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 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.
NOTE: I WILL BE INCLUDING GRAPHIC PHOTOS IN THIS ARTICLE. I WILL PROVIDE NO PRIOR WARNING, HOWEVER.
Also note that there will be no input from me, as I have never – and will never – listen to how the English broadcasters reacted to the crash. Blood is visible in the photos I will be showing.
On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America was attacked, and almost three thousand innocent lives were ended. Motorsport paid tribute in many different ways, and several races were either postponed or cancelled, including the NASCAR race in New Hampshire, which would eventually be held under the freezing late November sun. On the other hand, the planned German 500 CART race at Eurospeedway Lausitz in Germany was still held, but it did receive a name change to the American Memorial. Horrifyingly, the American Memorial almost saw the end of an extremely experienced and beloved veteran’s life in what is sometimes seen as the most violent non-fatal crash in all of open wheel racing.
If there’s one word that can describe Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi, it’s ‘daredevil’. Born in 1966 in Italy, Alex began karting at the age of four and eventually moved to Italian F3. He did well despite subpar speed, and eventually found his way into Formula 3000 in 1991, where he finished second.
In 1991, Zanardi made his debut in Formula One for Jordan. He finished ninth on debut in Spain, which wasn’t a points spot at the time, but was still a good run. He retired in Japan, and came home ninth again at Australia. In 1992, he attempted three races for Minardi, only qualifying for one, and even then he didn’t even last a lap in that one race. Zanardi switched to Lotus in 1993 and ran well when he finished, even netting a point with a sixth place at Brazil. Unfortunately, his season ended early after he was concussed during practice at Belgium. 1994 went terribly for Zanardi, and Lotus folded their team at year’s end. Zanardi spent 1995 racing sports cars, and during the fall traveled to the United States to see if he could find a ride in CART. He tested with Chip Ganassi and impressed them enough to secure a full time berth in 1996. Though his season started poorly, Zanardi started to pick up the pace, and at season’s end he was third in the points with three wins, one of these coming when he dove the car into the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca on the last lap to pass Bryan Herta. This move, known as “The Pass”, was ruled legal, but is no longer permitted.
Zanardi was a very popular driver on the CART scene. He often got himself into unneeded crashes, but when he finished races cleanly, it was usually towards the front. He won the 1997 and 1998 titles in CART with five wins in 1997 and seven, including four in a row, in 1998. However, Zanardi decided to depart CART for F1 in 1999, signing a contract with Williams. He never scored a point that year, and returned to the States in 2000. Zanardi spent the year testing, and eventually signed with Mo Nunn Racing in 2001.
On September 15th, 2001, Zanardi was leading at Lausitz, a new 2.023 mile oval in Klettwitz, Germany. The race, unlike many other major motorsport events, had not been cancelled, but had been renamed to the American Memorial in tribute to the lives lost during 9/11. The CART drivers were in Germany for a two race jaunt, with another race at the new speedway in Rockingham-Corby, UK coming up shortly thereafter. Zanardi had had a poor year for Mo Nunn Racing. He hadn’t won anything, and had a best finish of fourth. The pressure seemingly got to him when he floored the accelerator a little too hard while leaving the pit lane on lap 142 of 154, something he later admitted was likely on him.
Patrick Carpentier was informed over the radio that Zanardi was approaching. He was running up front, though he wasn’t right behind Zanardi, who was leading by thirty seconds. As Carpentier approached the merging Zanardi, he was stunned to see the #66 car spin. Looking for a lane, Carpentier swerved up the circuit and missed Zanardi by an inch. Unfortunately, Alex Tagliani was right behind Carpentier. His #33 car ran unsighted and full-bore towards Zanardi. He simply was unable to see it coming. Tagliani saw that he was too close to Zanardi to fully circumvent the #66, so he flicked his car to the left a little (which was revealed to have saved them both, as if Tagliani hadn’t aimed for the front, Zanardi would have perished instantly, and it’s likely Tagliani would have as well) and braced. Tagliani remembered screaming in his head, but Zanardi stated that he does not recall his reaction. In fact, the last thing he recalls was driver introductions that day.
Tagliani obliterated Zanardi’s Reynard at about 195mph, sending the #33 airborne and shearing off the #66’s front end completely and sending the rest of the car spinning around several times until it came to a stop near the wall, Zanardi facing away from the crowd. The race was yellow flagged and finished under caution, with Kenny Bräck being handed the win. In the meantime, officials rushed over to the scene, in disbelief.
