Eight non-competitors have been killed during NASCAR Cup events, ranging from spectators to policemen to crew members to officials. Today, I’m going to give an overview speaking about what exactly happened and who they were.
On August 19th, 1956, a NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Division race was held at the Bay Meadows Race Track, a one mile oval in San Mateo, California. Though the race was for what’s now called the West Series, it did also count for Grand National points.
With about ten laps to go in the 250 mile race, backmarker Royce Hagerty crashed his car hard into the barrier. With the massive crowd interested to see if Hagerty was all right, several officers rushed onto the scene to keep them away from the fence. Conditions had been terrible that day, and drivers were unable to see very well. As such, there was little Scotty Cain could do when 46-year-old reserve officer Steve Clark of San Mateo stepped in his path.
Cain recalled later that conditions were so terrible that the only way he could see was by wiping away a small square of dirt on his windshield with his left hand. He only realized Clark was there when he struck him.
Clark died at the scene, and the race was stopped with 241/250 laps completed. Hagerty ended up being all right. The Bay Meadows Race Track was not used for any further stock car events, but it remained open to horse racing until 2008.
A third of the way through a race at the recently paved North Wilkesboro Speedway on October 20th, 1957, Tiny Lund threw a wheel on his Pontiac. Another car hit the wheel, and the tire went over the fence and into the crowd. The wheel squarely struck 28-year-old spectator W.R. Thomasson, a mechanic’s helper from Mount Holly, North Carolina. Thomasson died instantly. Also injured in the incident was Frank Campbell of Charlotte, who was released shortly thereafter. A caution was waved, and after both injured men had been taken to the hospital, the race resumed.
Thomasson remains the only spectator fatality in NASCAR’s top series.
PAUL MCDUFFIE, CHARLES SWEATLUND AND JOE TAYLOR
On lap 95 of the 1960 Southern 500 on September 5th, Floridian Bobby Johns was racing alongside independent driver Roy Tyner when the duo collided. The cars entered the pit lane, and to the horror of inaugural World 600 champion Joe Lee Johnson, they were headed right towards him. Johnson, who had been receiving service, sped away from his pit box just in time. Tyner and Johns passed into the pit lane, as there was no wall to separate it at the time, and struck the inside wall, with Tyner’s car bouncing away from the site of impact and Johns’ car backing into the wall at full speed and rolling onto its lid. This sent the concrete blocks which marked the inside wall flying into the pit area.
The pit lane was a mess, with several crew members injured. Three men had been killed in the mayhem, all victims of the blocks. They were identified as 32-year-old Paul McDuffie of Atlanta, Charles Sweatlund of Atlanta, and Joe Taylor of Charlotte. Also injured were mechanics Ralph Byers, R.M. Vermillion Jr., and John Blalock, all of Atlanta, as was bystander A.M. Crawford of North Carolina. Crawford’s injuries were considered minor, Byers and Vermillion Jr. had suffered serious injuries, and Blalock’s were considered critical, though he survived. Johns suffered minor injuries, and Tyner walked away.
McDuffie had been the crew chief for Fireball Roberts during Roberts’ excellent 1958 season, and was both the owner of and a mechanic on Johnson’s car. Sweatlund was also a mechanic for Johnson’s car, and Taylor was a NASCAR official, serving as the assistant inspector to Chief Inspector Norris Friel. Bill Gazaway was reportedly also almost struck.
Joe Lee Johnson withdrew from the race after the incident. NASCAR would eventually order the construction of a barrier to protect the pit lane.
On May 4th, 1975, Richard Petty was making a pit stop during the Winston 500 at Talladega when a fire was detected on a forward wheel bearing. Petty had been leading the race, which was on its 140th lap, so the crew worked frantically to try and put the fire out. Suddenly, an explosion was heard – but it wasn’t from the car.
20-year-old Randy Owens, the brother of Richard’s wife, the late Linda Petty, was tending to the car fire by using a water tank. Shortly after Petty had evacuated the car, the water tank blew up, splitting in two near the base. Owens was struck and instantly killed by the top section of the tank, which struck him in the upper chest and chin. The tank shot 100 feet into the air and came back down, almost striking Richard according to Benny Parsons’ crew chief, Travis Carter. Also injured in the explosion, which soaked the surrounding pit boxes and garage area, was Gary Rodgers, a crew member for Parsons. Rodgers suffered lacerations and was released from the hospital a short time later.
Petty withdrew from the race immediately after the explosion, and NASCAR provided the team with a plane back home. Randy left behind a wife and two children, including future crew chief Trent Owens, who was still an infant at the time. Chief mechanic for the Buddy Baker team Bud Moore suggested that the pop-off valve, a valve used to relieve pressure, may have stuck on the tank, though the exact cause of the explosion appears to have never been discerned.
