NASCAR in the late 90s and early 2000s was defined by three words: ‘basilar skull fracture’. Between April 2000 and March 2001, five drivers, rising star Adam Petty, young talent Kenny Irwin, Jr., veteran racer Tony Roper, racing legend Dale Earnhardt, and motorsports newcomer Michael Roberts all died due to basilar skull fractures.
However, the basilar skull fracture, which is a rare injury outside of motorsports, is not a death sentence. It’s usually fatal, but not always. It’s possible to survive one, as has happened three times in NASCAR. Rick Carelli in 1999 and Stanley Smith in 1993 are the more well known cases, but there has actually been one more: Larry Pollard.
Larry, a native of British Columbia, had several connections to the NASCAR circuit. He was Richard Petty’s crew chief for a time, led the late Roy Smith to two Winston West championships during the early 1980s, and was married to Harry Gant’s daughter. He began racing on the Busch Grand National Series circuit in 1985 and soon found himself running up front running for Hubert Hensley, Jimmy’s father. Larry was an unlucky driver, as he frequently ran up front only to blow up towards the end. When Pollard did finish, he usually did very well.
On August 9th, 1987, Larry surprised everyone with a victory at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. He took the lead a bit past the 3/4ths mark when Larry Pearson, who had dominated the race up until that point, faltered, and held off Robert Ingram to take the win. Interestingly, the other race at Hampton that year saw another surprise win in short track expert Mike Alexander, and in a bizarre coincidence, Larry’s home province had, until the mid-80s, a short track named Langley Speedway.
During the 1988 Coke 600, Harry Gant blew a tire and went straight on into the barrier. Gant broke his leg and was forced to sit out the next few races. Gant tapped his son-in-law to take over his #7 car in the Busch Series until he recovered. Larry ran up front during his first race in the car, the Budweiser 200 at Dover Downs, but he would never finish it.
Pollard started the June 4th race in the upper midfield and worked his way up into the top ten across the course of the race. While he was on his 194th lap, Larry’s car went straight on into turn three and struck the wall with incredible force. It slid back down the track, almost striking the car of Joe Bessey, and came to a halt at the inside of the corner. The caution flag was flown while medics tended to Pollard, and current leader Brad Teague was told to slow down by NASCAR, possibly due to the crash’s seriousness. Bobby Hillin zoomed by Teague while racing back to the line, but since Teague had been told to slow, Hillin was ordered to give the spot back and order to the pit lane. Realizing their error, officials decided to reverse their decision a few laps later. It didn’t matter anyway, as Teague ran out of fuel under caution and had to pit, but Hillin took the checkered in one of the more confusing finishes in NASCAR’s history.
It took 15 minutes to extricate Pollard from the car, but he was eventually removed and rushed directly to the hospital via ambulance. He was placed in the ICU, but surprisingly was awake, alert, and semi-responsive. The basilar skull fracture was a known injury in 1988, and within a few days Pollard was diagnosed as having suffered one. Doctors weren’t sure if he would recover, but after two days he was placed in serious but stable condition.
Not much is known about his recovery, but Pollard healed on his own and was eventually discharged from the hospital. Pollard returned to the Busch Grand National Series the next year and ran six more races in the series before heading elsewhere.
Larry, 63 as of June 2017, moved to North Carolina sometime before 2001. He currently races super late models now and again at the Concord Speedway. Larry also manages a go kart track, known as Pollard Raceway Park, in Taylorsville with his son Chase. His career not yet over, Larry is simply a man who loves to race, no matter the level of competition.
“Hillin cautiously wins the Bud 200”, June 5, 1988 edition of The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware)
“Tire switch helps Elliott to victory”, June 6, 1988 edition of The Chicago Tribune
“Larry Pollard 98”, circa 2001 article from Luvracin.com
A brief conversation with Chase Pollard
The bit about Pollard being awake and alert seems unbelievable, so I will give you its source right here: The 6/6/88 of The Chicago Tribune, which I listed above
I’m aware that, as an analyst and a journalist, I should withhold my opinion as best as I can, but this…this is just ridiculous. A sponsor risks the life of a driver and his entire family for a publicity stunt, and the driver allows bygones to be bygones. I’m not sure who the more foolish one is.
Despite this all, Justin Philpott’s talent is evident. Philpott, the driver involved, mostly raced super late models at the half mile Altamont Speedway and quarter mile Stockton 99 Speedway, both in California. He eventually caught the eye of the company Taxbrain, which helps its consumers sort out their taxes so those taxes can be paid much more easily a la Turbotax. Taxbrain got its wanted publicity on the sixteen-year-old’s super late model, but apparently they wanted more. Some executives, who were undoubtedly chastised if not fired after this all, decided that they would steal Justin’s car straight out of victory circle the next time he won and film a commercial out of it. They told a few officials at Altamont, but did not tell the announcer, Justin’s family, or even Justin himself, all to make things look genuine. On August 13, 2006, Taxbrain got to show its lack of common sense after Justin won a super late model race at the track. During victory lane ceremonies, a man, unnamed by the media for legal reasons (I will refer to him as John for the sake of this, it likely is not his name, but for the sake of this article it will be), hopped the fence, got in the car, and, with a camera or two rolling, flipped the ignition switch and took off. The announcer noticed this quickly and called for security, while Justin and his family stood there for awhile, absolutely dumbfounded. In the meantime, John continued doing laps in Justin’s $200,000 car. Eventually, some officials hopped in a wrecker and backed it down the track, and John slowed to a stop. Ryan Philpott, Justin’s cousin, ripped John from the car, and John was arrested.
Taxbrain’s representatives quickly ran over to the track security and explained what was going on. After some cross-referencing, police discovered that this had indeed been a stupid stunt. John was not charged, but undisclosed sanctions were laid against Taxbrain.
How no one was hurt despite John’s insane driving (this was part of the stunt) and lack of any safety gear, the world may never know. John could have easily killed himself or the Philpotts. However, that isn’t the end of the idiocy.
Justin also proved himself to be one of the duller knives in the drawer. Despite the fact that his sponsor had stolen his $200,000 race car, he still re-signed Taxbrain to another year when he moved up to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series in 2007. Incredibly, he stuck with Taxbrain for a long time. The two only parted ways sometime between in 2011 and 2014.
Altamont Speedway closed after 2008, but Justin still races in the Southwest, and is quite successful at that. I’m not sure if Justin was naive, forgiving, or if Taxbrain paid him a lot of money to keep them aboard (probably a mix), but if I were him, I would have told them to mess off. John could have killed himself and/or the Philpotts, and Justin’s forgive and forget attitude towards it all is almost as strange and as laughable as the incident itself.
Built in 1973 and brought down on September 11th, 2001, the twin towers stood magnificently over the horizon of New York City. Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy eight innocent lives were lost that day fifteen and a half years ago, with all but about 225 being in New York City at the Towers. I barely remember that day, though I do remember it. The sight of smoke over the horizon is something that you just don`t forget. The fact that I could see it despite being well over forty miles away just shows you the magnitude of the disaster.
People from all over were killed. I personally believe four or five residents of my town perished. My town is not exactly one where everyone knows each other, as it`s actually quite large, but it`s still a town where crime is infrequent and murders happen maybe once every five to ten years. The daily routine is: You get up, you go to school/work, possibly pulling into a gas station if need be (I live in New Jersey, so we don`t pump our own gas, which I actually love), you attend school/work, you do anything else you need to, you come home, and that`s that. It`s a large town with a bit of a small town feel, so that day is still spoken of frequently here.
Which makes it all the more understandable why no one remembers what happened on February 26, 1993. On that day, a bomb was set off in one of the towers` basements, with the intention of causing it to domino onto the other tower and bring both down. It was a powerful bomb, but didn`t have the intended effect of felling the towers. Even still, it did cause a high amount of destruction and chaos: well over a thousand injuries were reported, nearby residents went without television signals for a week and power overall for five hours, and six lives were lost. The perpetrators were caught and brought to justice, but after 9/11, this attack is rarely noted.
The attack on Feburary 26th also had another bizarre, and indirect, effect: completely ending any chance of the CART Grand Prix Of New York being held.
