball in high school baseball.
Tiny Lund’s real name was DeWayne. He was nicknamed Tiny due to his massive stature.
NASCAR, like most sports, has its fair share of very embarrassing nicknames, such as Paul “Wimpy” Ervin and Thomas “Cotton” Priddy.
Current Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman apparently does not like being called “Bowman the Showman”.
ARCA/NASCAR Trucks driver Bo LeMastus’ real name is James. His nickname was coined by his grandfather when a young LeMastus took a photo with him while wearing a bow tie.
At least four former NASCAR drivers are known to currently work in real estate, Boston Reid, Buckshot Jones, James Buescher, and Dylan Kwasniewski.
Brandon Whitt reportedly works as a plumber, Ryan Hemphill’s got a factory job, and Todd Kleuver’s a roofer.
Retired drivers with other racing-related jobs include Josh Wise, who works as a driver coach and fitness trainer, and Kyle Krisiloff, who organizes entertainment and music at Indianapolis.
Former drivers who are now crew chiefs include Matt McCall (Jamie McMurray), Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski), Mario Gosselin (Alex Labbe), and Brian Keselowski (Jordan Anderson), though McCall does run very sporadic late model events.
Former drivers who are now spotters include Tim Fedewa (Kevin Harvick), T.J. Majors (Joey Logano), and Kevin Hamlin (Alex Bowman), among many others.
T.J. Majors met Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while racing online, and soon became Jr.’s protégé as he rose through the late model ranks.
The winner of the equivalent to the All Star Open (the Atlanta Invitational) in 1986, Benny Parsons, did not transfer to the All Star Race (then called The Winston).
Curley Barker ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of a NASCAR Grand National/Pacific Coast combination event at Portland Speedway in 1956, giving the win to Lloyd Dane. Barker, while far from the first or last NASCAR driver to lose the win on the last lap, is the only loser in a last lap pass to never actually score a win, either before the event or after.
About an hour before the start of a Grand National race at the Wilson Speedway in North Carolina in 1959, the grandstands caught fire and burned down. No one was injured, but the crowd of 8800 had to stand to watch the event.
Carl Kiekhaefer’s departure from NASCAR before the 1957 season was apparently so abrupt and done with so little fanfare that most pre-season entry lists still had him listed, even in the days leading up to the season’s first major event at Daytona Beach.
The Riverside Raceway held 3 races in 1981, its traditional January race, its also-preexistent June race, and a new race in November, bookending the season. This would be the last year where the January race was held.
A NASCAR Convertible race at the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in North Carolina in 1956 ended with 181/200 laps complete because there was only one car still running. A jarring 14-car pileup had broken out on the backstretch, and only one driver, Curtis Turner, had survived the mayhem.
Only one spectator has been killed during a Cup race: W.R. Thomasson, who died when he was struck by debris during a race at North Wilkesboro in 1957.
The Goody’s Dash Series ran a dirt race in 2003 at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Georgia. Danny Bagwell won the 150-lap jaunt, which saw 15 caution flags.
Curtis Turner piloted a Nash Ambassador to victory at the Charlotte Speedway in 1951. This would be the Nash manufacturer’s only win. The Nash Ambassador was usually seen as a joke by most drivers, making it almost fitting that the Ambassador, nicknamed the ‘upside-down bathtub’ by many, won its only NASCAR race on April 1st.
Despite hosting the first NASCAR Strictly Stock race in 1949, the Charlotte Speedway only lasted a few more years. The 0.750 mile dirt oval closed after the 1956 season when Interstate 85, then still under construction, took its parking lot.
New Hampshire International Speedway was supposed to be banked at 12 degrees, but the blueprints didn’t specify whether the 12 near the corners was 12 degrees or 12% grade. The construction crew assumed it was the latter, hence why it was only built to 8 degrees in the turns.
Tom Cherry competed at the Daytona Beach and Road Course in 1953 with two numbers adorning his car. #38, the number placed on the sides, was the one he used for the event, and #120, the number placed on the roof, had been used when Cherry ran the Carrera Panamericana road race with the same vehicle.
NASCAR had a Midget Division that operated until 1962.
For a couple races in 1953, Tim Flock had a rhesus monkey by the name of Jocko Flocko in his car as a passenger. The fans loved Jocko, with whom Tim even scored a win, but after a freakout by Jocko cost Tim a race at Raleigh Speedway, Flock decided that Jocko had to go.
The morning before the 1974 Winston 500, drivers and crews arrived at the Talladega Superspeedway to find that someone had filled their fuel tanks with sand and had cut brake lines. Despite the best efforts of investigators, the saboteur was never caught.
The youngest driver to compete in NASCAR’s top series was Tommie Elliott, who competed at the Altamont-Schenectady Fairgrounds in 1951 at the age of 15 and a half. Elliott completed over 80% of the event, but whether or not he finished is unknown. He placed 15th out of 20 cars.
The racing bug never left R.C. Zimmerman, who competed in five Cup races during the 1940s and 1950s. Zimmerman was still racing as of 2013, at the age of 94, though the series he competed in appears to not have been NASCAR-sanctioned. The oldest to compete in a NASCAR sanctioned series is Hershel McGriff, who ran a NASCAR K&N West race in 2018 at Tucson, aged 90.
The 13th Southern 500, held in 1962 was listed as the 12th Renewal Southern 500 at the request of Joe Weatherly, who was famous for his belief in superstition and was considering not entering the race before the name change.
Caesar’s Palace, the street circuit once used for Formula One which saw a Winston West in 1984 on a modified layout, was well-known for its smooth as glass surface. Organizers achieved this surface by having taxi drivers repeatedly lap the circuit.
In 1963, the organizer of the Rebel 300 at Darlington changed the race’s format from a 219 lap race to two 110 lap races, with a 30 minute intermission. Drivers were scored using a confusing points system. Joe Weatherly was ruled the winner with 197.8 points, having finished first in segment one and second in segment two, Fireball Roberts, third place in both segments, was scored second with 191.7 points, and Richard Petty, the segment two winner, was third with 187.9 points. The format was never used again.
NASCAR would occasionally run two races on the same day in its early seasons at different circuits. In fact, there were two instances in 1948, the inaugural NASCAR Modified season, where three races were held on the same day, all at different tracks, plus another instance that year where one track held a doubleheader and the other a single race on the same day, and yet another instance where two tracks held doubleheaders, both on the same day.
In its early seasons, NASCAR also used to run a few races at the tail end of one year which would count for the next year’s points chase. In fact, on November 11th, 1956, two races were held, one at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina, and one at Willow Springs Raceway in California. The Hickory race counted for the 1956 points table, but the Willow Springs race counted for 1957 points.
Six of the top seven finishers in a race held at the Augusta Raceway in November 1963 (counting for 1964 points) would die in car accidents before the end of January 1965. Winner Fireball Roberts, second place Dave MacDonald, third place Billy Wade, fourth place Joe Weatherly, and sixth place Jimmy Pardue were killed in racing accidents, while seventh place Larry Thomas was killed in a highway crash in January 1965. Fifth place Ned Jarrett was the only exception.
Three NASCAR starter flags were taken into space in 2008 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. One of the flags was presented to Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 winner that year, a second was put on display, and NASA kept the third.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division does not use Goodyear tires. It used Michelin tires from 2009, its first season, through its acquisition by NASCAR in 2012, until 2017. The Division switched to BF Goodrich tires in 2018. NASCAR Euro isn’t the only NASCAR series to not use Goodyears, as NASCAR Mexico has used Continentals for some time.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division’s two series, Elite 1 and Elite 2, run the same race lengths: 30 minutes. The difference is in the FIA driver rankings, with Elite 1 being more for the professional racers and young talents, and Elite 2 being more for the journeymen and hobbyist racers.
NASCAR Euro also has a Club Division. In this division, drivers run one at a time, and the best time wins. This division is stated to be for the journeymen who more enjoy simply driving race cars than competing, and for the rookies who aren’t sure if the Division’s for them.
NASCAR Euro ran a rain race on an oval in 2014 at the Tours Speedway. The Speedway is built out of a parking lot and its berms, and its low banks and drainage systems permitted a rain race. It was won by Mathias Lauda.
Canadian Tire, the former sponsor of the current NASCAR Pinty’s Series, is not a garage, nor a brand of tire – it’s a hobby shop, though most have tools and equipment for car enthusiasts.