On March 18th, 1979, Dave Watson, the 1977 ASA champion, was leading the Atlanta 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite the #37 Phil Howard-owned car not being one of the quicker cars on the grid, Watson had done a great job during the season, with one top ten in three races.
Around the race’s one-third mark, Watson was making his pit stop and had just shifted into a lower gear when the transmission locked, leading to the rear wheels skidding. 18-year-old high schooler Dennis Banister Wade, a recent hire for Howard’s team who had worked previously for Janet Guthrie, hopped over the wall with the jack and ran to where Watson was expected to be, only to be confronted by the spinning Monte Carlo. Wade was struck by Watson’s car and died at the scene. Watson withdrew from the race immediately. While his racing career continued, Watson would never race in the highest level of stock car racing again. No caution was flown for the incident. Buddy Baker, incidentially enough, emerged victorious at day’s end.
Bill Gazaway stated that there would be an investigation into the incident, but the results appear to have not been released, though he did not blame Wade, as Wade didn’t run too far out into the pit area. Wade was noted to have ‘frozen’ when Watson spun towards him.
While it isn’t shocking to think of the fact that there was once no pit road speed limit, it’s quite jarring to think that it took until 1990 for one to be put in place. This measure was made, of course, after a pit lane accident.
On November 18th, 1990, race leader Bill Elliott was making his last pit stop of the year at the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta Int’l Raceway. In the meantime, Ricky Rudd had entered the pit lane at speed and had started to slow to enter his own pit stall. Suddenly, under braking, Rudd’s #10 jerked left and slid backwards into Elliott’s #9, pinning two crew members.
42-year-old Tommy Cole, the jackman, was struck in the back and suffered an arm injury, but was later said to be in good condition. Michael Dawson Rich, the rear tire changer, however, was pinned for several minutes, and he suffered heavy crush injuries and other severe internal trauma. Rich, a 32-year-old married owner of a construction firm from Blairsville, Georgia, was airlifted to Georgia Baptist Hospital, where he died that night of a heart attack. Rich was conscious during transport, and reportedly was more concerned with whether Elliott could return to the race, which Elliott ultimately did not.
This accident led to the introduction of proper pit road speed limits, along with an odd-even system that was meant to ensure that cars had an open spot in front and behind at all times. The odd-even system was ditched shortly thereafter, but the pit road speed limit has remained to this day.
“Racing Cars Kill Officer At Track; Weekend Toll 4”, August 20th, 1956 edition of The Times (San Mateo)
“2 Mechanics And Inspector Killed At Darlington Race”, September 8th, 1960 edition of The Gaffney Ledger
“Gold Thunder: Autobiography of a NASCAR Champion”, book by Rex White and Anne B. Jones
“In Tragedy-Marred Talladega Race, Baker Over Pearson By Inches”, May 5th, 1975 edition of The High Point Enterprise
“Pit Crew Member At Atlanta 500; Man Killed In Racing Tragedy”, March 19th?, 1979 edition of the Charlotte Observer
“Crew member dies of accident suffered in Atlanta Journal 500”, November 18th, 1990 edition of UPI
This is the final part. Beforehand, I’m going to go over the list so far.
50. TIRE CHANGER JIMMY WATTS BRINGS OUT CAUTION AT ATLANTA, 2009
49. RON BURCHETTE PROVES THAT ARCA BRAKES EXIST AT DAYTONA, 1995
48. WTCC CARS PILE UP UNDER RED FLAG CONDITIONS AT MACAU, 2013
47. JEAN ALESI GETS MASSIVE JUMP START AT BAHRAIN, 2009
46. JARED CARLYLE JUMPS STEEPLECHASE HURDLE AT PUKEKOHE, 2007
45. NICOLAS MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS AT PIT-IN AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, 2011
44. PACE CAR GETS STOLEN BY DRUNKARD AT TALLADEGA, 1986
43. MASSIVE RAINSTORM HITS DURING ETCC RACE AT SILVERSTONE, 1984
42. RUBEN GARCIA ALMOST ENTERS CROWD AT RIVERSIDE, 1988
41. MASS DSQ CONDUCTED DURING ITALIAN F3 FINALE AT MONZA, 2012