Scheduled for either June 27, 1993, or July 11, 1993 (I`ve heard both), the Marlboro CART Grand Prix Of New York was first proposed in 1990 and was announced in 1992. A race in downtown New York had been something organizers had wanted to do since the beginning of motorsport, yet the closest they`ve ever gotten was, or will be, the shoreline streets of Brooklyn later this year for a Formula E race, though there have been a few karting events on short street circuits every once in a while.
The track itself was, suffice to say, not enough either, though due to its location its simplistic layout was justified (it didn`t require the closure of too many streets). It was 1.3 miles, and about eight or so turns, five major ones with the rest being small kinks. The track encircled the Twin Towers, and as such is often remembered as the World Trade Center Street Circuit. The race was apparently going to be between 180 and 200 miles, meaning they`d probably be either 139 laps for 180 miles, 144 laps for 187 miles (300km), or 154 laps for 200 miles. The Lights race would likely have been 58 laps for 75 miles, as that was the usual length of Lights races around that time.
Upon this announcement, the Meadowlands Grand Prix was almost immediately cancelled. The Meadowlands Grand Prix was held at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, not too far from the city. The race at the Meadowlands was already losing steam around that time, but with the announcement of the New York race, the organizers quickly bailed on the East Rutherford event and called it off. They learned some time later that bailing was a big mistake. Many of these organizers thought that it was just the end of the beginning for the New York GP, and that, with the race finally announced, it would be held and be a huge success.
In fact, it was the beginning of the end.
The big problem with the race, besides the obvious closure of the streets and the need for them to be repaved, was in the sponsor – Marlboro. The entire country in general was sort of doing an anti-smoking crusade, as all withheld effects had been released to the public in the late eighties, and the government had started to crackdown on tobacco advertising. New York`s mayor, Michael Dinkins, was staunchly for the crackdown, and had banned tobacco advertisements from sports arenas in the city in 1990. Dinkins promised a series of small events and programs geared towards children to teach the dangers of smoking. So the race, which Marlboro had wanted to basically be a big Marlboro advertisement with billboards everywhere, was also planning on holding several events geared towards youngsters showing them that smoking was unhealthy and unbecoming. Marlboro voiced their displeasure, leading to concerned parents on one end and an angry sponsor on the other.
While the logical move would have likely been to find a middle ground, it`s safe to say that there was no middle ground. These were the early 1990s, after all, the public had recently learned that all the harmful effects of tobacco and asbestos that had been conspiracies for the longest time were truthful, and they were extremely distrustful of big companies in general. Marlboro`s next move was never disclosed, though with Dinkins not budging on the kids` events, they likely decreased the amount of money they were feeding into the event. The event pretty much sat on a table for a few weeks after that, but Marlboro did eventually agree to some anti-smoking billboards in certain sections of the general area. However, the political hypocrisy, as one writer called it, had taken its toll.
In early October, the Marlboro Grand Prix Of New York was called off. The cash flow from Marlboro did not make up for the logistical issues in closing off major streets in New York City and repaving those streets for a CART race. The attack on February 26th, 1993 sealed its fate, with the city pouring millions into its own recovery.
New York has tried several times for a race in or near the city limits. Throughout its history, several F1 street circuits have been proposed, including one in Flushing Meadows in 1985 and Central Park in 2009, plus several downtown circuits throughout the seventies and eighties. Several speedways have been proposed as well. One just outside the city limits came close to being built in the late eighties before some key players in the project were arrested, and a 1.35 mile trioval by the name of Liberty Speedway was proposed in 2003, with the man at the helm of the project being none other than our current president. But, at the end of all roads lay failure for every project to host a race near the American center of commerce, and the World Trade Center street circuit was no exception. The Formula E race in July will be the first time a major event has been held in New York`s streets, and even then it`s a fair distance from downtown.
In the early 1970s, compact cars were huge for whatever reason, and NASCAR, wanting to pander to another market, formed the Dash Series. The NASCAR Goody`s Dash Series began in 1973 running solely at North Wilkesboro, and in 1975 it branched out elsewhere. At this time, it was known as the Baby Grand Nationals. The first race of the new series was at North Wilkes, but the winner is actually unknown. According to the ASA logbooks (yes, the ASA, I`ll explain why later), it was Gwyn Bullis, but NASCAR stated that Bullis never won in the series. Either this was a non-points event, or NASCAR screwed up, I dunno which, but in any case, the series ran twelve races throughout the South that year, and Dean Combs was the champion. Competitors that year are mostly unknown today, though there were a few names such as Larry Pearson, Roger Hamby, Tommy Houston, and Ronnie Thomas.
1979 saw the first running of the Goody`s Dash Daytona race, a 40 lap race won by Mike Watts in a field which included Phil Parsons. It would soon be doubled in length to 80 laps.
In 1980, the Baby Grand National Series became the International Sedan Series. Despite being an International Sedan Series, however, Opels and Datsuns served as the only distinctly international cars that they used. Even still, with the cars it ran, it was able to hold its own identity. Here`s a list of cars run in the Winston Cup in 1980, keep in mind that the Riverside opener in 1981 was the last race in which the full body beasts were run:
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
And here are the cars used in the Dash Series that year:
Datsun 200SX (?)
In the series` early years, Dean Combs absolutely dominated seasons on several occasions. In 1977, he ran 19 of the 23 races, winning ten of them. Combs was still the champion at year`s end with 434 points, 72 ahead of second place Larry Hoopaugh, who had run at least 21 races (due to missing records, it`s unknown as to whether or not he ran more than that) and won twice. He ran all 20 races in 1981 and won 14 of them. Interestingly, Combs eventually switched to a Datsun 200SX and netted them a few victories.
In 1982, Combs moved elsewhere and only ran part time in the series, allowing Hoopaugh to decimate the field. He won seven of the 11 races that year, including the final six rounds. The schedule had almost been cut in half between seasons, with one of the races dropped being a 300 miler at Talladega, which had been held for the first time in 1981. 1981 would prove to be the only year the Dash Series ever ran Talladega.
So far, Combs and Hoopaugh had been the only two champions. 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981 had seen Combs on top at season`s end, and 1978, 1979, and 1982 had gone to Hoopaugh. 1983`s champion was a little surprising.
Michael Waltrip, at the time just starting to become well known, was champion in 1983, when the series adopted the extremely bizarre `Darlington Dash Series` name…despite the series` Darlington race not even being very long (69 laps for 150km, when Daytona was by this point a 200 miler). Waltrip was the first champion in the series not named Combs or Hoopaugh. Fields around this time included a few names, such as Billy Standridge, Ed Berrier, Joe Littlejohn, Jr., and James Hylton, Jr. (the latter two are really only known for their fathers).
1983 also saw another notable event when Toyota decided to throw their hat in the ring for the first time, and what better way to do it than with a future superstar? Only one driver showed up with a Toyota to the 1983 opener at Daytona, but that driver was a young man by the name of Davey Allison. Allison did not stay very long in the Dash Series, and soon moved to ARCA.
The Dash Series also had its fair share of longrunners. Mickey York, Larry Caudill, and Mike Swaim, Sr. competed for many, many years in the series, and all of them won many times. Swaim was champion in 1984. In 1985, the series changed its name yet again, to the NASCAR Daytona Dash Series. Swaim again picked up the title.
In December of 1985, tragedy struck. 1985 runner up Dr. Charles Ogle was running a Pontiac tire test at Daytona when something went on the car down the back chute and he flipped over. No one saw the crash of Dr. Charles Ogle, who died several days later of massive head injuries, but it appears that he dug in or struck an access road on the backstretch and slid on his roof for several hundred yards. As to what caused the head injuries, it appears he may have struck his head on the roof of the car, but that could never be confirmed. With Ogle`s death came another death: Butch Lindley had been comatose for a couple of months since his violent All-Pro crash at DeSoto, and Ogle had been planning on having him transported to Indianapolis, where the best doctors for injured race car drivers in the country are. This never happened, and Butch died five years later without regaining consciousness, though it`s often believed that even if he had received treatment in Indianapolis, he would have, at best, been a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
In 1986, the series changed its name again, to the Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series. Hut Stricklin was the 1986 champion after dominating the second half of the year and pulling away from second place Rob Moroso. Larry Caudill was the 1987 champion in convincing fashion.