Well, that’s the end of that, I’ll see you all later.
“Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France”, book by Daniel S. Pierce
“Bowyer gets surprise call, and ride, from Childress”, May 16th, 2004 edition of The Morning Call (Allentown)
“SIX DIVISIONS – TWO CHAMPIONS AT IRWINDALE”, October 5th, 2013 article on Irwindale Speedway’s website
“Karting Passion Comes Full Circle for Karting Legend Lake Speed”, August 10th, 2015 article on ekartingnews
Tiny Lund’s profile on Decades of Racing
Sonoma Raceway’s website
“NASCAR Chronicle”, book by Greg Fielden
“Red Farmer: The Stock Car Interview”, October 18th, 2007 article to stockcarracing
Legends of NASCAR
“BNS: Dale Quarterley: Race Notes”, October 3rd, 2005 article on motorsport.com
“Helen Rae is really something special”, August 20th, 1986 article in The Anniston Star
“Hall of Fame memories for 2013”, February 8th, 2013 article on ESPN
“1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities”, book by John Close
“First Southern 500 Featured 75 Cars, Many Driven To Track Then Home Again”, May 9th, 2012 article on SB Nation
“Baker Leads Chryslers To 150-Mile Race Sweep”, January 23rd, 1956 article in Arizona Republic
“The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing: A History of the Sport and Business”, book by Betty Boles Ellison
“Glen Wood still getting it done”, February 14th, 2010 article on ESPN
“Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner”, book by Robert Edelstein
“The 9 weirdest things ever flown on the Space Shuttle”, July 8th, 2011 article on csmonitor
It was a massive curveball when it was revealed that Eldora would be joining the NASCAR Truck schedule in 2013, and with it being one of the most popular races on the calendar, the fact that NASCAR West has added a dirt race at Las Vegas this year proves that it’ll probably stay on the calendar for awhile.
NASCAR’s Grand National Division ran its last race in 1970, and though NASCAR West continued to run a few dirt races in the ensuing years, after 1979 they were also removed. However, around the turn of the millennium, NASCAR began flirting with the idea again, leading to one of the most interesting races of the early 2000s.
In the early 2000s, NASCAR began considering a return to dirt. They’d last run a high level dirt race in 1979 when the West Series ran Gardena, and were looking around for a suitable track to make their return to. Angie Wilson, a former competitor in the Goody’s Dash Series, suggested that NASCAR hold a Dash race at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park. This was eventually agreed upon, and a race was scheduled.
Opening in 1951, the Oglethorpe Speedway in Pooler, Georgia is one of the more prestigious dirt tracks in the South. It held a few Cup races in the mid-50s, closed in the mid-60s, and reopened in 1977. The track was a 1/2 mile d-oval for many years, though it’s currently being shortened to 3/8ths mile.
Immediately after the Daytona race in 2003, the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series competitors were in for a fun time setting up their cars for a dirt race. The cavalry, which was mostly made up of Pontiac Sunfires, with an odd sprinkling of Mercury Cougars, Ford Escorts, and Toyota Celica Coupes in the mix, had about two months to prepare for the race, which was to be a 150 lap jaunt known as the Lucas Oil Dash On Dirt 150.
On March 15th, open practice began. The session saw several drivers head to the track, only for a light rainstorm to hit the area. Jake Hobgood, the defending champion, decided to test the track anyway, though most of the other drivers decided not to due to the approaching rain. Testing continued throughout the next couple weeks. Drivers praised both the facility and the idea of a dirt race. Robert Huffman even referred to the first couple laps as “trial and error”.
Eventually, race day arrived on April 5th, 2003. The weather was rather overcast for most of the day, and light rain during the afternoon forced crews to dry the track quickly, but by the time the lights came on, the facility was as ready as it would ever be. 23 drivers had showed up to the circuit, though officials expected somewhere around 30. Jake Hobgood qualified on pole in his #64 Toyota, with the #37 Toyota of Robert Huffman on his outside. Rounding out the top five were the #65 Pontiac of Justin Hobgood (somehow sponsored by a Toyota dealership), the #18 Pontiac of Jay Godley, and the #19 Pontiac of Joey Miller, no relation to the 2005 ARCA runnerup. Danny Bagwell’s #10 Mercury started sixth. Lining up seventh was the #26 Pontiac of T.J. Majors. Majors, who currently works as Joey Logano’s spotter, had met Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while racing online, and Dale had taken Majors under his wing as a sort of protégé. On race day, however, organizers inverted the top four. Jake Hobgood kept his pole position, but now Godley started second, Justin Hobgood remaining third and Huffman dropping to fourth.
Jake Hobgood led the field to the green and quickly took the advantage, though the opening caution on lap two quickly mitigated that. When they resumed, he pulled away again, only to quickly lose it with another caution. This would be a recurring theme throughout the opening laps.
Jake Hobgood ended up leading until an early caution around lap 25 either for Mike McConnell in the #61 crashing out or the #77 of Michael Guerity blowing his car’s clutch. Most of the field pitted, but Eric Wilson and T.J. Majors did not. Wilson led a few laps before running off course in turn three, giving Majors the lead.
Majors’ lead, however, was cut short on lap 49, when paraplegic driver Ray Paprota looped his #0 Pontiac on the front chute. Majors and the lapped car of Ned Combs both collided and spun off of turn four, and Combs’ #9 piled into Paprota’s #0. Majors was able to soldier on, but Combs and Paprota were done. The red flag was waved so crews could clean up debris and help the wheelchair-bound Paprota out of his car. Nobody was injured.
Another caution flew for the #95 of Greg Goodell crashing out around lap 60, and around lap 77, Jake Hobgood brought out another yellow when he ran off course in turn one and collided with a tree. He’d already been in at least one incident during the race after colliding with and spinning out Danny Bagwell a few laps prior, and this just made things worse. Hobgood was all right, but he was out of the race. Danny Snell’s #25 caused another yellow around lap 90 when he wrecked out. These were only some of the yellows, as the dirt surface, though it provided an exciting race, also provided a crashfest, littered with fifteen yellow flags.
On lap 102, Robert Huffman slid up the track in turn one, giving Jay Godley the lead. Godley almost immediately thereafter ran wide, and Danny Bagwell was the beneficiary. Bagwell pulled a gap and led up until the end of the race. Justin Hobgood chased down Bagwell in the closing laps, but was never able to pass him, and Danny Bagwell was the one in victory lane. Hobgood fended off Godley for second, with Robert Huffman and Joey Miller rounding out the top five. The #93 of future Cup team owner Randy Humphrey finished sixth, last car on the lead lap. T.J. Majors had to settle for eighth, one lap off. Eric Wilson placed 13th, seven laps down, having gone to the pit area for radiator repairs after smacking the frontstretch wall about halfway through the race.
1. #10 Danny BAGWELL 2. #65 Justin HOBGOOD 3. #18 Jay GODLEY* 4. #37 Robert HUFFMAN 5. #19 Joey MILLER 6. #93 Randy HUMPHREY 7. #11 Brandon WARD (-1) 8. #26 T.J. MAJORS* (-1) 9. #2 Scott WEAVER (Out Of Fuel) 10. #1 Scott KREHLING (-2)
11. #02 Kelly SUTTON (-4)
12. #17 Mike WATTS (-6)
13. #4 Eric WILSON* (-7)
14. #98 Roger MOSER (-7)
15. #5 Scott HALLER* (-13)
16. #31 Zach BREWER (-38)
17. #25 Danny SNELL (Crash)
18. #64 Jake HOBGOOD (Crash)
19. #95 Greg GOODELL (Crash)
20. #9 Ned COMBS (Crash)
21. #0 Raymond PAPROTA* (Crash)
22. #77 Michael GUERITY (Clutch)
23. #61 Mike McCONNELL (Crash)
Cautions: 15 for 70 laps Lead Changes: 4 Leaders: 5 (#4, #10, #26, #37, #64)
MoV: 0.410 seconds
Race Duration: 1h39m55s
Hard Charger: #17 Mike Watts
Winner’s Purse: $1,725
Pole Speed: 77.922 mph
Average Speed: 45.038 mph
The event was very popular amongst the fans and the drivers alike, and all in all was ruled a success. However, NASCAR had already announced by the time the Oglethorpe race was conducted that they’d be selling off the Dash Series after 2003. Even when the series was purchased by Buck Parker in 2004, Oglethorpe was not on the calendar, though I was not able to find if Oglethorpe was ever on the schedule to begin with being as several Dash events jumped ship after the death of Roy Weaver III (I’m inclined to believe it was not).