40. ARCA ACTUALLY COMPLETES RAIN RACE AT PALM BEACH, 2010
39. DRIVER GETS TASED DURING FIGURE EIGHT RACE AT ANDERSON, 2017
38. RENAULT MEGANES PILE INTO SAFETY TRUCKS AT ZANDVOORT, 1998
37. JOHN PRIOR FLIPS AFTER CHECKERS DURING ARCA RACE AT DUQUOIN, 1985
36. RON FELLOWS MAKES STUPID MOVE UNDER YELLOW AT ROAD AMERICA, 2011
35. CRAIG JARVIS ROLLS HIS FERRARI DURING QUALIFYING AT KYALAMI, 2017
34. DRIVER’S SPONSOR STEALS HIS RACE CAR FOR STUNT AT ALTAMONT, 2006
33. HANS HEYER ILLEGALLY STARTS GERMAN GRAND PRIX, 1977
32. BERND MAYLANDER HITS MANHOLE IN THE STREETS OF SHANGHAI, 2004
31. FIRE LORRY FLIPS DURING SAFETY CAR PERIOD AT BRANDS HATCH, 2011
30. UTV CROSSES TRACK DURING INDOOR MIDGET RACE AT TRENTON, 2017
29. FORMULA THREE CAR FLIPS ON TOW LINE AT SNETTERTON, 2003
28. DRIVER FLIPS ON SIDE, ROLLS CAR BACK, CONTINUES AT PORTLAND, 1994
27. INFLATABLE ORANGE GETS BLOWN ONTO TRACK AT CHICAGOLAND, 2004
26. MARCOS AMBROSE’S INFAMOUS TIRE ROLL AT CANBERRA, 2001
25. IDIOT DRIVES CIVILIAN CAR ON TRACK DURING RACE AT BRANDS HATCH, 2014
24. FIERY INCIDENT INVOLVING MANHOLE ENDS RACE AT MONTREAL, 1990
23. EXPANDED GRID SIZE MADE MOOT BY START CRASH AT INDIANAPOLIS, 1997
22. PETER BRAID RAMPS ONTO SHELTER ROOF AT BLANDFORD, 1949
21. MASSIVE START PILEUP DURING BIG RIG RACE AT CAMPO GRANDE, 2005
20. MERCEDES CLR PROJECT EPIC FAILS AT LE MANS, 1999
19. SEVERAL CARS SPLIT AFTER HITTING FAN GATES AT BRISTOL, 1990/2002
18. R. KORDECKI STUPIDLY WRITES OFF FERRARI AT SLOVAKIARING, 2010
17. TEAM FINDS BLOWUP DOLL IN STALLED PORSCHE AT SEBRING, 1983
16. INCREDIBLE WEATHER DURING ENDURANCE RACE AT NURBURGRING, 2016
15. J.M. TRAVERSO WINS DESPITE CAR BEING ON FIRE AT GENERAL ROCA, 1988
14. DRIVER THROWS AWAY WIN AND TITLE AT MAR DEL PLATA, 2000
13. BUDDY BAKER’S INFAMOUS GURNEY FLIP AT SMOKY MOUNTAIN, 1968?
12. PORSCHE DRIVER CLIMBS ATOP ANOTHER’S ROOF AT NAVARRA, 2015
11. ALL CARS RUN OUT OF FUEL AT FORMULA FOUR RACE AT SEPANG, 2017
Now then, let’s get it all started.
10. A SCHOOL BUS ENTERS THE TRACK (2017, USF4, AUSTIN)
NEW TO LIST
I…have no idea what to say about this one.
School buses are often used at the Circuit of the Americas when it comes time to pick up marshals at day’s end, and are also used to give tours. One day in September 2017, the school bus driver was told to head out and fetch the marshals from their posts at 19:00 local time, when the racing would be either done or almost done. However, the day’s events ran very long, and at 19:00 there was still a United States Formula Four race going on, the last race of the day. The driver, having never been told not to set out at 19:00, did so. One wrong turn later, he found himself pulling onto the race track at turn six, leading to the 30 seat bus briefly driving backwards on the circuit.
Thankfully, the red flag was waved, and the field of about 30 to 35 was able to avoid the bus. Once it was assisted off the circuit, officials decided that they had the time to finish the event, and it was run to completion.
09. TWISTER DURING A RACE IN ARGENTINA (2016, TC MOURAS, CONCEPCION DEL URUGUAY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 32ND
We aren’t done with weather…
On November 27th, 2016, the TC Mouras series, a lower tier series feeding into the Turismo Carretera, a stock car series which serves as the highest level series in Argentina, was running a race at the Concepcion Del Uruguay circuit when a storm struck. The storm quickly grew worse, with heavy rain and lightning every which way. To make things even worse, a tornado touched down.
With the safety car out, the drivers pulled to the side of the track and sought cover. The tornado’s gusts measured to about 65mph, more than enough to damage the track’s facilities. In the nearby town, the tornado damaged the water facilities and power stations, knocking out those utilities for the next couple hours. During the storm, a rainfall of about two inches in two hours was recorded. Thankfully, despite the twister and extremely heavy rain, no one was badly injured in the storm. The race eventually resumed a few days later.
08. BAS SCHOUTEN’S SABOTAGE (2016, TCR GERMANY, ZANDVOORT)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 9TH
Okay, that’s just really selfish.