1987 saw the series` second fatality, again at Daytona, when 38 year old Joe Young spun in the middle of a corner and was struck by Duell Sturgill. Joe died shortly afterwards.
1988 was an inspirational year, with two female drivers running towards the front on a number of occasions. Larry Caudill battled hard at Daytona that year with Karen Schutz, but Caudill eventually prevailed. Schutz came second, and third place, a whole lap back, was Shawna Robinson. Shawna then stunned the racing world by winning a race that year at Asheville after both Robert Pressley and Caudill ran into issues while leading. Caudill was the champion again in 1988.
In 1989, Schutz, who had been a frontrunner the past few years, headed elsewhere, but Shawna stayed in the series. She would win twice in 1989 at Lanier and Myrtle Beach. The championship battle was very close that year, coming down to the wire between multiple-winner Larry Caudill and the consistent Gary Wade Finley. Finley would be crowned champion in the end. NASCAR dropped the `Charlotte/Daytona` after 1989 and switched car types from compact to subcompact.
The switch of car types saw a large rise in the amount of drivers running Pontiacs. A few ran Fords and Oldsmobiles, with one or two Chevys and Nissans. Robert Huffman was the 1990 champion, Johnny Chapman was champion in 1991, and Mickey York netted his only title in 1992. Goody`s was signed as the sponsor during the offseason. It would hold the name NASCAR Goody`s Dash for over a decade.
The series` third fatality was at Daytona in 1993, when 51-year-old journeyman Joe Booher was struck by Rodney White off of the trioval, dying a few hours later. Rodney Orr was the champion at year`s end, overcoming a surprisingly decent field including David Hutto, Donnie Neuenberger, Dan Pardus, Will Hobgood, Kerry Earnhardt, and the regulars in Caudill and York. Orr, of course, never got the chance to show his talent, as he was killed during Daytona 500 practice in 1994.
From 1994 on, the series lost all relevance. It was still shown on television, usually via tape delay, but no one really cared about it. Will Hobgood was champion in 1994, David Hutto in 1995, Lyndon Amick in 1996, Mike Swaim, Jr. in 1997, Robert Huffman in 1998, 1999, and 2000, Cam Strader in 2001, Jake Hobgood in 2002, and Huffman again in 2003, after which NASCAR picked up that no one was advancing and dropped the series.
A few interesting things did happen, however, during this period of time. They were mostly humorous.
1994: Dave Stacey hits the earth bank on the inside of the backstretch of Daytona and goes flying. His car flips into Lake Lloyd, making him the third person to enter the lake in Daytona`s history (first was Tommy Urban in 1960, second was Bay Darnell in 1964).
1996: Mike Swaim, Jr. spins down the backstretch during Daytona practice and tips onto two wheels. He somehow saves the car and drives away.
1997: George Crenshaw flips at Daytona.
1998: AJ Frank and Will Hobgood flip in the same crash at Daytona.
1999: Jimmy Foster and Brent Moore flip in the same crash at Daytona. During the same race, Danny Bagwell hits an access point in the turn four wall and rolls about ten times. The car shreds itself to bits, but Bagwell is unhurt. Eric Van Cleef, a road course specialist, enters the Dash Series. He runs a Toyota Celica Coupe, marking Toyota`s return to the Dash Series.
2000: Eric Van Cleef flips at Hickory after jumping another car`s hood, and Scott Weaver rolls out of the lead at Orange County after riding the wall. Weaver started in the Dash Series in 1984, and had to that point only won twice. Apparently, Weaver flipped eleven times in his crash, the most confirmed rolls by a Dash Series car…which is only relevant because this crash happened at a 3/8ths mile short track and not a superspeedway.
2001: The Dash Series runs a July race at Daytona for what would be the only time. Jeff Underwood and Jimmy Britts flip at Daytona Spring, Derrick Kelley goes over at Charlotte, and Scott Redmon flips during the July Daytona race.
2002: Van Cleef returns to road racing. Cam Strader flips at Orange County after a weight shift. Yes, a weight shift. At a 3/8ths mile track.
So, with NASCAR seeing no point to the series, and with the compact car craze that had piqued NASCAR`s interest and caused them to form the series now thirty years in the past, it looked like the Goody`s Dash Series was through. In October 2003, Buck Parker decided he couldn`t let the series die, and purchased it. The Goody`s Dash Series had been revived again, this time as the iPOWERacing Dash Series.
This would prove to be a big mistake, and would destroy the Dash Series once and for all.
Growing up, Ray Paprota always wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. Not long after he joined, however, in 1984, Ray was involved in a traffic accident, and was paralyzed below the neck. He was eventually able to regain control in his arms, but never his legs. He eventually set his sights on making the United States wheelchair basketball team for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, but was injured and had to withdraw before tryouts.
For a living, Ray worked as a mechanic. He garnered an interest in racing himself, and eventually decided to take to the legends car scene. One day while doing some racing in Alabama, he and George White, the former `Bama Gang member, met one another. White, who had worked with the Allison family for many years, had since started working for a company that manufactured parts and equipment for the disabled.
Soon, Ray met Bobby Allison himself. Allison`s career had ended all the way back in 1988, yet he still was going to therapy frequently. Bobby agreed to mentor Ray, and Ray set his sights on the ARCA Series, a goal that was quickly dropped due to financial difficulties. Still not giving up, Ray Paprota chose to race in the Dash Series.
Ray Paprota chose a Pontiac Sunfire as his car, and it was outfitted for him. Since Ray, of course, couldn`t use the pedals, levers were instead installed on the car at the steering wheel. He passed his tests and got a license to run in the series. Unfortunately, it was 2003 by this point, and he only had time to run three races before the series folded. Even still, these three starts made Ray the first known paraplegic to run a national stock car series.
When the iPOWERacing Dash Series was announced, Ray hopped aboard immediately. Buck Parker had managed to secure a contract to race at Daytona, and Paprota was permitted to run. He towed the #0 Sunfire to the track and got ready to take to Daytona for the first time. Paprota passed his rookie testing, and drivers were informed of his disability. In a somewhat questionable move, organizers asked drivers if they were comfortable racing with someone who couldn`t walk, which they all said they were. Ray wasn`t fazed by this, and qualified the car in the midfield, twenty-fifth of thirty-eight to be exact.
The field really didn`t have any major names by this point. Danny Bagwell had begun to dominate races, but the only really notable drivers running in the iPOWERacing Dash Series were Chris Fontaine, Caleb Holman, Johnny Chapman, and Mike Skinner`s son Dustin, along with ARCA longrunner Darrell Basham. Mercurys and Pontiacs filled most of the field, with a few Toyotas and a Ford as well.
When it came time for the 150 mile race on February 8th, however, car #0 would not start. The crew found an issue and got to work as the rest of the field took to the circuit. The first caution quickly flew on lap nine for Billy Clevenger and Tony Billings colliding in turn three, warranting an extended hospital visit for Billings and a very long yellow flag. During the caution, Paprota`s car finally started. He was told that he`d be waved around once, and then would join up at the tail end of the field. Paprota enjoyed his medium speed lap of Daytona, but unfortunately he wouldn`t make another one.
Roy Weaver, full name Roy Holland Weaver The Third, was born on February 19th, 1959, three days before the first 500, in Alabama. He joined Daytona`s track worker squadron in 1996 or 1997, and was an eager individual who had more energy than most people his age. He was married to Linda Weaver, with three children, Rebecca, Rachel, and Roy IV, whom they usually just called Rolly. The two were together for 21 years. Besides that, not much else is known about him. All in all, Roy`s life seemed happy, if not a bit average.
Weaver alerted his truck`s driver to a piece of debris in turn two, and the driver acknowledged. The driver of the truck parked in the inside grass and Weaver climbed the banking in the corner, stumbling at least once. Ray Paprota, trying to catch up to the field, rounded the corner and came across Weaver. Ray Paprota flipped the lever to activate his brakes and spun the car hard to the left, but he wasn`t even too late, there wasn`t a thing he could have done. Paprota struck Weaver at about one hundred miles per hour, killing the 44-year-old instantly. The Pontiac backed up the circuit and into the wall, and Paprota, shaken but hoping that he`d dodged Weaver, drove away to the pit lane.