Even still, this race’s uniqueness and entertainment value made it a fond memory for everyone, and it proved ten years before Eldora did that, despite having been a pavement based series for many years, NASCAR can put on a show on dirt.
“Jake Hobgood tests at Oglethorpe”, March 18th, 2003 article on motorsport.com
“Dash drivers making tough transition onto OSP’s dirt track”, April 2nd, 2003 article on SavannahNow
“Oglethorpe: Race summary”, April 8th, 2003 article on motorsport.com
“Danny Bagwell wins Goody’s Dash Series, NASCAR Touring race on dirt”, April 5th, 2003 article on Oglethorpe Speedway’s website
This idea came to me one day when I was sent a very rare photo by a friend of a crash at Daytona that really no one knows about. I decided I’d chronicle a few flips in NASCAR that no one knows about. Not much more to say, so let’s get started. This is in chronological order. These all come from various flip lists on the internet, most notably CrashTwice’s list, which can be found in a link at the bottom. Also used were a list I found on Reddit and another on rubbins-racin, both of which are also at the bottom. None of them are complete, but all have been excellent references.
There are actually many more beyond these baker’s dozen, and there were even some I couldn’t find any documentation on beyond confirmation that the driver had crashed during the race, or even none at all besides their entry on the lists. See if you can find information on them.
1. JUNIOR JOHNSON (1959, GRAND NATIONAL, HICKORY)
This crash perfectly summarized the racing of the day and its competitors.
During practice for a 1959 race at Hickory, Junior Johnson upended his 1957 Ford. The car flopped back onto its wheels, and Johnson drove it back to the pits. The crew surveyed the damage, repaired the car, and, using the very same car (as backup cars were not permitted in those days), Johnson went on to win the pole and, after a very hard-fought battle, the 250 lap race itself.
2. JESSE SAMPLES (1965, GRAND NATIONAL, ATLANTA)
A driver’s lone start doesn’t go according to plan…
Jesse Samples plowed his #96 Chevy into the barrier during the 1965 Dixie 400 at Atlanta. The car pierced the barrier, sending the car upside down and damaging the barrier severely. The 1963 Chevy was a complete write-off, but Samples was all right. This would prove to be his only start.
3. DAREL DIERINGER (1966, GRAND NATIONAL, RICHMOND)
Darel Dieringer managed to upend his #16 Mercury Marauder at what is now the Richmond International Raceway in 1966. The crash happened when Dieringer went straight on into the wall, which he then climbed. Dieringer was unhurt.
4. RICHARD CHILDRESS (1972, WINSTON CUP, TEXAS WORLD)
It’s very hard to believe that once upon a time Richard Childress was just another independent driver on a shoestring budget.
About two thirds of the way through the 1972 Lone Star 500, a race well remembered for being run during a heat wave, Richard Childress was running on his own when Doc Faustina blew his engine. Childress tried to get out of the way of Faustina, but ended up rolling his #96 Chevrolet three times down turn two, landing in a ditch. Childress was only bruised.
5. BRUCE JACOBI (1977, WINSTON CUP, CHARLOTTE)
A truly vicious crash remembered by few.
During last chance qualifying for the 1977 World 600, Rick Newsom lost control of his car off of turn four and struck the wall. As the car came down the track, the #78 Chevrolet of Bruce Jacobi plowed into Newsom. The contact was so hard that it jarred Jacobi into the air and for several rolls down the apron before it came to rest on its door. Newsom’s engine was ripped out of the car by the impact. Newsom suffered a broken leg, but Jacobi was removed from the car with only bruises.
6. BLACKIE WANGERIN (1979, WINSTON CUP, MICHIGAN)
Another vicious one that is not remembered very much.
On lap 2 of the 1979 Champion Spark Plug 400, H.B. Bailey lost an engine and spun his car through turn three. The #39 Mercury of Blackie Wangerin struck Bailey’s car at high speed, then proceeded to strike the wall with such force that his car jumped the wall as if he was a pole vaulter driving his pole into the ground. The car took out several fence posts as it flew and turned over, eventually coming back down to earth and sliding down the opposing embankment. Wangerin suffered injuries to his abdomen and arm, though what exactly they were was not disclosed. The race was red flagged for about forty minutes for repairs.
Baxter Price’s #45 Oldsmobile suffered heavy damage in the crash, though he eventually returned to the race without bumpers, a hood and a grill.
7. BOBBY BALLANTINE (1981, LATE MODEL SPORTSMAN, DAYTONA)
Yet another extremely violent crash.
Ellicott City, Maryland native Bobby Ballantine lost control of his car off of turn four during the 1981 Sportsman 300, which had been rained out early on on Saturday and was being completed the Monday after the 500. The #1 Pontiac went airborne and rolled wildly through the air, doing several spectacular twists and turns before coming to rest on its wheels. Ballantine was injured, but he’d return to his local short tracks within a few months.
8. MIKE MESSER (1983, LATE MODEL SPORTSMAN, BRISTOL)
Bristol is very bizarre.
Short track racer Mike Messer spun his car into the turn two wall during the 1983 Southeastern 150 Late Model Sportsman race. The car flipped over after hitting the wall and slid on its roof down the backstretch before hitting the turn three wall and rolling down the banking. The #27 7-Up Pontiac was utterly demolished, but Messer was all right and stepped out of his car under his own power.
9. CHARLIE RUDOLPH (1988, WINSTON CUP, DAYTONA)
Fun fact, I’ve actually seen Charlie’s son Erick in action in TQ events, and he’s really good.
During Tuesday practice for the 1988 Daytona 500, Charlie Rudolph was rounding the tri-oval when he came across Ernie Irvan’s slower car running along the apron. The pair disagreed as to what happened. Rudolph said that he lost it in Irvan’s dirty air, while Irvan said Rudolph must have broken something and darted sideways right in front of Irvan. In any case, air got under Rudolph’s car, likely helped by Irvan, and the Ransomville, NY native’s #72 Pontiac was sent for several rolls. Richard Petty and Bobby Hillin were also collected. All drivers were unhurt, but Rudolph had to withdraw. Though Rudolph indicated he had another car to run the rest of the season with, he never made another Cup attempt.
10. BILLY STANDRIDGE (1990, BUSCH SERIES, DAYTONA)
Here’s the crash that piqued my interest in doing this article.
Billy Standridge flipped his #47 Standridge Auto Parts Pontiac all on its own down one of the short chutes during Monday practice for the 1990 Goody’s 300 at Daytona. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what happened due to the heavy damage specifically to the car’s rear, but in any case Standridge was unhurt.
11. RICH WOODLAND, JR. (1994, WINSTON CUP, SONOMA)
That’s not what they mean by a flying lap…
West Series competitor Rich Woodland, Jr.’s car shot off of turn ten during his qualifying lap while attempting to make the 1994 Save Mart Supermarkets 300. The #86W Oldsmobile struck the tires, flew over the wall, and landed upside down in the parking area. Woodland was unhurt, but of course, having crashed on his qualifying lap, he’d be flipping burgers, so to speak.
12. SHANE HALL (2000, BUSCH SERIES, LAS VEGAS)
This was a violent, violent crash that is frequently forgotten about, probably because it happened during testing.
On January 31st, 2000, Shane Hall was running in a Busch Series test session at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his car suffered a steering column failure exiting turn two. It glanced off the outside wall, then darted back across the track directly towards the inside wall at a critical angle. What could have very well been a tragic crash was mitigated somewhat by a tire wall that had been set up down the back chute for some road racing, but the end result was still terrifying. Hall’s #0 Ohio State University Chevrolet slammed the tire wall and flew into the air, sending his car for no less than five jarring rolls. The car was demolished, and Hall suffered a broken left ankle, but he was back behind the wheel within a day.
13. BRIAN VICKERS (2002, BUSCH SERIES, ROCKINGHAM)
This one has been thrown around for the past few years, but I actually have confirmation that it happened.