During a TCR Germany touring car race at Zandvoort in 2016, Dutchman Bas Schouten’s SEAT collided with a fellow competitor’s Volkswagen right out of the gate, damaging the suspension of the car and taking him out of the race. Schouten appears to have believed his car could continue after repairs, and was not pleased with Zandvoort’s officials dragging the car on its damaged suspension from the starting area, where he had crashed, to pit exit, which, admittedly, certainly made things worse. Apparently, officials also told him that he’d have to either have his car wheeled back or get a flatbed himself. Out of anger, Schouten told his team to put the car on a jack and leave it at pit exit, which is exactly what they did. With the medical car unable to access the circuit due to Schouten’s car being in the way, the red flag was flown. Schouten was ejected from the circuit, and the race was eventually resumed, though due to the lack of time to run many more laps, it only gave half points. Schouten would be excluded from race one and did not start race two.
I have never seen that sort of sabotage and bitterness during a race…
07. TAKI INOUE (1995, F1, MONACO/HUNGARY)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 5TH
Formula One driver Taki Inoue really didn’t have a very good 1995.
During the season, he was struck by the course car not once, but twice. First up was at Monaco during practice. The Footwork suffered a failure, and a flatbed lorry started taking him back to the pits, with a towrope towing the car behind it and its nose just atop the flatbed itself. Out of nowhere, the safety car, a Renault Clio who according to autosport was driven by Jean Ragnotti, a rallyman, with current FIA President Jean Todt in the passenger seat, rounded the corner and struck the Footwork in the back. The crash lifted the footwork up and sent it onto its lid. Taki had undone his belts and his helmet, though he still kept his helmet on. The crash ended up dumping him partially out of the car, dealing him a concussion and several other injuries. The FIA reviewed the incident and blamed neither Ragnotti or Inoue, and said that they would negotiate damages with Footwork. Inoue was allowed to use his second car in qualifying, but he chose to skip qualifying and only run the race itself, which didn’t last very long as the Footwork blew up early on.
Things only got worse for Inoue at the Hungaroring later that year. The car caught fire during the race and he pulled to the side of the road, looking to fetch a fire extinguisher. Once he found one, he ran back, failing to notice the presence of an approaching course car. Oops.
Inoue is retired now, and he’s more than willing to make fun of himself on social media.
06. TREE FALLS OVER (2010, BATHURST 12H, BATHURST)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 3RD
Bathurst is one of the most exciting circuits in the world. Between long straights leading into sharp turns and sweeping esses with heavy elevation changes and little runoff, navigating the Mount Panorama Circuit is one of the biggest accomplishments by any drivers.
Rain marred the 2010 Bathurst 12 Hour, the last edition of the race before they switched from production cars to sports cars. About 40% of the race was spent behind the safety car either due to crashes or heavy rain.
Around hour seven of the race, a red flag was suddenly warranted. Drivers scrambled to find out what was wrong, and soon found the issue: a tree had come down at the coincidentially named Forrest’s Elbow, a turn named many years prior when motorcycle racer J. Forrest scraped his elbow away in the 1940s. Thankfully no one was injured, and the only damage was to a spectator’s vehicle according to drive.com.au. The tree was removed with a chainsaw, which delayed the race by an hour.
The 2009 edition of the Bathurst 12h completed 239 laps at the end. The 2010 edition, through all its delays, only finished 202.
05. MONTOYA HITS THE JET DRYER (2012, NASCAR CUP, DAYTONA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 8TH
The 2012 Daytona 500 was bizarre. A race that had never been delayed by rain was pushed off until Monday night at 19:00, and then things only got stranger from there.
Around lap 160, David Stremme’s car blew up, spilling fluids everywhere. A pit stop cycle was conducted, and Dave Blaney decided to stay out. Little did he know that he’d soon be trying to persuade the officials to award him the win in the most important race in his life.
Juan Pablo Montoya was in the pit lane believing that he had a severe vibration. According to a later Yahoo! article, the team briefly looked around the car and could not find an issue, and he was sent back out. It turned out that his concern was warranted, and entering turn three, an axle snapped on the car, sending it straight up the circuit and into the back of a jet dryer, which had been lapping the outside of the circuit in an attempt to clean the fluids spilled. The jet engine in the back was jarred into the air, and it swiftly exploded. The jet fuel was spread down the backing, found a spark in the passing car of Terry Labonte, and began to burn. Juan quickly bailed from the car, and officials quickly helped the jet dryer’s driver, identified as 52-year-old Duane Barnes of Michigan, from his vehicle. Nobody was injured.