Paprota pulled into the pits, and the rest of the field was directed pitside a few minutes later as well. Weaver was completely and utterly beyond help, and the broadcast team was quickly informed during a commercial break. They signed off after the break ended, sounding shocked and saddened, but never specifying why, as Weaver`s family had yet to be informed. The flags were lowered to half mast, where they would remain for the rest of Speedweeks.
Ninety minutes later, the red flag was lifted and the race was resumed, while at the same time officials informed both Paprota and the Weavers of Roy`s loss. Scott Weaver, no relation to Roy, led for most of the race, which had been shortened to forty laps. However, Weaver fell back late, and Danny Bagwell ended up winning. In another sad irony, the driver who had been running just behind Paprota – and had gotten a clear view of the incident – was Jeff Tillman. This was the second time in two years that Tillman had to witness a horrible fatal accident at a race track. In 2002, Tillman had been in the Rolex Sports Car Series, and was teammates with Jeff Clinton. During practice for the Homestead race, Clinton was racing down the front chute when his roll bar snapped during a series of flips. Clinton died from internal decapitation (i.e. this happens when the spine is severed from the skull, but the skin, veins, muscles, and nerves stay connected; it`s possible to survive this under the right conditions, but unfortunately Clinton did not). Weaver`s death was the 36th in Daytona history, and first since December of 2001.
Police were called in, and Ray was almost immediately cleared of any negligence. Within a few days, he was found to be blameless altogether. The police focused their attention on the actions of Roy Weaver, and found several shocking events that had led to the tragedy. In the end, blame was placed on the track crew. The track workers had:
– Neglected to inform race officials that they were stopping to gather some debris, in which case officials would have relayed the information to the drivers
– Parked in the infield grass instead of on the outside; the truck acts both as a shield and a cue that there are marshals at work, but was impossible to see in the grass from Ray`s position
– Roy had almost crawled up the 31 degree banking, and apparently tripped at least once, slowing him down considerably
– Roy was likely unaware of Paprota and that he was trying to catch up to the field
The promoters also made some odd decisions:
– Remaining under caution for so long (the first caution flew on lap nine, and the incident happened on lap nineteen, why was there no red flag?)
– Continuing the race despite a police investigation that had already gotten under way
Who the debris came from was never discerned, to my knowledge.
The Daytona Int`l Speedway was praised for how they handled the investigation. With the crash of Dale Earnhardt, the Speedway had allowed RCR full access to the race car before either the media or the police arrived, but this time, the police were able to investigate first before Ray`s team was allowed the car back.
The Weavers quickly filed a wrongful death suit, which was settled four years later. In the meantime, they applied and were chosen to compete on the eighth season of The Amazing Race reality series. Usually The Amazing Race has teams competing in pairs, but for season eight only, families of four competed instead. Two challenges had to do with racing, a few laps of a Phoenix karting facility, and a lap of Talladega on a bicycle. In the end, the Weavers made it to the last leg and came home third, a good effort…though host Phil Keoghan later said that the Weavers were incredibly rude and unprofessional, noting that he had to reprimand them at least once.
Ray Paprota returned to legends cars after 2004, and has since retired. He`s still quite vocal online.
As for the Dash Series…
The Dash Series was ruined by the death of Roy Weaver. Of course, the media ran headlines noting how the driver involved was a paraplegic in a clear case of sensationalism, which ended up adding on to the already-increased attention brought upon by this being a race on the Speed Channel at Daytona, and the series simply crumbled. Most tracks backed out and many races were cancelled that year. The eventual schedule possessed seven races, Daytona included. Johnny Chapman nipped Danny Bagwell for the title.
Buck Parker really wanted out of the series, but agreed that he`d at least give it an attempt in 2005. Pretty quickly, however, it became clear that the Dash Series was done for. The Daytona opener was cancelled, and soon after, so was the rest of the schedule. Parker tried to sell the Dash Series, even posting it on eBay for one hundred thousand dollars, but there were no takers.
In late Spring, the ASA offered to take up the Dash Series as a southeastern short track series. Buck Parker accepted, and the ISCARS Dash Series came around. It only ran four races in 2005. Wade Day won the 2005 championship, 2006 went to Eric Wilson, 2007 and 2008 to Danny Bagwell, 2009 Jason Schultz, and 2010 and 2011 Bagwell once more. All of these seasons were extremely unremarkable.
By 2011, the series that once showed the world that international makes could run in NASCAR was now awaiting the firing squad, with Bagwell winning 11 of the 12 races that year in fields as small as five, with the largest field being fourteen. To show just how little future the series had, TrackForum user Red Byrd shared a story in which he asked for, and got, a partial refund on account of the racing being poor.
The ASA, already looking to either end or sell off its remaining series and return to its roots as a sanctioner of short tracks, chose the former fate for the Dash guys. Even in 2004, when the ASA National Championship was falling apart, it still had good field sizes. In this case, there was no interest, no money, no competitors, and no hope. The Dash Series was over, Danny Bagwell being the final series winner in a 100 lap race at Hickory. The Dash Series would try again under independent sanctioning in 2013, but no season ever materialized.
Even still, the Dash Series has a legacy. Despite being a bit of a joke series towards the end of the nineties, it gave us Michael Waltrip, Hut Stricklin, Ed Berrier, Billy Standridge, and, most importantly, had been the series that piqued Toyota`s interest in running stock cars. Without the Dash Series, it`s unlikely that the Camry would be running in NASCAR at all. So, yes, the Dash Series did produce some good things and some talented drivers to boot. And isn`t that what a feeder series should be doing in the first place?
This is an article from an old subseries I used to do called ‘Race Tracks Of The World’. The articles in the subseries were all extremely casually written, so I ask for some leniency on that end.
Let’s go endurance racing!
In case you don’t know, endurance racing is when cars, usually sports cars or touring cars, race for long distances and/or long periods of time. For club racing, endurance races can just be events longer than the rest, like an hour long compared to fifteen to twenty minutes. As you move up the ranks, endurance races become longer and longer, reaching and on occasion surpassing 24 hours. Having multiple drivers becomes necessary pretty quickly. The longest endurance race to my knowledge that is still going is the Maxi Endurance 32 Hours at Algarve in Portugal, and the longest ever, again to my knowledge, was a 96 hour endurance race at the Nurburgring in 1971. Endurance races are almost always done on permanent road courses, though I suppose you could consider the Coca Cola 600 to be an oval endurance race. There are also a few endurance races at semi-permanent tracks, such as the Bathurst 1000, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As for endurance races on street circuits, there aren’t many, but one of the very few examples is a track that wouldn’t look out of place in GTA 5. Welcome to Palangas Trasa, Lithuania.
Palangas Trasa is a temporary layout about two miles (3km) from the resort town of Palanga, on Lithuania’s northwestern shoreline. This track is literally carved out of a highway onramp. It’s a short circuit, at 1.675 miles, or 2.861 kilometers, with plenty of chicanes. If you looked at this circuit, you might think that, due to how messily the track is set up, that it’s an old endurance race that’s still going for old time’s sake. No, it’s actually the opposite. This track was first used in 2000. The race it hosts, the ENEOS 1000km, is 1000 kilometers, or 621 miles, and is held every July. This means that these guys run 373 long laps at this chicane-filled freeway circuit. The track used to be a little longer, but was shortened in 2014 when an access ramp was built at one of the hairpins. Note that with this track’s shortness comes the fact that laps can be done in 70 seconds. In fact, the lap record is 67.046, set by Konstantin Calko in 2014 in a Radical SR8, the same make that managed a lap of six minutes and fifty-five seconds at the Nordschleife. This is a lap record that likely won’t be beaten, as Radicals were disallowed after the 2014 race out of safety concerns.
Another oddity about this track is its pit area. It has two, one based around a literal gas station on the backstretch used for refueling only, and one in a more proper area near the start-finish line used for everything else. Yeah, I don’t even know anymore.