I was never able to find much on this crash, which occurred during a test session. I actually had to ask the man himself, and was unfortunately not given much info. But whatever happened, one thing’s for sure. During a test session at Rockingham in 2002, Brian Vickers blew a tire exiting turn two and found his #29 on its lid, presumably after hitting the oddly-sloped backstretch wall.
This is the final part. Beforehand, I’m going to go over the list so far.
50. TIRE CHANGER JIMMY WATTS BRINGS OUT CAUTION AT ATLANTA, 2009
49. RON BURCHETTE PROVES THAT ARCA BRAKES EXIST AT DAYTONA, 1995
48. WTCC CARS PILE UP UNDER RED FLAG CONDITIONS AT MACAU, 2013
47. JEAN ALESI GETS MASSIVE JUMP START AT BAHRAIN, 2009
46. JARED CARLYLE JUMPS STEEPLECHASE HURDLE AT PUKEKOHE, 2007
45. NICOLAS MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS AT PIT-IN AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, 2011
44. PACE CAR GETS STOLEN BY DRUNKARD AT TALLADEGA, 1986
43. MASSIVE RAINSTORM HITS DURING ETCC RACE AT SILVERSTONE, 1984
42. RUBEN GARCIA ALMOST ENTERS CROWD AT RIVERSIDE, 1988
41. MASS DSQ CONDUCTED DURING ITALIAN F3 FINALE AT MONZA, 2012
40. ARCA ACTUALLY COMPLETES RAIN RACE AT PALM BEACH, 2010
39. DRIVER GETS TASED DURING FIGURE EIGHT RACE AT ANDERSON, 2017
38. RENAULT MEGANES PILE INTO SAFETY TRUCKS AT ZANDVOORT, 1998
37. JOHN PRIOR FLIPS AFTER CHECKERS DURING ARCA RACE AT DUQUOIN, 1985
36. RON FELLOWS MAKES STUPID MOVE UNDER YELLOW AT ROAD AMERICA, 2011
35. CRAIG JARVIS ROLLS HIS FERRARI DURING QUALIFYING AT KYALAMI, 2017
34. DRIVER’S SPONSOR STEALS HIS RACE CAR FOR STUNT AT ALTAMONT, 2006
33. HANS HEYER ILLEGALLY STARTS GERMAN GRAND PRIX, 1977
32. BERND MAYLANDER HITS MANHOLE IN THE STREETS OF SHANGHAI, 2004
31. FIRE LORRY FLIPS DURING SAFETY CAR PERIOD AT BRANDS HATCH, 2011
30. UTV CROSSES TRACK DURING INDOOR MIDGET RACE AT TRENTON, 2017
29. FORMULA THREE CAR FLIPS ON TOW LINE AT SNETTERTON, 2003
28. DRIVER FLIPS ON SIDE, ROLLS CAR BACK, CONTINUES AT PORTLAND, 1994
27. INFLATABLE ORANGE GETS BLOWN ONTO TRACK AT CHICAGOLAND, 2004
26. MARCOS AMBROSE’S INFAMOUS TIRE ROLL AT CANBERRA, 2001
25. IDIOT DRIVES CIVILIAN CAR ON TRACK DURING RACE AT BRANDS HATCH, 2014
24. FIERY INCIDENT INVOLVING MANHOLE ENDS RACE AT MONTREAL, 1990
23. EXPANDED GRID SIZE MADE MOOT BY START CRASH AT INDIANAPOLIS, 1997
22. PETER BRAID RAMPS ONTO SHELTER ROOF AT BLANDFORD, 1949
21. MASSIVE START PILEUP DURING BIG RIG RACE AT CAMPO GRANDE, 2005
20. MERCEDES CLR PROJECT EPIC FAILS AT LE MANS, 1999
19. SEVERAL CARS SPLIT AFTER HITTING FAN GATES AT BRISTOL, 1990/2002
18. R. KORDECKI STUPIDLY WRITES OFF FERRARI AT SLOVAKIARING, 2010
17. TEAM FINDS BLOWUP DOLL IN STALLED PORSCHE AT SEBRING, 1983
16. INCREDIBLE WEATHER DURING ENDURANCE RACE AT NURBURGRING, 2016
15. J.M. TRAVERSO WINS DESPITE CAR BEING ON FIRE AT GENERAL ROCA, 1988
14. DRIVER THROWS AWAY WIN AND TITLE AT MAR DEL PLATA, 2000
13. BUDDY BAKER’S INFAMOUS GURNEY FLIP AT SMOKY MOUNTAIN, 1968?
12. PORSCHE DRIVER CLIMBS ATOP ANOTHER’S ROOF AT NAVARRA, 2015
11. ALL CARS RUN OUT OF FUEL AT FORMULA FOUR RACE AT SEPANG, 2017
Now then, let’s get it all started.
10. A SCHOOL BUS ENTERS THE TRACK (2017, USF4, AUSTIN)
NEW TO LIST
I…have no idea what to say about this one.
School buses are often used at the Circuit of the Americas when it comes time to pick up marshals at day’s end, and are also used to give tours. One day in September 2017, the school bus driver was told to head out and fetch the marshals from their posts at 19:00 local time, when the racing would be either done or almost done. However, the day’s events ran very long, and at 19:00 there was still a United States Formula Four race going on, the last race of the day. The driver, having never been told not to set out at 19:00, did so. One wrong turn later, he found himself pulling onto the race track at turn six, leading to the 30 seat bus briefly driving backwards on the circuit.
Thankfully, the red flag was waved, and the field of about 30 to 35 was able to avoid the bus. Once it was assisted off the circuit, officials decided that they had the time to finish the event, and it was run to completion.
09. TWISTER DURING A RACE IN ARGENTINA (2016, TC MOURAS, CONCEPCION DEL URUGUAY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 32ND
We aren’t done with weather…
On November 27th, 2016, the TC Mouras series, a lower tier series feeding into the Turismo Carretera, a stock car series which serves as the highest level series in Argentina, was running a race at the Concepcion Del Uruguay circuit when a storm struck. The storm quickly grew worse, with heavy rain and lightning every which way. To make things even worse, a tornado touched down.
With the safety car out, the drivers pulled to the side of the track and sought cover. The tornado’s gusts measured to about 65mph, more than enough to damage the track’s facilities. In the nearby town, the tornado damaged the water facilities and power stations, knocking out those utilities for the next couple hours. During the storm, a rainfall of about two inches in two hours was recorded. Thankfully, despite the twister and extremely heavy rain, no one was badly injured in the storm. The race eventually resumed a few days later.
08. BAS SCHOUTEN’S SABOTAGE (2016, TCR GERMANY, ZANDVOORT)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 9TH
Okay, that’s just really selfish.
During a TCR Germany touring car race at Zandvoort in 2016, Dutchman Bas Schouten’s SEAT collided with a fellow competitor’s Volkswagen right out of the gate, damaging the suspension of the car and taking him out of the race. Schouten appears to have believed his car could continue after repairs, and was not pleased with Zandvoort’s officials dragging the car on its damaged suspension from the starting area, where he had crashed, to pit exit, which, admittedly, certainly made things worse. Apparently, officials also told him that he’d have to either have his car wheeled back or get a flatbed himself. Out of anger, Schouten told his team to put the car on a jack and leave it at pit exit, which is exactly what they did. With the medical car unable to access the circuit due to Schouten’s car being in the way, the red flag was flown. Schouten was ejected from the circuit, and the race was eventually resumed, though due to the lack of time to run many more laps, it only gave half points. Schouten would be excluded from race one and did not start race two.
I have never seen that sort of sabotage and bitterness during a race…
07. TAKI INOUE (1995, F1, MONACO/HUNGARY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 5TH
Formula One driver Taki Inoue really didn’t have a very good 1995.
During the season, he was struck by the course car not once, but twice. First up was at Monaco during practice. The Footwork suffered a failure, and a flatbed lorry started taking him back to the pits, with a towrope towing the car behind it and its nose just atop the flatbed itself. Out of nowhere, the safety car, a Renault Clio who according to autosport was driven by Jean Ragnotti, a rallyman, with current FIA President Jean Todt in the passenger seat, rounded the corner and struck the Footwork in the back. The crash lifted the footwork up and sent it onto its lid. Taki had undone his belts and his helmet, though he still kept his helmet on. The crash ended up dumping him partially out of the car, dealing him a concussion and several other injuries. The FIA reviewed the incident and blamed neither Ragnotti or Inoue, and said that they would negotiate damages with Footwork. Inoue was allowed to use his second car in qualifying, but he chose to skip qualifying and only run the race itself, which didn’t last very long as the Footwork blew up early on.