NASCAR looked upon the scene and briefly weighed whether they should bother continuing on with the race, but eventually decided that they could complete the show. After a two hour cleanup, the race resumed, and Matt Kenseth swiftly got a jump and never looked back. By the time Kenseth took the checkers, it was 02:00 on Tuesday morning. Blaney finished 15th.
Apparently, Montoya, who has moved to sports cars, is frequently reminded of the incident, with even his sponsors unable to help themselves. Duane Barnes passed away in July 2015 at the age of 55. His cause of death was not given, though it was considered unexpected.
04. WHEEL FALLS OFF CAR AND REMOUNTS ITSELF (BEFORE 2000, HOBBY STOCKS, BAKERSFIELD)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 4TH
Featured on an episode of RealTV was an incredible incident at the Bakersfield Speedway, which saw a hobby stock driver by the last name of Nolan or Noland or something like that spin in turn three and strike a stalled car. The #5 hobby stock suffered a loose wheel in the incident. As he rounded turn four, the wheel came off the frame and rolled alongside his car for a bit, then rolled back into the car, somehow remounting itself. Of course, the tire was deflated, and the #5 was headed to this pits anyway, but it was still an unforgetable sight.
I was never able to find very much on the incident, so it was time to go searching.
First source was the track owner, who said he took over in 2003, and it did not occur during his ownership. RealTV ended after 2001, so it wasn’t 2002. Due to the show getting a new host in the middle of 2000, and not the end of the year, I can fully eliminate 2001, and can all but eliminate 2000, though it’s possible that it was in early 2000 and the incident was shown on RealTV in the summer.
I found a driver name in some results dating back to 2000, running a #5 car and possessing a very similar name to what was audibly heard in the clip, that being Raymond Noland, Sr. The Noland family has raced at Bakersfield for years, with Karl, Sr. and Raymond Noland, Sr. both finding a lot of success in the Hobby Stock division. Their sons, Karl, Jr. and Raymond, Jr., respectively, have picked up the torches.
So while the driver is almost certainly Raymond Noland, Sr., I don’t have a year. If you have any further information, let me know.
03. ROLLING INTO THE SAFETY CAR (2008, DUTCH SUPERCAR, SPA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 2ND
Supercar Challenge, also known as Dutch Supercar Challenge, is one of the most unique series in the world. In it, touring cars, sports cars, and prototypes alike race alongside one another, sometimes in the same class. This can lead to some bizarre, yet exciting, photographs, though this one might be taking it too far.
Shortly after the start of the first race of two during the Spa Euro Races weekend at Spa in 2008, the safety car was warranted when a Porsche spun off course. The safety car, however, ended up picking up the second place ex-DTM Audi #103 of Arjan Van Der Zwaan instead of the leading #109 Marcos Marcorelly of Cor Euser. Euser took off, with the safety car in hot pursuit. After a minute or two of pure confusion, officials eventually instructed the safety car to pull off to the side of the road and let the field pass it by so it could pick up the leader. It did so at Blanchimont.
As the Seat safety car slowed to a crawl, the #138 of Paul Hogarth in a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 slammed on the brakes to avoid him. #416 Joost Den Ouden, running a BMW E36, reacted in the same way, but could not avoid plowing into the back of Hogarth, his car’s brakes being far inferior to that of Hogarth’s. The BMW ramped the Lamborghini, flipped onto its door, slammed the Seat off course and into the tire wall, and did several rolls before coming to rest on its door. After a few seconds, the #333 Marcos Mantis of José Bermudez De Castro spun around in avoidance, only for the #323 BMW Z3 V8 of Willy Angenent to pile into the Mantis, soon followed by another, unidentified BMW. A third BMW, the #308 BMW Compact driven by Laurens Gooshouwer, then plowed headlong into the back of the Mantis with incredible violence. Amazingly, no one was injured, and the driver of the Seat quickly scrambled over the barriers. The race was abandoned shortly thereafter, with Euser being awarded the win.
02. CRASHING THE PACE CAR (1971, USAC, INDIANAPOLIS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 1ST
In 1971, muscle cars were selling poorly, and no one wanted to provide a pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Enter Eldon Palmer, an Indianapolis dealer who headed a local effort to provide the track with several vehicles to choose from. They chose an open top Dodge Challenger out of the lot, and Eldon was given the position as its driver in return.
Eldon practiced his pace car run the day before, and he decided to set down a marker to indicate when to brake. No one knows what the marker was or if there even was one, but come race day a marker wasn’t there. Not helping the fact was that, apparently, Eldon believed that he would have to beat the field to the line. What he thought would happen if he failed to do so is unknown.