The crash had done ungodly damage to Zanardi. Shrapnel and other pieces had gone flying, and the front of the car had been torn off. Even worse, Zanardi’s legs were completely destroyed, with director of medical affairs Steve Olvey noting that his legs had exploded as if he’d stepped on a land mine. His right leg was gone at the knee, and only a few inches of the upper left leg remained. He was bleeding out.
Chief orthopedic consultant Terry Trammell arrived on scene in a truck. From the truck, he thought he saw an oil slick on the circuit. When he stepped on the circuit, however, he noticed that the oil was actually blood, and before he could avoid it, Trammell had slipped. Trammell got back to his feet, slipped again, and then traveled to the scene on his knees. Trammell was stunned by the awful injuries suffered by Zanardi. His femoral arteries were both severed, and he was gushing blood “like a hose” (SI). Trammell opened an airway for Zanardi and used the remaining skin on his right leg to fold over the wound, after which he formed a tourniquet and stopped the bleeding. The left leg was another story, as there was not enough left there for the same procedure. As a last resort, Trammell used a crewman’s belt to stop the bleeding, only for it to loosen as Zanardi was loaded into the ambulance.
Olvey decided to request a chopper to take Zanardi to Berlin, and the chopper met the ambulance at the hospital. He was given a fifty-fifty shot of surviving the 50 kilometer trip to Berlin, and as such was given last rites from a priest. Olvey and Trammell went inside the hospital to go check up on Tagliani, who himself was injured, though not seriously. When they left, to their horror, they saw that the chopper was still outside the hospital, the German medics seemingly trying to stabilize Zanardi inside the chopper itself. It had been a little under nineteen minutes since the tourniquets had been applied, and Olvey knew that Zanardi’s chances had decreased further. Olvey recalled taking the pilot by his shirt and demanding he leave, first in English, then in the little German he knew. Within a few seconds, the chopper had departed.
Zanardi arrived at a trauma unit in Berlin fifty-six minutes after the crash. He’d already gone into cardiac arrest once on the chopper, and his vital signs were incredibly low. The average adult has a blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90, a hemoglobin count of 16, and four liters of blood in his or her body. Zanardi’s blood pressure was 60/0, his hemoglobin count was 3, and he only had one liter left of blood. Daniela Zanardi, his spouse, arrived some time thereafter. According to Ashley Judd, then-wife of Dario Franchitti, Daniela Zanardi took the news of Zanardi’s legs very well.
Zanardi, his wounds finally secured and closed as best as they could, went into surgery some time thereafter, where his legs were completely removed, and was awakened out of a coma three days later. He’d lost his legs, and had a long rehabilitation in his future, but he was alive.
Zanardi, who specially designed his own prosthetic legs, eventually returned to racing. He ran thirteen laps in a special car before CART’s return trip to Lausitz in 2003, those being the thirteen laps he never finished, and began running touring cars. He won several races in the World Touring Car Championship and also ran GT3 events such as Blancpain GT. He has since mostly retired from racing cars, though Zanardi does still run occasional races here and there as a special guest in mostly national events. Additionally, Zanardi competed in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He took two golds in London, including the Road Race event, which was partially held at Brands Hatch, and won two more golds at Rio. He’s still going strong, and he’s still as inspirational as ever.
“After the Miracle Having barely survived a horrific crash in which he lost both legs, Alex Zanardi is attacking rehab with the same passion and purpose that made him a racing champion”, Sports Illustrated, April 15, 2002
“Zanardi Loses His Legs in Crash”, Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2001
“Zanardi crash ‘like bomb had gone off'”, Crash.Net, September 21, 2001
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 Fatal Crash Of Neil Shanahan
On May 31, 1999, Neil Shanahan, a promising 19-year-old driver from Ireland, crashed into a barrier during a three car accident on lap two of the British Formula Ford Zetec Championship. The crash occurred at Clay Hill, a medium speed corner off of Knickerbrook, so while it was a massive hit, it apparently was not one most people would have expected to actually kill Neil. However, it did, and Neil died on the way to the hospital from massive head injuries. Oulton Park was heavily criticized for lack of proper safety features after the accident.
Neil’s parents were given the footage that was taken of his crash. They explained that they wished to understand exactly what happened. Very little mention of the footage has been made since.
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 ‘s possible 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 for its tires. 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. Very little is known about what exactly happened in the crash itself, but what is known is that the car took to the skies and struck the catchfence, killing Renna immediately. The catchfence and barrier were both in need of massive repair, and the bleachers behind turn three were apparently so thoroughly damaged that they might have been replaced.
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.
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.