Things only got worse for Inoue at the Hungaroring later that year. The car caught fire during the race and he pulled to the side of the road, looking to fetch a fire extinguisher. Once he found one, he ran back, failing to notice the presence of an approaching course car. Oops.
Inoue is retired now, and he’s more than willing to make fun of himself on social media.
06. TREE FALLS OVER (2010, BATHURST 12H, BATHURST)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 3RD
Bathurst is one of the most exciting circuits in the world. Between long straights leading into sharp turns and sweeping esses with heavy elevation changes and little runoff, navigating the Mount Panorama Circuit is one of the biggest accomplishments by any drivers.
Rain marred the 2010 Bathurst 12 Hour, the last edition of the race before they switched from production cars to sports cars. About 40% of the race was spent behind the safety car either due to crashes or heavy rain.
Around hour seven of the race, a red flag was suddenly warranted. Drivers scrambled to find out what was wrong, and soon found the issue: a tree had come down at the coincidentially named Forrest’s Elbow, a turn named many years prior when motorcycle racer J. Forrest scraped his elbow away in the 1940s. Thankfully no one was injured, and the only damage was to a spectator’s vehicle according to drive.com.au. The tree was removed with a chainsaw, which delayed the race by an hour.
The 2009 edition of the Bathurst 12h completed 239 laps at the end. The 2010 edition, through all its delays, only finished 202.
05. MONTOYA HITS THE JET DRYER (2012, NASCAR CUP, DAYTONA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 8TH
The 2012 Daytona 500 was bizarre. A race that had never been delayed by rain was pushed off until Monday night at 19:00, and then things only got stranger from there.
Around lap 160, David Stremme’s car blew up, spilling fluids everywhere. A pit stop cycle was conducted, and Dave Blaney decided to stay out. Little did he know that he’d soon be trying to persuade the officials to award him the win in the most important race in his life.
Juan Pablo Montoya was in the pit lane believing that he had a severe vibration. According to a later Yahoo! article, the team briefly looked around the car and could not find an issue, and he was sent back out. It turned out that his concern was warranted, and entering turn three, an axle snapped on the car, sending it straight up the circuit and into the back of a jet dryer, which had been lapping the outside of the circuit in an attempt to clean the fluids spilled. The jet engine in the back was jarred into the air, and it swiftly exploded. The jet fuel was spread down the backing, found a spark in the passing car of Terry Labonte, and began to burn. Juan quickly bailed from the car, and officials quickly helped the jet dryer’s driver, identified as 52-year-old Duane Barnes of Michigan, from his vehicle. Nobody was injured.
NASCAR looked upon the scene and briefly weighed whether they should bother continuing on with the race, but eventually decided that they could complete the show. After a two hour cleanup, the race resumed, and Matt Kenseth swiftly got a jump and never looked back. By the time Kenseth took the checkers, it was 02:00 on Tuesday morning. Blaney finished 15th.
Apparently, Montoya, who has moved to sports cars, is frequently reminded of the incident, with even his sponsors unable to help themselves. Duane Barnes passed away in July 2015 at the age of 55. His cause of death was not given, though it was considered unexpected.
04. WHEEL FALLS OFF CAR AND REMOUNTS ITSELF (BEFORE 2000, HOBBY STOCKS, BAKERSFIELD)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 4TH
Featured on an episode of RealTV was an incredible incident at the Bakersfield Speedway, which saw a hobby stock driver by the last name of Nolan or Noland or something like that spin in turn three and strike a stalled car. The #5 hobby stock suffered a loose wheel in the incident. As he rounded turn four, the wheel came off the frame and rolled alongside his car for a bit, then rolled back into the car, somehow remounting itself. Of course, the tire was deflated, and the #5 was headed to this pits anyway, but it was still an unforgetable sight.
I was never able to find very much on the incident, so it was time to go searching.
First source was the track owner, who said he took over in 2003, and it did not occur during his ownership. RealTV ended after 2001, so it wasn’t 2002. Due to the show getting a new host in the middle of 2000, and not the end of the year, I can fully eliminate 2001, and can all but eliminate 2000, though it’s possible that it was in early 2000 and the incident was shown on RealTV in the summer.
I found a driver name in some results dating back to 2000, running a #5 car and possessing a very similar name to what was audibly heard in the clip, that being Raymond Noland, Sr. The Noland family has raced at Bakersfield for years, with Karl, Sr. and Raymond Noland, Sr. both finding a lot of success in the Hobby Stock division. Their sons, Karl, Jr. and Raymond, Jr., respectively, have picked up the torches.
So while the driver is almost certainly Raymond Noland, Sr., I don’t have a year. If you have any further information, let me know.
03. ROLLING INTO THE SAFETY CAR (2008, DUTCH SUPERCAR, SPA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 2ND
Supercar Challenge, also known as Dutch Supercar Challenge, is one of the most unique series in the world. In it, touring cars, sports cars, and prototypes alike race alongside one another, sometimes in the same class. This can lead to some bizarre, yet exciting, photographs, though this one might be taking it too far.
Shortly after the start of the first race of two during the Spa Euro Races weekend at Spa in 2008, the safety car was warranted when a Porsche spun off course. The safety car, however, ended up picking up the second place ex-DTM Audi #103 of Arjan Van Der Zwaan instead of the leading #109 Marcos Marcorelly of Cor Euser. Euser took off, with the safety car in hot pursuit. After a minute or two of pure confusion, officials eventually instructed the safety car to pull off to the side of the road and let the field pass it by so it could pick up the leader. It did so at Blanchimont.
As the Seat safety car slowed to a crawl, the #138 of Paul Hogarth in a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 slammed on the brakes to avoid him. #416 Joost Den Ouden, running a BMW E36, reacted in the same way, but could not avoid plowing into the back of Hogarth, his car’s brakes being far inferior to that of Hogarth’s. The BMW ramped the Lamborghini, flipped onto its door, slammed the Seat off course and into the tire wall, and did several rolls before coming to rest on its door. After a few seconds, the #333 Marcos Mantis of José Bermudez De Castro spun around in avoidance, only for the #323 BMW Z3 V8 of Willy Angenent to pile into the Mantis, soon followed by another, unidentified BMW. A third BMW, the #308 BMW Compact driven by Laurens Gooshouwer, then plowed headlong into the back of the Mantis with incredible violence. Amazingly, no one was injured, and the driver of the Seat quickly scrambled over the barriers. The race was abandoned shortly thereafter, with Euser being awarded the win.
02. CRASHING THE PACE CAR (1971, USAC, INDIANAPOLIS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 1ST
In 1971, muscle cars were selling poorly, and no one wanted to provide a pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Enter Eldon Palmer, an Indianapolis dealer who headed a local effort to provide the track with several vehicles to choose from. They chose an open top Dodge Challenger out of the lot, and Eldon was given the position as its driver in return.
Eldon practiced his pace car run the day before, and he decided to set down a marker to indicate when to brake. No one knows what the marker was or if there even was one, but come race day a marker wasn’t there. Not helping the fact was that, apparently, Eldon believed that he would have to beat the field to the line. What he thought would happen if he failed to do so is unknown.
On race day, Eldon, Tony Hulman, ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and special ride-along guest John Glenn all hopped into the pace car and led the field around. As poleman Peter Revson held the inside of the front row and waited for the green, Eldon accelerated down the pit lane, reaching 125mph. He noticed that his marker was not where he thought it was, and mashed the brakes. The Dodge slid sideways and plowed over a photographer’s stand, in an incident that didn’t even warrant a yellow. Many of the photographers on the stand were injured, but amazingly, no one was killed. Schenkel was badly shaken and sat out the broadcast, but did not suffer any broken bones or sprains. Hulman twisted an ankle. Palmer and Glenn were unhurt.
After this, officials decided to solely use professional drivers. Eldon eventually sold off the Challenger, which was restored and as of 2014 is in good condition. Eldon Palmer passed away in 2016, at the age of 87.