On race day, Eldon, Tony Hulman, ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and special ride-along guest John Glenn all hopped into the pace car and led the field around. As poleman Peter Revson held the inside of the front row and waited for the green, Eldon accelerated down the pit lane, reaching 125mph. He noticed that his marker was not where he thought it was, and mashed the brakes. The Dodge slid sideways and plowed over a photographer’s stand, in an incident that didn’t even warrant a yellow. Many of the photographers on the stand were injured, but amazingly, no one was killed. Schenkel was badly shaken and sat out the broadcast, but did not suffer any broken bones or sprains. Hulman twisted an ankle. Palmer and Glenn were unhurt.
After this, officials decided to solely use professional drivers. Eldon eventually sold off the Challenger, which was restored and as of 2014 is in good condition. Eldon Palmer passed away in 2016, at the age of 87.
01. THE GIMLI GLIDER (1983, WINNIPEG SPORTS CAR CLUB, GIMLI)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 6TH
On July 23rd, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 took off from Montreal for Edmonton, with a stopover in Ottawa, with 69 aboard.
Canada had recently begun to switch from Imperial to Metric, and Air Canada had just purchased a few Boeing 767s, which used Metric instead of Imperial. According to the National Post, the computer that calculated how much fuel was needed was out of commission, so the ground crew had to calculate by hand.
Jet fuel’s volume depends on the temperature, so it was impossible to know them by heart. The ground crew checked their papers and saw that the conversion factor to kilograms at current temperature was 1.77, so they multiplied the factor by the amount of liters aboard for the current fuel load, subtracted the result from how much fuel in kilograms was needed for how much fuel to add, and divided that result by 1.77 to get the amount of fuel they needed to add. These equations led the ground crew to believe that they only needed to add 5000 liters to the about 8000 already in the tanks.
However, 1.77 was actually the conversion factor for liters into pounds. The actual conversion factor for liters into kilograms was 0.803, and they actually needed 20000 liters, meaning they only had fuel for half the flight. The pilots doublechecked and found the conversions to be sound, again using the incorrect factor.
Over western Ontario, the inevitable happened. The plane ran out of fuel in mid-flight, forcing the pilot to glide. By a stroke of luck, he had been trained as a glider, and his co-pilot, upon recognizing that they couldn’t get to Winnipeg, suggested the base where he’d been trained, Gimli, Manitoba. He was unaware that it had since been decommissioned, and had become a race track.
While the crowds lined up to watch the start of an open wheel race, the hulking behemoth came in for an emergency landing. The pilot had not only gotten to Gimli, something Air Canada’s finest were unable to duplicate in a simulator, but he had put the plane on the ground without injury, just a few hundred feet from the race track’s guardrail.
Gimli Motorsports Park’s still open, and hasn’t changed very much over the years. The Glider plane itself has been disassembled, though if you’d like you can purchase a little piece of the plane in the form of a trinket online.
Well, that’s the end of that. Nothing beats a plane coming in during a race, eh? Thank you for being so patient with me, and it’s great to finally have this list over and done with. If you are curious as to why something was not included, let me know and I’ll tell you if I considered it and why it wasn’t included, or if I completely forgot about it, because with a list this big there’s bound to be something for me to forget.
Now before I end this, here’s a bonus entry. Due to the circumstances surrounding it I could not include it (the subject of the incident was killed and it occurred after the race’s completion), but it’s just too strange to not mention. So, I decided I’d talk about it at the end. If I could include it, it probably would have slotted in in around 9th or so. Well, thanks for reading through this monstrosity, and I’ll leave you with this bonus entry. See you later!
00. CRAZED MAN ENTERS THE SPEEDWAY (1991, CART, INDIANAPOLIS)
NEW TO ‘LIST’
Early in the morning on Wednesday, May 29th, 1991, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had just held the 75th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and permanent and civilian employees alike had gathered to clean the track up. However, they had an unexpected guest.
Stephen C. White, a 31-year-old self employed carpenter, entered the speedway through a gate, presumably by a track worker who believed that White, driving a ’79 GMC C/K, was a temporary worker who was there to help out, of which there were apparently a few hundred. Instead, White began to do several hot laps of the speedway in the old truck, waving and smiling along the way according to The Indianapolis Star. He completed about four laps before Luther Wray, a speedway foreman, drove a Dodge Caravan onto the circuit and began waving White down. White instead veered towards the Caravan and collided with it at about 100mph. Wray avoided injury by darting towards and climbing the catchfence, but White died on impact.
Though toxicology reports appear to have not been made public, White was stated to be a manic depressive on medication who had last been accounted for the night prior. Police theorized that this was a suicide attempt on the part of White.
With high-level racing becoming more and more demanding and expensive, it’s becoming more and more rare to see journeymen who worked low paying jobs during the week spending their weekends racing in the top leagues, with ARCA usually serving as the upper limit nowadays. But there was a day in which America’s workers and laborers could race in the Cup Series and in Indycar, maybe even both, on the weekend. One of these journeymen was Bruce Jacobi.