The race was extended in 2016 to 375 laps for 1006km due to a sponsor, and is still going strong today. Many different types of cars can be entered, from Porsches to Volkswagens. It’s a strange but unique race that puts drivers to the test due to how thin the circuit is. Passing zones are limited, with a driver’s best bet for an overtake being the run off of turn six, so it not only tests resilience, but patience, both things needed for any endurance race. Just make sure you aren’t planning on travelling in those directions anytime soon, because being a highway…
Racing is a dangerous sport, and sometimes the footage of certain incidents have been withheld from the public due to just how horrible they were. These are all of the examples that I am personally aware of or have every reason to believe exists.
1985: The Atlanta ARCA 500k (BROADCAST)
Apparently, the USA Network was planning on showing an ARCA race at the Atlanta International Raceway in June 1985 on tape delay, but this had to be aborted after a massive accident claimed the life of a driver. It was promoted as a fairly prestigious event, with a rather high purse and a figurehead grand marshal in NASCAR founder Bill France.
On lap 32, New Zealander Stuart Lyndon went around off of turn two at full speed and slammed into the inside earth wall with ungodly force. Steel and concrete barriers have some give, especially steel, and cars will often bounce off of them as needed. Steel and concrete barriers can also be shoved back a few centimeters or even break if the impacts are especially hard. Well packed dirt has absolutely no ‘give’. When cars strike earth walls, they either come to a complete stop or vault over the top of the earth wall, depending on its angle. In Lyndon’s case, the impact was so brutal that the roll cage completely shattered and Lyndon was thrown through the windshield. He was dead at the scene. The race continued and was won by Davey Allison, but the broadcast, if it was actually going to occur in the first place, was called off.
1990: The ARCA 200 (BROADCAST)
ESPN was planning on showing the 1990 ARCA 200 on tape delay, but decided not to after a vicious crash late.
A multicar pileup struck in turn four with about five laps to go, sending many cars into the wall, the car of Slick Johnson hitting it especially hard. Several medics ran over to the drivers involved in the crash, wanting to see what assistance they could give.
Bob Keselowski, father of 2012 NASCAR Cup champion Brad, was driving by the accident when his car snapped left and he spun down the banking. Bob’s car hit that of Kevin Gundaker, knocking Gundaker’s car into Mike Staley, the paramedic assisting Gundaker at the time. The race was not ended, per se, but it did not go back to green flag conditions. The field was paced around under caution for the rest of regulation distance and Jimmy Horton crossed the line in first.
Staley made a near-full recovery. He wasn’t able to return to being a paramedic, but was last seen giving motivational speeches. Slick Johnson, a short track expert whose real first name was Julius, suffered severe head injuries in the crash, and he did not survive. Johnson died three days later, aged 41.
A few years later, Rescue 911 asked ESPN if they could use the crash footage for a segment on Mike Staley’s survival. Their request was accepted, and the footage is readily available online. However, the broadcast itself has never been shown, likely due to the Staley collision.
1991: The Fatal Crash Of Paul Warwick
Paul Warwick’s older brother Derek had already made it to Formula One, and Paul was looking to do the same. He’d absolutely destroyed the field in the first few British F3000 Series races in 1991, and was looking to do the same at Oulton Park. However, late in the going, something went on Paul’s car and he crashed at the incredibly fast Knickerbrook corner. Paul was ejected from the vehicle and died almost instantly.
Being as it was 1991, anyone who wanted to film for memory’s sake had to lug around a large camcorder. Police collected and confiscated all the spectator footage they could, and turned it over to the Warwick family. The one photo above is the only known photo ever released of the accident.
The race was ended on the spot, and Paul was declared the winner, as he had been leading at the time. Paul Warwick had been so dominant in the season and had built up such a points lead that he, despite missing half the races, was eventually declared champion – posthumously.
1994: The Tragedy At Alice Springs
In 1994, Alan Horsley organized the Cannonball Run, a race from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia to Alice Springs, Northern Territory and then back to Darwin. The race was criticized from the getgo, mostly due to the laws of the Territory (such as no speed limit and the prohibition of suing for compensation from car makers). The event had three formats. The first was ‘Flying Mile’, a one mile run down a straight bit of road with a rolling start that gave points for how quickly the one mile run was finished. There was also the distance run, in which competitors were released at set intervals and had to complete the ~100km stages in a certain amount of time, and received points for how close to the posted time they were, being penalized for finishing too slowly or too quickly. Drivers also had to drive from the end of a stage to the start of the next one, known as ‘displacement’. Roads were closed for the Flying Mile, but not for distance runs, a lesser issue due to the lack of a speed limit on the Territory’s highways. Police asked members of the public to stay off the roads during the event, but had no authority to stop them. Incredibly, the Flying Mile was the only time competitors had to wear helmets.
Akihiro Kabe and Takeshi Okono were one of the 142 entries. The pair were not only very successful dentists in Japan, but they were also cousins. Kabe headed down to Australia just before the event and tested his Ferrari F40 at the Hidden Valley Raceway near Darwin. Instructors heavily criticized his driving, but organizers decided not to require a driving test. Kabe, with co-driver Okono, quickly took the lead upon the event’s start.
On Day 3, May 24th, 1994, Kabe apparently slowed up for a checkpoint 83km south of Alice Springs during a displacement run. As it turned out, his map was wrong. Annoyed, Kabe sped up to make up lost time and eventually found himself behind a Holden Commodore. From the corner of his eye, either Kabe or Okono spotted the checkpoint on a gravel road to the outside of long sweeping bend. Kabe, knowing he’d be penalized for speeding into a checkpoint, mashed the brakes. The Ferrari slid and crashed into a parked Jeep in which the checkpoint’s overseers were seated, killing Kabe, Okono, and the Jeep’s occupants, Keith Pritchard and Tim Linklater. Keith, ironically, was one of the instructors at Hidden Valley who had hazed Kabe’s driving ability.
Either the crash itself or aftermath was caught on camera and was broadcasted to the public once, but the Australian government quickly seized the footage and has remained very tight lipped on it since. The race continued on after a day off to sort things out, and was completed. It has never been held again. Pritchard’s widow sued the organizers, but the lawsuit was chucked due to the aforementioned prohibition on suing for compensation after car accidents in the Territory. This prohibition has apparently been overturned in the years since.
1995: The 1995 Sportsman 100 (BROADCAST)
Russell Phillips raced in a Sportsman Series that existed in the early to mid 1990s, and during a race at Charlotte in 1995, the ironically squeamish Phillips was killed in what’s often considered the worst crash seen in NASCAR’s history.
In short, contact between him and another car, that of Steven Howard, sent Phillips roof-first into the fence. The roof was completely sheared away, and Phillips was savagely dismembered. For some bizarre reason, the race continued after a cleanup, and the second race (it was a doubleheader) was also held. The race Russell was killed during, known simply as the Sportsman 100, was won by Gary Laton, and the second race, the Duron Paints And Wallcoverings 100, was won by Lester Lesneski.
Footage of the accident does exist, and it’s widely available. However, the Sportsman Series races were often recorded to be shown on tape delay, and this race was no exception. The broadcast of the race was never shown out of decency, nor was the much-calmer second race of the doubleheader the next day. Whether the broadcast was immediately aborted or continued and scrapped later is unknown. The Sportsman Series was ridden of after 1995, though it did run a few short tracks in 1996 with small fields and even smaller interest.
1995: The Fatal Crash Of Russell Phillips (AFTERMATH)
The aftermath footage of Russell’s fatal crash and the cleanup has also never been released with the exception of one very brief clip of the catchfence being cleaned.
Again, the race continued on after the accident like nothing had ever happened. Winner’s ceremonies were not cancelled after the accident, and during his interview, Gary Laton did not address Phillips’ crash, nor was he asked about it. The Sportsman Series, which used old Cup and Busch cars with massive speed reductions, showed the flaws with the day’s cars. Over the course of 45 races, a dozen drivers had been severely injured, and three were dead. The only reason this hadn’t all happened in Cup was driver experience. After this and Dale Earnhardt’s horrific crash in 1996 at Talladega, the Earnhardt Bar was implemented as an extra roof support.