01. THE GIMLI GLIDER (1983, WINNIPEG SPORTS CAR CLUB, GIMLI)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 6TH
On July 23rd, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 took off from Montreal for Edmonton, with a stopover in Ottawa, with 69 aboard.
Canada had recently begun to switch from Imperial to Metric, and Air Canada had just purchased a few Boeing 767s, which used Metric instead of Imperial. According to the National Post, the computer that calculated how much fuel was needed was out of commission, so the ground crew had to calculate by hand.
Jet fuel’s volume depends on the temperature, so it was impossible to know them by heart. The ground crew checked their papers and saw that the conversion factor to kilograms at current temperature was 1.77, so they multiplied the factor by the amount of liters aboard for the current fuel load, subtracted the result from how much fuel in kilograms was needed for how much fuel to add, and divided that result by 1.77 to get the amount of fuel they needed to add. These equations led the ground crew to believe that they only needed to add 5000 liters to the about 8000 already in the tanks.
However, 1.77 was actually the conversion factor for liters into pounds. The actual conversion factor for liters into kilograms was 0.803, and they actually needed 20000 liters, meaning they only had fuel for half the flight. The pilots doublechecked and found the conversions to be sound, again using the incorrect factor.
Over western Ontario, the inevitable happened. The plane ran out of fuel in mid-flight, forcing the pilot to glide. By a stroke of luck, he had been trained as a glider, and his co-pilot, upon recognizing that they couldn’t get to Winnipeg, suggested the base where he’d been trained, Gimli, Manitoba. He was unaware that it had since been decommissioned, and had become a race track.
While the crowds lined up to watch the start of an open wheel race, the hulking behemoth came in for an emergency landing. The pilot had not only gotten to Gimli, something Air Canada’s finest were unable to duplicate in a simulator, but he had put the plane on the ground without injury, just a few hundred feet from the race track’s guardrail.
Gimli Motorsports Park’s still open, and hasn’t changed very much over the years. The Glider plane itself has been disassembled, though if you’d like you can purchase a little piece of the plane in the form of a trinket online.
Well, that’s the end of that. Nothing beats a plane coming in during a race, eh? Thank you for being so patient with me, and it’s great to finally have this list over and done with. If you are curious as to why something was not included, let me know and I’ll tell you if I considered it and why it wasn’t included, or if I completely forgot about it, because with a list this big there’s bound to be something for me to forget.
Now before I end this, here’s a bonus entry. Due to the circumstances surrounding it I could not include it (the subject of the incident was killed and it occurred after the race’s completion), but it’s just too strange to not mention. So, I decided I’d talk about it at the end. If I could include it, it probably would have slotted in in around 9th or so. Well, thanks for reading through this monstrosity, and I’ll leave you with this bonus entry. See you later!
00. CRAZED MAN ENTERS THE SPEEDWAY (1991, CART, INDIANAPOLIS)
NEW TO ‘LIST’
Early in the morning on Wednesday, May 29th, 1991, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had just held the 75th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and permanent and civilian employees alike had gathered to clean the track up. However, they had an unexpected guest.
Stephen C. White, a 31-year-old self employed carpenter, entered the speedway through a gate, presumably by a track worker who believed that White, driving a ’79 GMC C/K, was a temporary worker who was there to help out, of which there were apparently a few hundred. Instead, White began to do several hot laps of the speedway in the old truck, waving and smiling along the way according to The Indianapolis Star. He completed about four laps before Luther Wray, a speedway foreman, drove a Dodge Caravan onto the circuit and began waving White down. White instead veered towards the Caravan and collided with it at about 100mph. Wray avoided injury by darting towards and climbing the catchfence, but White died on impact.
Though toxicology reports appear to have not been made public, White was stated to be a manic depressive on medication who had last been accounted for the night prior. Police theorized that this was a suicide attempt on the part of White.
19. THE GATES AT BRISTOL (1990 AND 2002, NASCAR BUSCH, BRISTOL)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 42ND
Probably one of the more horrifying kinds of accident in motorsports is when the car gets cut in half. This is very rare, but it has happened, usually occurring when a car hits an unsecured gate or gets struck especially hard.
Bristol Motor Speedway knows this too well.
In 1990, Michael Waltrip made contact with Robert Pressley during the Busch race and shot up into the turn two wall. The car struck an improperly secured gate and plowed the end of the barrier, sawing the car in two. It was a tense couple of moments, but miraculously Michael stepped out of the car, and he was all right.
During practice in 2002, Mike Harmon hit the same gate at a more glancing angle rather than Waltrip’s more straight-on angle. Harmon’s car burst open, and Harmon was left exposed to oncoming traffic. Johnny Sauter piled into the wreckage, coming about a foot away from hitting Harmon directly. According to expeditersonline, Sauter was convinced he had just killed Harmon, but was eventually calmed down and told otherwise. Apparently, the hit was so close to the driver’s compartment that officials later found Harmon’s steering block in what was left of Sauter’s car. Harmon was battered and bruised, but all in all okay.
Tracks are slowly moving away from gates and are beginning to start using to use underground tunnels to get from the outside of the track to the inside. Due to Bristol’s very compressed nature, track owners were reluctant to make the transition, but when they saw the alternative…
During a combined sports and touring car race at the then-new Slovakiaring in 2010, driver Marcel Kusin stalled his BMW on the track, warranting a safety car. The drivers were told to slow and get in one lane, but for some reason several drivers decided to both speed and run whichever lane they wanted.
Poland’s Radoslaw Kordecki, piloting a Ferrari 430 GT3, ended up being in the same lane as the stopped BMW and veered hard to the left in an attempt to avoid a terrible collision. He successfully dodged the BMW, but not the guardrail.
The Ferrari vaulted the barrier and did several rolls before coming to rest in a fiery heap of scrap. The safety crews were on scene within 25 seconds, and they quickly got to work on getting Radoslaw out of the car. Kordecki was conscious and alert, having suffered second degree burns and a concussion according to Nový Cas, and within a few minutes he was off to a local hospital. He declined treatment beyond what was given in the emergency room and headed home. Kordecki has since switched to racing Porsches.
17. BLOW UP DOLL (1983, IMSA, SEBRING)
NEW TO LIST
Sebring was…bizarre in its early years.
I could honestly fill this entire list with Sebring hijinx. But I’m only going to include one incident per race on this list with the exception of Indy, and so I have to abide by the rule. So I chose the most bizarre of what I could find.
1983 was one of the stranger years for the 12 hour race. Between someone stealing the pace car to buy groceries, a man selling spectators firewood which would promptly be confiscated upon entry to the circuit, temperatures so unseasonably cold that some fans dismantled a wooden shack for firewood, a few drivers (Hurley Haywood included) getting lost while navigating a new section of the runways and driving into a cow pasture, a safety car period so an overloaded fuel truck could cross the track, and a drunk man wandering onto the circuit while apparently looking for his dog, I had many choices in 1983 alone, but eventually settled with this one:
Partway through the race, one of the Porsche 935s stalled and needed to be towed back to the pits. During the towing process, several fans took it upon themselves to steal bits off the car, as was once traditional at Le Mans. What wasn’t traditional was the fact that, according to shiftinglanes, the unnamed team found that a blowup doll in the car when it was returned to the pits.
At the end of the 12 hours, it was the Wayne Baker owned Class GTO Porsche 934 of all things in victory lane after all the GTPs ran into problems, which, frankly, sums up a wild race perfectly.
16. HAIL AT THE NURBURGRING (2016, VLN, NURBURGRING)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 7TH
The Nurburgring Nordschleife is one of the trickiest tracks in existence, and is supremely difficult even in the dry. In the wet, it becomes a horror show for the drivers.
In the hail, well…
The 2016 24h Nurburgring saw well over two hundred starters as is the norm, from Ferraris to Ford Fiestas and everything in between. Not even an hour into the race, a rainstorm began, which soon turned to hail. The storm was extremely fierce, and it caused many drivers to go slipsliding off the track, including all of the TCR cars, which had been invited to take part for the first time. The race was red flagged for about four hours as the conditions continued to only get worse, as a massive sheet of what looked like plastic began to coat the track. It was some of the strangest weather ever seen during a race, and it ruined what could have easily been a distance-record setting race. Even still, the race eventually ended in a record as Mercedes swept the top four spots.