Born on June 23rd, 1935 in Salem, Indiana as the first of two children of Fred and Helen Jacobi, Harold Bruce Jacobi got his start on the short tracks of Indiana before eventually moving to the USAC Champ Cars. Jacobi was a privateer, going to smaller teams and bringing their cars home. He was never quick, but he could finish. Jacobi attempted 74 races between 1960 and 1970, qualifying for 38 of them. His best finish was at Springfield in 1970, where he finished fourth, and out of the 38 races he made, never ran more than five for the same team.
Jacobi, however, never qualified for the Indianapolis 500, despite six attempts. He failed to qualify in 1962, 1963, and 1966, did not make an attempt in 1967, failed to qualify in 1970, and withdrew in 1973. In the meantime, Jacobi traveled the country, finding rides and running whatever races he could find. From Pennsylvania to California, Jacobi left his mark every which way. In the meantime, Jacobi kept busy with employment as a carpenter.
It was off to NASCAR in 1975, where Jacobi would remain for the next couple of years. Out of 20 races, Jacobi took three top tens, all in 1975, where he ran part time for Opal Voight. This would be Jacobi’s only part time season in NASCAR.
After that, Jacobi hopped between teams and raced in NASCAR every once in awhile while continuing to race back home and all over. In one of these rides, Bruce suffered one of the most violent NASCAR crashes of the 1970s.
During last-chance qualifying for the 1977 World 600, Rick Newsom lost control of his car off of turn four and was blindsided by Jacobi, running the #78 Chevrolet for Tom Goff. Jacobi’s car went airborne and rolled violently end over end down the chute. Despite an impact so hard that it ripped Newsom’s engine out of his car and sent it spinning down the track, Jacobi escaped with minor injuries. Newsom was treated for a foot injury.
This crash, in fact, summarizes Jacobi’s career. He was never a very lucky driver. Wife Yada Jacobi, whom Bruce married in 1969 in a ceremony held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself, recalled an instance where Jacobi was struck by a flywheel at the Brickyard and had to be replaced for the main event, with a young man named Mario Andretti taking over. In fact, according to Yada, with whom Bruce had three children, there was an instance where Bruce was pronounced dead after a crash at a race track in Pennsylvania, only to give a worker a little kick while being wheeled to the morgue. Yet Jacobi loved racing so much that he would sometimes race on a carpenter’s wage. The risks of racing never seemed to faze Jacobi.
Bruce entered Speedweeks 1983 rideless, and decided to head to the speedway to try his luck on picking up a ride. There he came across Bob Meazell, who owned a #05 Colonial Motors/All American Homes Pontiac Grand Prix. Bob needed a driver, as he wasn’t confident in piloting a Pontiac, and the Wednesday before the 500, and only one day before the qualifying races, the two agreed that Bruce would drive the car. On lap 5 of the 50 lap first duel, Bruce was running towards the back on his own when the car broke loose. The exact cause of the crash is unknown, though many drivers reported that it had been extremely windy that day, and that they actually were having their cars lifted off the ground a little. In any case, the #05 spun into the infield off of turn two and went airborne before proceeding to viciously cartwheel through the grass.
The car rolled front over back, back over front, several times through the infield before eventually coming to rest on its wheels near the earth embankment. Jacobi was removed from the car unconscious and was swiftly transported to the hospital with critical brain injuries, likely caused by a partial failure of the roll cage.
Jacobi spent some time in Halifax Hospital before eventually being transported to a nursing home in Indianapolis. He regained partial consciousness sometime thereafter, and would be in this state for four years, his mobility having been severely compromised, though not lost entirely. Yada Jacobi, who had run a few endurance races herself in the 1960s, was frequently at his bedside, and while Bruce never fully regained consciousness, his condition deteriorated when Yada wasn’t at his side. “I think we have a much deeper, more understanding relationship now, although it’s hard to describe.”, she told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Bruce Jacobi passed away on February 4th, 1987 in the Methodist Hospital at Indianapolis, aged 51. Some of Bruce’s racing memorabilia is stored at the Stevens Museum in Salem, Indiana, serving as a reminder of the days when a laborer’s dream to one day race in the top American series could come true.
“Jacobi Escapes Fire in Charlotte Crash”, May 28th, 1977 issue of The Tennessean
“The wife of gravely injured Bruce Jacobi says her…”, February 23rd, 1983 issue of UPI
“Dying driver was excited about Daytona, wife says”, February 24th, 1983 issue of the Arizona Republic
“A racer’s wife copes with tragedy”, February 22nd, 1983 issue of The Orlando Sentinel
“Jacobi Draws Strength From His Wife, YaDa”, July 4th, 1984 issue of the Daytona Beach News-Journal
“Bruce Jacobi Nearly Dies Of Pneumonia”, February 16th, 1984 issue of the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Ruben Garcia of South El Monte, California is one such journeyman. According to the LA Times, Garcia started out in 1970 after getting back from Vietnam making $2.50 an hour building motorhomes. In 1985, he was president of R&R Custom Coachworks, Inc., a motorhome distributor that raked in $32 million in 1984. Garcia raced every now and again throughout the 1970s, but when he finally returned to racing in 1984 after a few years off, he immediately found success, finishing third in the 1985 Winston West points with two wins. Garcia was even able to qualify for a few NASCAR Cup races at Riverside.