1996: The Fatal Crash Of Mike Cooke
During qualifying for the 1996 NASCAR Southwest Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, driver Mike Cooke blew a tire, spun, and struck the wall with the driver`s side in turn four. Cooke was beyond saving by the time he was even reached, and in response authorities readied tarps before they extricated him. Though he was still alive upon arrival to the hospital, Cooke died later that day.
Apparently, there were photographers at the track, but it appears that no one took any pictures before the tarps were placed over the scene, or if they did, the photos were not released. What killed him was, as far as I’m aware, never made public. However, those who did get a peek were treated to a bloody scene. Qualifying was called off after this, but the race itself went forward. Cooke, 49, was new to racing, having started it in 1993. He was apparently planning on retiring within the coming weeks so he could spend more time with the grandchildren. Cooke is one of two drivers to die during a Southwest Series event, the other being John Baker in 2002 (oddly, Baker is often misreported as being the same age as Cooke, when he was actually 48).
1996: The Fatal Crash Of Elmer Trett
On August 31st, 1996, Blaine Johnson, the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster points leader, ran the length of the quarter mile dragstrip at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 4.612 seconds, a track record. Immediately after crossing the line, something broke on the dragster and it shifted to the left. Johnson tried to save it, but the vehicle angled over to the right while still skidding left. The dragster struck an opening in the wall, and unfortunately, it struck the wall right where the cockpit was. Johnson, 32, passed during surgery later that day. Footage of this DOES exist.
The next day, September 1st, 53-year-old Elmer Trett, a veteran of motorcycle drag racing, fell off his bike at 230mph and slid into the sand trap at the end of the strip. There wasn’t much anyone could do for Trett, who was reportedly almost disfigured by the somersaults his body did when it hit the sand trap. Exactly one replay of the accident was shown on the track’s big screen, and after that, the crash was never shown again in any context.
In 2013, drag bike racer Chris Matheson fell from his bike at about the same speed of 230mph. He was lucky enough to escape with little more than severe bruising and a broken foot. Footage of his spill is readily available, and witnesses say that Matheson’s crash was very similar to how Trett’s started.
1997: The Fatal Crash Of Sebastien Enjolras
21-year-old rising talent Sebastien Enjolras was killed in early May of 1997 when his Peugeot WR97 open top prototype lost something and spun out of control during a pre-qualifying practice session for that year’s running of the 24 Hours Of Le Mans. The vehicle blew over and passed so low over the wall that Sebastien was brutally guillotined, then rolled several times into oblivion. It was one of the most violent crashes in Le Mans history. Organizers responded by immediately banning one-piece bodywork cars such as the WR97 he had been running.
Footage of the accident exists, as pre-qualifying practice was normally filmed, and sits in the hands of Peugeot, ACO, and the Enjolras family. Very few details have been revealed of what it contains, but it apparently shows what happened to Enjolras in disturbingly high quality.
1999: The Wild Crash Of Peter Dumbreck (ONBOARD)
Ah, the Mercedes-Benz CLR…this aerodynamically UNsound car suffered its third front flip of the 1999 24 Hours Of Le Mans weekend when Peter Dumbreck lifted off during the race. Despite amount of times Dumbreck`s incredible ride was replayed during the slowdown period, they did not show the onboard shot of Dumbreck.
Interestingly, Peter Dumbreck`s Mercedes-Benz CLR actually did have an onboard camera. In fact, they had done a whole onboard lap at one point in the broadcast. However, its capturing of the accident was never shown. It seems that the high ups at Mercedes, having seen the crash, immediately phoned up the broadcasting team and ordered them not to use the onboard shot. While Dumbreck escaped from the wreckage with few injuries, the onboard shot of his wild cartwheel has never been shown. Mercedes-Benz withdrew from Le Mans yet again, having done so for the first time in 1955 after driver Pierre Levegh’s car crashed into the crowd and killed upwards of 80 people, and has yet to return as of 2017.
2002: The Irwindale 150 (BROADCAST)
Despite being promoted as an ultra-safe track, Irwindale Event Center was a complete and utter death palace in its early days, having suffered a fatality on opening night in 1999, a second death later that year, and a third in late 2001. It took a fourth fatality in 2002 for track owners to actually do something.
On lap 37 of the 150 lap NASCAR Southwest race on June 8, 2002, contact between John Baker and Sean Woodside in turn two sent Baker’s car glancing off of Greg Voigt’s and straight up the track and head-on into a gate, dealing Baker fatal injuries. The race was briefly red flagged, but it eventually went on. The victory went to a young David Gilliland. The race was going to be broadcasted on tape delay a couple of days later, but the broadcast was never shown. The Goody’s Dash race at Daytona from that February was shown instead. Irwindale cancelled the next weekend’s events and sealed off the gate that Baker had struck among other track alterations, never giving much of a reason as to why.
2003: The Fatal Crash Of Tony Renna
On October 22nd, 2003, the Indy Racing League held a test session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During this session, Tony Renna, who had only just signed with Chip Ganassi as the teammate of future Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, went around in turn three at 230mph. The open wheeler struck the catchfence and fell to pieces, with its tub becoming lodged in the fence itself. Pieces of the car showered the turn three bleachers, damaging them, possibly beyond repair. Renna was savagely killed on impact.
Praise quickly turned to haze as fans pointed out that this was the third instance of a car lifting up and blowing over at high speed that year at Indy. Mario Andretti had suffered a vicious testing crash at Indianapolis in which he blew over into the fence, and Dan Wheldon blew over during the 500 that year. Andretti survived with minor injuries, and Wheldon was unhurt. Videos of both crashes are available online. Additionally, on October 5th at the Texas Motor Speedway, Kenny Bräck survived a crash so violent that it registered 214Gs, which is still the highest known amount of Gs a human has survived without either dying or permanently falling into a coma.
While a few aftermath photos were made public, no footage of the Renna crash itself has ever been released, a good move considering both the poor publicity and the awful nature of the crash. If this had happened during the leadup to or in the 500, it likely would have killed a few spectators and destroyed the IRL.
2004: The Fatal Fall Of Jason Ciarletta
AMA Supercross is an extremely popular dirt bike racing series in the United States. It mostly runs inside stadiums, though it does have a race on a temporary circuit set up in the trioval grass of the Daytona Int’l Speedway.
During a heat race for the AMA Supercross 125cc Class feature at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in January 2004, a massive gaggle of riders funneled their way through the layout on the first lap and began to run out of room, forcing several riders wide. One rider, Jason Ciarletta, struck a lip, went over the handlebars, and hit his head on an embankment. He died shortly thereafter despite wearing a full-face helmet.
The TV crew was still setting up during the 125cc heats, and hence his crash was not filmed by them. However, I’m forced to believe that someone in the audience of 2,000 (remember, it was just a heat, and for the most junior of the classes no less, so the audience was a bit small) filmed the crash on a camcorder or cell phone due to one factor: this was an AMA Supercross race. Motorsports had found a resurgence in the early 2000s, and Supercross is often seen as one of the most spectacular types of motorsport. It’s assumed that those who filmed it turned their footage over to the AMA for their investigation.
Jason Ciarletta was nineteen when he died. He is still the only rider in AMA Supercross to have died in a race since the series began in 1973. Jason’s number, #412, has been retired from all AMA Supercross competition since.
2004: The Death Of Roy Weaver
The Goody’s Dash Series found new life as the iPower Dash Series in 2004, and planned a schedule of short tracks and speedways, with the traditional one superspeedway race at Daytona. On lap 9 of the Daytona race, Billy Clevenger spun in turn four and was slammed by Tony Billings, severely injuring Billings, who would be in the hospital for a bit over a week.
On lap 19, the race was still under caution for whatever reason. Roy Weaver III, a track worker, spotted some debris and asked his companions on the truck to park it to the low side. This was a violation, as the track workers’ trucks are supposed to be on the high side as a reference, not the low side where they can’t be seen. Roy also failed to radio in to officials that he had found debris, in which case they would have told the teams and drivers would have been on the lookout.