15. TRAVERSO WINS WHILE ON FIRE (1988, TC2000, GENERAL ROCA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 16TH
Argentine racing is wild, as drivers frequently are aggressive and willing to dump other drivers for position. Frequent high speed sectors and a very relaxed damage policy can lead to some amazing moments.
During the TC2000 touring car race at the General Roca circuit in 1988, a pair of Renault Fuegos of José Maria Traverso and Silvio Oltra were the main pair dueling for first in this race, which was only the second race of the year, and they put on a whale of a show.
Four laps from the end, a fire began under Traverso’s car. The fire, which according to carburando began in the car’s exhaust area, only got worse as time went on. As Oltra trailed behind, he began to notice something piling up on his windshield, which turned out to be Traverso’s lubricant being thrown from the exhaust. Traverso knew something was wrong immediately with smoke permeating through the cockpit to the point that he had to lower a window, but Traverso was unaware of the severity of the fire until the last lap, when the fire itself spread to the outside of the car. With his lead beginning to evaporate, Traverso started steering with his head out the window, and even then the smoke was by this point so bad that he had to guess his braking points. Nonetheless, Traverso, who would go on to win the title that year, was able to hang on by about a car length.
The fire was eventually credited to an exhaust modification made by the team, which caused the car to not use all of the available lubricant. The battle lives on even to this day, with one article calling it a battle so great that the drivers ascended to godhood.
And yes, I get the irony of the car being a Renault Fuego.
14. ADRIAN RUGGERI’S CRASH (2000?, PROMOCIONAL 850 DEL ATLANTICO, MAR DEL PLATA)
NEW TO LIST
We remain in Argentina for an incident you’ve probably seen on Whacked Out Sports. Keep in mind that there was so little information available for this one that I actually had to use Youtube comments for information, which I then cross-referenced, so I apologize if anything is off.
During the last race of the Promocional 850 Del Atlantico series, an Argentine series that mostly ran Fiat 600s, in or around 2000, a driver, likely Adrian Ruggeri, was on track to win both the race and the title, and decided to begin celebrating down the home straight by waving his hand out the window. This turned out to be a bad idea.
Ruggeri lost control of the car and struck the wall, immobilizing it just a few meters before the finish line and costing Ruggeri both possible accolades. Things only got worse for Ruggeri, who was apparently intimidating another driver who had celebrated in this manner before and hadn’t crashed. He got out and began pushing the car across the line. This was a perfectly legal move, believe it or not, however he would later be disqualified for pushing his car without a helmet. I, uh, don’t think a helmet would have done much, considering Ruggeri likely left his brain at home…
13. BUDDY BAKER’S STRETCHER ROLL (1968?, STREET STOCKS?, SMOKY MOUNTAIN)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 13TH
This one’s a classic.
The event that transpired is often placed in either 1967 or 1968, and was likely a local event since the driver involved, Buddy Baker, was asked to race by the track owner, though it may well have been a Grand National event. In any case, Baker was leading an event at the then-paved Smoky Mountain Raceway in Tennessee when a tire blew in turn three, sending him hard into the outside wall. Shaken but not stirred with the exception of a few busted ribs, Baker was only just collecting his thoughts when two track workers, who according to the book Then Junior Said To Jeff were remembered by Baker as Bubba and Barney Fife, pulled up in an ambulance, which was actually a repurposed hearse. They extricated Baker headfirst, not even bothering to unclip his harness, and strapped him on a gurney, which they then threw in the back of the ambulance without locking the rear wheels or closing the back door. It wasn’t long before Buddy found himself rolling down the speedway, strapped to a gurney, with oncoming traffic driving by. Just as the ambulance crew noticed they’d lost their load, Buddy rolled off the pavement and into the mud, where the gurney dug in and turned over. When asked if he was all right, Buddy famously replied, “If I ever get off this thing, I am going to kill you.”
12. DE NARDA AND GOUNON CRASH (2015, PORSCHE CARRERA CUP FRANCE, NAVARRA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 10TH
Porsche Carrera Cup is one of several one make series that runs in an assortment of countries. In it, a mix of rich businessmen, journeymen, newcomers and veterans race alongside one another in identical Porsche Carreras.
Porsches, especially the Carreras and the Carrera GT3s, are somewhat notable for their odd shape. They have exposed wheels and a rather bizarre slope on the front end, leading to some strange accidents, such as this one.
During a Porsche Carrera Cup France at the Navarra circuit in Spain in 2015, Joffrey De Narda was turned around shortly after the start in the very sharp turn three right hander. The #9 car was avoided by most of the oncoming cars, but the #169 of Jules Gounon could not avoid him, leading to the #169 climbing atop the #9 car’s front end and coming to stop atop De Narda. De Narda’s car’s roof held perfectly, and De Narda was able to escape without injury. Gounon was helped out of his car, and though he appeared unhurt, he later revealed to have suffered two broken vertebrae that would take him out for a little. Joffrey spent 2017 still in Porsche Carrera Cup France, while Jules is off to Blancpain GT in 2018.
11. EVERYONE RUNS OUT OF FUEL (2017, SOUTH EAST ASIA FORMULA 4, SEPANG)
NEW TO LIST
Juuuust missed out on the top ten.
The South East Asia Formula 4 series is one of many, many Formula 4 series dotting the globe. The league mostly races in Malaysia and Thailand, with occasional trips to the Philippines or Indonesia.
After Romain Grosjean’s strange accident during practice for the final Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017, track repairs were necessary, forcing the SEA F4 series to push off a pair of races it had planned that day. Repairs were completed later in the day, giving just enough time for the SEA F4 to run those races.
The first race went over fine, but the second race did not. Due to the compressed time frame in between races, cars were fueled for the two races beforehand instead of being refueled after race one according to autosport. Officials, not used to this, miscalculated how much fuel would be needed.
On lap six of eight, four cars, including Daniel Cao, the race one leader and the leader of race two at the time, all began to stall on the circuit, their fuel tanks dry. Three more cars slowed to a stop on lap seven, and as such Kane Shepherd as the only car running. Shepherd stalled in turn two on the last lap, leaving the safety car on its own to lap the circuit. Kane was originally given the victory, however, when the officials noted their mistake, reverted results to how they were after five laps, meaning Cao was instead the winner.
27. TODD SZEGEDY AND THE ORANGE (2004, NASCAR BUSCH, CHICAGOLAND)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 49TH
The Busch race at Joliet in 2004 was…weird. Be it Bobby Hamilton Jr. on pole or midfielder Justin Labonte scoring the win when the leader ran out of fuel, this was a weird, weird race. But possibly the strangest bit came during qualifying.
NASCAR Modified regular Todd Szegedy hopped up to the Busch Series to make a couple of runs in 2004, and was wrapping up his first of two qualifying laps when he came across a massive orange rolling across the track. The large inflatable orange, which according to Online Athens weighed about sixty pounds and was thirty feet in diameter, was supposed to help advertise the race’s sponsor, Tropicana Twister. It sure did much more than advertise…
Szegedy was fielded off the track, and the orange, which had snapped off its tethering in high winds, eventually deflated when it pierced the barbs of the catchfencing in turn one. Qualifying was further delayed by rain, but Szegedy eventually did get back on track for a complete redo of his qualifying run, a rare gift for NASCAR to give, as the events which hindered his lap were outside of his control. He timed the car in 12th, but unfortunately crashed out during the event.
26. AMBROSE TIRE ROLL (2001, VIRGIN SUPERCAR, CANBERRA)
NEW TO LIST
The announcement of a race through the Australian capital of Canberra in 2000 was met with very mixed responses, and this response would dog the race until its cancellation after the 2002 running. The track had an interesting layout, which even sent it in front of the Parliament House, and it was well set up, but due to the fact that important streets had to be closed to hold the event, traffic was often through the roof, and all in all it was too expensive for the cost to be justified. Even still, the Canberra 400 is often remembered for a humorous incident that befell Marcos Ambrose during the 2001 running.
Towards the end of one of the round’s doubleheaders, Ambrose threw a back left wheel and pulled his car off to the side of the road and out of harm’s way. The wheel, of course, kept going, and rolled down the chute for quite a distance. The wheel followed a curve in the road, hopped up a street curb at the upcoming chicane, and promptly planted itself atop a tire bundle, seemingly wanting to join its brethren. It was a comedic moment, but Ambrose’s day was done.
25. PEDESTRIAN CAR ON TRACK (2014, VW FUN CUP, BRANDS HATCH)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 24TH
The VW Fun Cup is a one make series for Volkswagen New Beetles that frequently endurance races, one of its big events being a 25 hour race at Spa. It’s a fairly popular series, but it was also host to one of the more terrifying incidents on this list.
In the summer of 2014, a man decided to drive a Volkswagen Polo through a set of gates and onto the circuit at Brands Hatch with who was described as a female friend in the passenger seat, leading to rather audible confusion from the track’s announcer. The incident, which was being filmed from inside the white Polo, led to the four hour endurance being ended about a half hour early. From inside the car, millions of Youtube viewers (two million plus by the end of the year) were able to watch as the Polo’s driver, 22 year old Jack Cottle of East Sussex, navigated the track at high speed with 18 year old Saskia Fisk, the car’s owner, in hysterics across the center console. Zac Copson sat in the backseat filming Jack laugh like a maniac as confused racers passed what they thought to be a safety car.
The race’s early conclusion led to a loss of money amongst the 26 competing cars, which Judge Martin Joy took into account when he sentenced Cottle to prison for eight months in November of 2014. Dailymail reported that Cottle’s social media was full of boasts and stunts involving fast cars.
24. MANHOLE ENDS RACE (1990, WORLD SPORTSCAR, MONTREAL)
NEW TO LIST
With the new engine rules that would do it in on the horizon, 1990’s World Sports-Prototype Championship was declining, but was still doing well. Grids were still very large, and the beautiful Group C cars were still proving to be enjoyable.
In 1990, Mercedes was absolutely dominating the calendar with its pair of brand new C11s, leaving it a race for third for the most part. With a cavalry of mostly Porsches rounding out the grid, the racing was wild and the crowds were at the track in droves.
One of the sleek 962s that ran as part of the grid was a vehicle entered by Switzerland’s Brun Motorsport, a privateer team owned by Walter Brun. The series did run overseas, with one of the overseas races being through the streets of Montreal at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and Brun Motorsport followed the wagon train to Canada with two cars, the #16 of Jésus Pareja and Bernard Santal and the #15 of Harald Huysman and Oscar Larrauri.
As the race passed the halfway point, the Mercedes were as usual leading when a massive crash broke out heading under the bridge on the approach to turn eight. A manhole cover had been sucked up over the course of the event by the field and Pareja was the unlucky one to strike it. The Porsche immediately caught fire and collected two cars, the #16 of teammate Larrauri and the #12 Cougar C24S of Morin – Thuner. Pareja was all right, seen walking away by the TV crew with Larrauri, but the Porsche was a write off. Organizers were concerned about the rest of the manholes, and as such the race was ended early, with half points awarded.
23. THE ENTIRE START (1997, IRL, INDIANAPOLIS)
NEW TO LIST
The standard rule of the Indianapolis 500 is for 33 cars, no more, no less. It’s how it always been and will be. The rule for the year in 1997 was that the top 25 in owner’s points were locked in as long as they were fast enough in pre-qualifying practice, and eight drivers would race their way in. Only 23 of the top 25 showed up to Indy, leaving ten spots open.
The fight between USAC’s policies and the IRL’s marred time trials. USAC, who believed in the fastest 33, allowed entries which ran backup cars to be locked in, which was against the policy, and the IRL was already looking to dump the 25/8 rule. At the end of qualifying, the grid of 33 was set, yet USAC was not pleased that two cars piloted by Lyn St. James and Johnny Unser were not part of the grid despite being faster than several locked in cars. It was ruled that they would be added to the grid for a field of 35, the second time since 1933 that the grid had not been of 33 cars, the first being 1979.
When the race was eventually started on Memorial Day, the 35 cars began to pace the track, only for some wild events to cause several to retire before the start. Stéphan Grégoire, Alfonso Giaffone, and Kenny Bräck crashed during pace laps, and Sam Schmidt, Alessandro Zampedri, and Robbie Groff all suffered from mechanical woes. Of these six, only Groff continued, leaving 30 cars to take the start. The race was eventually postponed further to Tuesday, where further bizarre rulings and strange officiating by USAC spelled the end for the organization’s partial hold on the Indy 500.
22. PETER BRAID’S CRASH (1949, FORMULA 3, BLANDFORD)
NEW TO LIST
Racing in 1949 was extremely unique. Few safety measures, frequent injuries and little care for wellbeing meant racers were more daredevils than anything else. Tracks had few safety measures, and were rarely permanent layouts. One of these circuits was Blandford, an army camp on the southwestern British coast.
During a meet at the circuit in 1949, driver Gordon Woods spun into an old bus shelter, destroying it and dealing him injuries he would later die from. The meet went on.
Formula 3 cars were very new at the time, rather sleek vehicles powered by bike engines that were popular amongst the masses. One of the new cars’ drivers was Major Peter K. Braid, who according to a WordPress blog by the name of Graham’s World had found much success in his few months of racing. During the event, Braid lost control of the car and slid straight into the demolished bus shelter, leading to a spectacular accident.
Braid’s Cooper vaulted the destroyed bus shelter, flew over a fir tree, and landed atop the roof of the battalion headquarters right side up. Braid stepped out of the vehicle with only bruises, and the Cooper remained atop the headquarters until day’s end. Blandford would continue to see races until the early 1960s.
21. J.M. REIS’ CRASH (2005, FORMULA TRUCK, CAMPO GRANDE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 15TH
Tractor trailer racing is popular not only in Europe but also Brazil. In fact, before finances ended it after 2016, Formula Truck was one of Brazil’s most popular series, though it was also the most destructive.
During the start of the race at Campo Grande in 2005, driver Fabiano Brito got a very poor jump. Jonatas Borlenghi and Roberval Andrade both saw opportunities to gain position at the same time and their forward dash ended in Brito being spun in front of everyone.
According to campeones.com.ar, 19 of the 23 trucks in the race were involved and eight trucks were completely written off. Heber Borlenghi vaulted the back of another vehicle and went airborne, landing on the pit wall and sending chunks of the barrier and barrier decor into the pit area. The truck took off again, landing on the truck of Jose Mariá Reis and obliterating it.
The race was immediately halted and later cancelled. The broadcast of the race ended up turning into an episode of Rescue 911, where drivers, doctors, marshals and even the President of Formula Truck himself assisted in pulling Reis from the destroyed cab. It took 45 minutes, but eventually Reis was pulled from the vehicle with a busted kneecap.
This crash would actually prove influential in determining the season’s champion. Points leader Wellington Cirino had been injured during practice at the prior race at Londrina, but with the round at Campo Grande abandoned, he lost fewer points than he could have. Wellington would win that year’s title despite only competing in six of the eight completed races.
20. THE MERCEDES CLR (1999, FIA GT, LE MANS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 25TH
By 1999, Mercedes was quite comfortably back at Le Mans after returning to the track a few years prior, having left after the 1955 disaster. For 1999, Mercedes constructed the Mercedes CLR, a replacement to the CLK GTR. An issue with the aerodynamics, however, allowed for air to almost built up in pockets when going over a hill, of which there are a few at Le Mans, instead of being properly dispersed. Coupled with slipstream, this allowed for the car to easily take flight. During Happy Hour on Thursday, Mark Webber took to the skies down Courbe Du Golf, the chute between Mulsanne and Indianapolis, in the lead car, which was a complete writeoff after apparently going into the trees. Webber emerged from the car unhurt, and for reasons which remain confidential amongst Mercedes according to Road and Track, the team pressed onward.
On Saturday, during a warmup, the chute became a launch pad for the CLR again, with Webber again in the driver’s seat. The car landed inverted on the circuit, and though Webber was all right, the car was promptly withdrawn. Again, the team, still unable to find the issue, pressed onwards with two cars. On lap 75 of the main event, Peter Dumbreck proved that this was probably a bad idea.
Dumbreck flew over the barriers and into the woods down the Courbe Du Golf, thankfully without injury. The remaining Mercedes was quickly withdrawn, and after the issues were identified, most of the CLRs were disposed of with a car crusher, though at least one survives for vintage racing.