During the caution, Ray Paprota, the nation’s first known paraplegic to race in a national stock car tour, pulled out of the garage. He’d failed to start due to a faulty battery, but since the race wasn’t red flagged, the crew could work on the car. Eventually, they changed the battery and he pulled out. Ray did one wave-around lap and got ready to join up with the field on the backstretch when, in turn two, he came across Roy.
The ensuing collision instantly killed Roy Weaver. Ray, shaken but still hoping he’d missed Roy, drove back to the pits, and the rest of the field soon followed.
The race was eventually resumed, with Danny Bagwell taking the win. Footage of the collision way caught by CCTV cameras and a mounted wall camera in turn two, but Daytona turned the footage over to the police for their investigation, possibly wishing to prevent the heavy criticism they received after Dale Earnhardt’s death, where the footage went to the media first. Police eventually placed full blame on the track crew.
The iPower Dash Series was done in by the story’s sensationalism (Ray, who later returned to legend cars and has since retired, was blameless, but when the media heard that Ray was a paraplegic, they went wild), and was handed off to the ASA, who let the series waste away before putting it out of its misery in 2011.
2008: The Massive Crash Of Jeff Gordon (INSIDE)
During the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas in 2008, Jeff Gordon crashed into an entrance gate while trying to avoid a spinning Matt Kenseth. It was the hardest hit of his career, but due to NASCAR’s many safety upgrades across the years, Gordon was able to walk away.
In the accident, Gordon had three onboard cameras, one on the car’s front, one on the car’s rear, and one inside the car facing towards Gordon. The broadcast crew showed the impact from several external angles and from the car’s front and rear, but never showed the impact from inside. They did show the aftermath from inside the car, as Gordon collected his thoughts and unbuckled, but not the impact itself, apparently because Gordon’s body moved in a way during the crash that the crew found disturbing.
A few days later, Jeff asked to see the recording of the crash from inside the car. That was the last mention ever made of the tape.
2011: The Fatal Crash Of Dan Wheldon (ONBOARD)
Dan Wheldon himself died in a somewhat similar accident to Tony Renna in 2011 at the IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dan actually had the onboard camera that day, which ABC switched away from when Wade Cunningham and J.R. Hildebrand made contact to start the tragic mayhem.
Dan attempted to navigate the 15-car pileup, but was unable to. He struck Ernesto Viso’s car and flew into the catchfence. Dan struck his head on a catchfence support beam, killing him. The red flag was waved, but two hours into cleanup, officials confirmed that the 2005 IndyCar champion and two time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was gone. The race was cancelled after the crash. ABC proceeded to show the crash one more time, the announcers lamenting that not everyone had walked away, and the tribute began.
The drivers whose cars would still run proceeded to run five slow laps in memory of their fallen friend. The announcers stayed quiet, and the track PA system (the spectators at the circuit had been told as well) played Amazing Grace. In the meantime, 12 of the 15 drivers involved and all the crew members and officials stood in the pit lane, respectfully silent. Will Power and Pippa Mann were still in the infirmary during the tribute laps. Mann was not badly injured, but Power had suffered several fractures. After the five laps, the broadcast team signed off.
The full onboard footage is known to exist. In fact, some fans actually viewed it as it happened, as an onboard livestream was being shown on Indycar Mobile for Verizon subscribers only. It hasn’t been shown since, and has never been leaked. A Canadian group requested to use some of the withheld footage for a documentary on the leadup to the IndyCar World Championships and the death of Dan Wheldon, and was granted permission. During the broadcast, the onboard had ended when the accident had begun. The documentary shows up to the impact with Viso, at which point it freezes.
2012: The Fatal Crash Of Gareth Roberts (ONBOARD)
Craig Breen is an Irish rallyman in the WRC. He`s a fan favorite, most fans liking him due to how he`s persevered through the circumstances. In 2012, then-21 year old Breen was running the Intercontinental Rally Challenge`s Italian round, the Targa Florio, when his car went off and into the guardrail. The guardrail was not properly bolted down, and it pierced the car a la Robert Kubica. Unfortunately, Craig Breen`s co driver, 24 year old Gareth Roberts, was not as fortunate as Kubica, and he was killed. Breen was severely traumatized by the accident, and had to be treated for shock. Physically, Breen was not injured. Breen has kept going in Gareth`s memory, and has dedicated all of his subsequent successes to Gareth.
Quite terrifyingly, there was actually an onboard camera mounted INSIDE the Peugeot. The tape`s whereabouts are completely unknown, and very little has been released. The short snippet that has been shown was filmed several minutes after the crash. The car was unoccupied by this point, and any blood had been sampled and cleaned or was out of view, however the car had not yet been removed from the site of the crash.
2013: The Fatal Crash Of Jason Leffler
In 2013, popular NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, who had given Toyota its first NASCAR victory when he won an Xfinity race at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2007, was running a sprint car race at the Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey when he struck the turn four wall very hard. The red flag was waved, and the field stopped immediately, as New Jersey rules require drivers to stop where they are when a red flag flies, even if the position they stop in is inconvenient. Leffler was wearing a restraint to help protect him from being injured by frontal impacts, but did not have one to assist with side-on impacts. This crash was the latter. Medics rushed Leffler to the hospital, but he was beyond saving. Racing was called off for the rest of the weekend.
No footage is available of the impact itself. One spectator’s video ends a lap before the impact, and several aftermath shots are available. It appears that everyone who recorded the footage chose to either give it to the authorities or withhold it.
New Jersey now requires full restraints for all racing in the state.
2014: The Horrid Crash Of Marcus Mahy
At the 2014 24h Of Spa Francorchamps, gentleman driver Marcus Mahy, one of the very few racers to come out of the Channel Islands (Guernsey, to be precise), spun his #111 Ferrari around on the approach to Paul Frere, which is the kink just before Blanchimont. Mahy could not get the car restarted, and decided to start unbuckling for whatever reason. All of a sudden, another Ferrari, the #333 of the incredibly talentless Russian businessman Vadim Kogay, rounded the bend and hit him in the driver’s door.
No footage has ever been released besides some aftermath footage that was shown during the event. It’s unknown why Mahy decided to get out of the Ferrari, though it seems he found the fact that he was sitting in the runoff to be enough. After all, who would be dumb enough to run off the course off of Stavelot?
Well…Vadim Kogay. It’s extremely well documented that Kogay was only racing because he has a lot of money. He was a severe embarassment at Monza earlier in the year when he ran off literally dozens of times (I believe seven or eight instances were caught on camera), and he was an embarassment at Spa.
Incredibly, Marcus Mahy survived the crash. He decided it was time to retire afterwards. Not much has been seen of Kogay since. He did run in a French GT race towards the end of 2015, but that’s all I could find of him after this.
5. Azure Sea, Take Me Away (F1, Monaco and Hungary, 1995)
Take me away…
Taki Inoue…some of these moments are actually so strange that you can just say their name and people will know what you`re talking about. This is one…saves me a lot of work, I suppose.
…All right, brief summary.
How are you so unlucky as to get hit TWICE by the course car in one year? First was at Monaco. The Footwork broke, and a flatbed lorry started taking him back to the pits. Out of nowhere came the safety car, a Clio, being driven by rallyman Jean Ragnotti. The car was sent up and over onto its lid by the subsequent rear first impact, partially dumping Taki from the car. Taki was slightly concussed, having kept his helmet on, though his belts were undone. It turned out the Clio was being taken on a few sightseeing laps by Ragnotti. Officials said that they weren`t at fault, but said Taki wasn`t at fault either, and that he could use the spare car in qualifying. He ended up skipping the session, and would blow up early in the race. The ACO was not fined, and said they`d negotiate damages with Footwork head Jackie Oliver.
…This. He got hit by the course car while running over to his Footwork with a fire extinguisher to put out an engine fire. No wonder Taki left after the season.
4. Wheel Of Fortune (Hobby Stock, Bakersfield, Late Nineties)
Sometimes the most obscure of events can lead to the wildest of happenstance…that`s fancy talk for MOM GET THE CAMERA!
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 something like that spin in turn three and strike a stalled car. The hobby stock, numbered 5, suffered a loose wheel in the incident. As he rounded turn 4, the wheel came off the frame and rolled alongside his car for a bit, then rolled back into the car. Somehow, the tire reattached itself to the #5 car. Of course, the tire was deflated, and the #5 was headed to this pits anyway, but it was still an unforgetable sight.
…The Internet, however, has seemingly forgotten about this incident, so little was available. Hence, it was time for some journalism.
First source was the track owner, a very nice man. He, unfortunately, wasn`t able to help too much, but he did say that the incident happened before he took over the track in 2003. RealTV ended after 2001, meaning this did not happen in 2002, and the host shown in the clip was not with the program in 2001, eliminating that year as well. Due to the show getting a new host in the middle of 2000, and not the end of the year, I can all but eliminate 2000 as the year it happened (remember, racing season starts in March, and while it`s possible that the tape owner sent in his tape to the program, and they aired it in one of their final episodes with the old host, but it`s a little doubtful the turnaround would be that fast). Beyond that, I can`t eliminate any further years.
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. Karl, Sr. appears to still be racing, but Raymond, Sr. is retired.
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.
This is the only moment that has been altered from the original list. In this spot on the original list I’d included Marcos Ambrose’s famous tire roll in 2001 during the V8 Supercars race in Canberra, but it was a moment that needed pictures to explain what happened, and there weren’t any, nor were there any very high quality broadcasts available. Unable to think of something else in what is now Virgin Supercar, I decided on this moment during the 2010 12h of Bathurst, also in Australia.
Bathurst is a strange circuit. It’s called a ‘semi-permanent’ track. It’s usually used for pedestrian traffic like a street circuit, but when it comes time to hold a race at Bathurst, the track’s permanently set-up. So on a normal day in Bathurst, those barriers, curbs, and signs are still there, but the road is being used by civilians. When it’s time to race, they just close the roads off and let the race cars loose, very little construction is required.
Bathurst is famous for its many elevation changes and for having both high and low speed sections. It’s absolutely fantastic. In fact, the track has such variance in elevation that its official name is ‘Mount Panorama Circuit’, after the mountain it climbs. But this could have easily killed someone in one of the weirdest incidents in racing history, when THIS happened.
Bathurst in the rain is extremely difficult. Bathurst in heavy rain and wind is downright insane. 2010 was in heavy rain and wind. You do the math.
…Yeah, this race wasn’t going anywhere anytime too soon. In fact, it was over, having gone between ten and ten and a half of the scheduled twelve hours. No injuries were reported.
Still, a tree falling and causing a race to end early? That’s something you’d expect out of a race in the early 1900s, not 2010. Also, in one last twist, the name of the turn that the tree came down in is Forrest’s Elbow. It’s after a motorcycle racer named Jack Forrest, who pretty brutally scraped away his elbow during a race in the track’s early years.
2. In Order To Know The Conclusion (Dutch Supercar, Spa, 2008)
So close, yet so far.
…Unfortunately, ris-timing.be, my source for the results of this race, has 404`d. Hence, I must do it from memory. My memory is quite good, but I will leave out a few things (mostly driver names), and won`t be able to answer them. Things I implied are in italics, because little was given.
Dutch Supercar allows in so many different cars that it`s absolutely hysterical. Seriously, an LMP3 car, a GT3 car, a GTC car, and a GT2 car (second incarnation of GT2, so late 2000`s) all race in the same class. Honestly, I could do FIVE blogs on the Dutch Supercar Challenge…so not to kill you from boredom I won`t do five. I will do one, but not now, let`s just get to the #2 moment. This will be long and confusing, so bear with me.
A safety car was warranted for a Porsche going off in the early stages of the first of two Dutch Supercar races at Spa in 2008. The safety car, which I will from now on refer to as a Seat (because that`s what it was), picked up an ex DTM Audi. However, the Audi wasn`t the leader, the Marcos Marcorelly in front was. Cor Euser, the driver of the Marcos, took off for some reason, likely to find a better place than the top of Eau Rouge, the most spectacular and possibly most dangerous turn in all of racing, for the Seat to pass HIM, so he could slot in as the leader. The Seat took off after Cor, maybe expecting the Audi, the Mosler GT900R behind the Audi (these three cars, the Marcos, the Audi, and the Mosler, were all in the same class), and the rest of the field to follow it, but the Audi kept its speed, and the fans were treated to an amusing sight of the SAFETY CAR chasing a race car.
Seeing the Seat right behind him, and possibly fearing a collision, Cor did not stop on Kemmel. After leaving Kemmel, the Seat`s driver was asked what he was doing by the officials, and was told to go find a place to park and let the entire field wave itself around. So the drivers were informed, and Cor let the Seat speed by to go find a place to do a full field wave around.
The Seat`s driver told officials after a little while that he`d found a place to park. This is when things became incredible.
Paul Hogarth spotted the Seat slowing down on the outside of Blanchimont, in the same line that he was in. Luckily for him, he was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3! So he stomped on the brakes and slowed to the inside. Joost Den Ouden came across the Gallardo, in the same line he was in. Unluckily for him, he was driving an ex STW BMW…so he stomped on the brakes and couldn`t slow in time. Joost Den Ouden rode over the back of the Gallardo and angled off of it in such a way that he struck the slowing Seat`s driver`s side with his ROOF. The Seat shot off like an old street stock that just got struck in the door in a figure eight race at Slinger, as Joost Den Ouden`s car did several flips down the asphalt runoff of Blanchimont, coming to rest on its door. A few decent seconds passed until Willy Argenent spun his Marcos Mantis, just missing the Lambo, and coming to a stop on the track. Not one, not two, but three BMWs proceeded to ram into Argenent as he sat with his driver`s door facing traffic.
Unbelievably, no one was injured, but the race had to be stopped after just six laps, when apparently they had a 25 lap race planned. The win was given to Cor Euser.
Got that?…No? Well…tough.
1. In The Fires Of Ignition (USAC, Indy, 1971)
The first same day Indy 500 broadcast was in 1971 (it wasn`t actually LIVE, but was shown the same day, a first). The race itself wasn`t insane, but the pace car crash at the start of the race, well…yeah.
No major car companies wanted to provide a car, as muscle cars weren`t selling well. Enter Eldon D. Palmer, an Indianapolis dealer who headed a local effort to provide the track with several vehicles that could potentially be used as pace cars. In the end, they chose one of the cars, an open top Dodge Challenger. and in return Eldon was offered the position of pace car driver, to which he accepted. Eldon practiced his pace car run at least once the day prior to the event, and decided that he wanted to put down something as a marker for where to slow down. Some say it was an orange flag, and some say it was an orange cone. There are even those who say that he never put a marker down. However, Eldon`s intent to put the marker down can be confirmed (though again, whether or not he actually did so, along with what it was if he did put one down, no one knows). If the marker did exist, it was removed sometime before the race started.
Another unknown is where Eldon got a very bizarre idea from. In the mind of Eldon Palmer, he had to beat the race cars to the Yard of Bricks, or else…something. What he thought would happen is also unknown, but it seems likely that Eldon thought that, if the pace car had yet to cross the line when the leader did so, it would be a false start, and when the pace car DID cross the line, that would be a signal to the flagman to wave the green. It seems very unlikely that Eldon recalled this `rule` before his practice run, as if he had dashed down the pit lane at high speed, he`d surely have been told otherwise. There are a few more unanswered questions, but let`s get on to what happened.
On race day, Eldon, Tony George, ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and special ride-along guest John Glenn all hopped into the pace car and led the field around. It was a healthy field, with several big names such as Al Unser, who would go on to win the race, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Cale Yarborough, Mark Donohue, Denny Hulme, Donnie Allison, and Peter Revson. As poleman 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 massive photographer`s stand, injuring many but killing none, in an incident that didn`t even warrant a yellow. Schenkel was badly shaken and sat out the broadcast, but did not suffer any broken bones or sprains. George twisted an ankle. Palmer and Glenn were unhurt.
USAC chose to go with only professional drivers afterwards. Eldon held on to the car, later restoring and repairing it, until 2006, after which he sold it to a collector. The car, as of late 2014, was still in good shape. Eldon Palmer passed away on June 30th, 2016. He was 87.