In 1988, during the very last NASCAR race at Riverside, Garcia drove his #32 Pick-Your-Part Chevrolet Monte Carlo car into the top 20, but on lap 29 of 95, it all came to an end. Something broke and the car veered hard left off of turn nine. The car entered an opening in the barrier and struck an angled steel guardrail protected by a tire wall, which was easily folded by the car. It went through a chainlink fence from there, then collapsed a brick wall with a set of barrels behind it. The car came to a halt against one final barrier protecting the crowd, and Ruben got out of the car unhurt, but he did not start any further Cup or West races after that.
41. MASS DQ AT THE ITALIAN F3 FINALE (2012, ITALIAN F3, MONZA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 21ST
As national and regional Formula Three leagues start to fall by the wayside and Formula Four begins to take over as the go-to for national leagues, the amount of national F3 leagues thin to a point where as of 2017 there are only five: Japan, Brazil, Austria, Australia, and Switzerland, a ‘Formula Three’ league in Britain that actually just runs souped-up F4 cars, and two European leagues, one of which, European Formula Three, will be merging with GP3 in 2019.
Italian F3 concluded a run which had begun in 1964 in 2012, and its last race was rather controversial. Ten cars, two Mygales and eight Dallaras, entered the Monza finale, with Romain Agostini’s Mygale leading with 240 points over a pair of Dallaras, Brandon Maisano, who had 229 and Eddie Cheever III, who had 227. Cheever won race one and was able to gain a few points on Agostini, but then it all went downhill.
For reasons I could never find described beyond ‘technical infractions’, Cheever and Maisano were both disqualified from race two, handing Agostini the championship. It then proceeded to worsen when all eight Dallaras were disqualified from race three. Once again I never found a specific reason, but every Dallara in the field was disqualified, leaving only two cars classified: Romain Agostini and fellow Mygale Nicholas Latifi. What a way to wrap up forty eight years of racing…
40. ARCA FINISHES A RAIN RACE (2010, ARCA, PALM BEACH)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 18TH
As mentioned earlier, ARCA can be a bit of a fail series from time to time. However, it’s actually done something that NASCAR’s top series has never done: run a rain race.
Rain racing is part of motorsports. Every now and again, drivers throw on some rain tires and inch their way around the circuit. Stock cars very, very rarely rain race, however, mostly because it’s almost always only a road course thing. Races like the Daytona 500 can’t be held in the rain, of course. NASCAR has rain raced on an oval once before with its European division at the Tours Speedway, a literal parking lot oval with drainage systems which permit racing in a light shower, and has run a few rain races in the Xfinity Series. The Cup Series has never used rain tires in a race, however. Not including the Elkhart Lake race in 1956, which came in a day where drivers could use almost any kind of tire they wanted as long as the tires were a certain width and height, the most the Cup Series has ever done in the rain is a practice session. Yet ARCA, usually seen as the joke series, ran a rain race at Palm Beach in 2010, and it went over just fine, with Justin Marks bringing home the trophy. Pretty ironic that the lower series accomplishes one of the toughest jobs in motorsports, something the top series has never even tried, isn’t it?
39. A DRIVER GETS TASED (2017, FIGURE EIGHT, ANDERSON)
NEW TO LIST
Racing is heated, but sometimes fights can get out of hand. There was, of course, the fight between Michael Simko and Don St. Denis at the 2006 Glass City 200 at Toledo where Simko dropkicked St. Denis’ windshield, but at a figure eight race at Anderson Speedway in Indiana in 2017, things got even worse.
During a race in mid October, Jeff Swinford and Shawn Cullen were unable to stay off one another, apparently colliding three times during a duel for the top spot. After one last bit of contact, Swinford drove his #3 car straight for Cullen’s stalled #33 vehicle. Swinford drove his car atop Cullen’s nearly crushing Cullen, and Cullen, infuriated, rushed out of his car and began punching Swinford repeatedly for a good thirty seconds, requiring an officer’s interventions.
Cullen was tased by the responding officer, and both drivers were arrested. According to the Associated Press, Cullen was charged with disorderly conduct, and Swinford was charged with misdemeanor criminal recklessness. Despite Cullen being tased, Swinford was the one being hung out to dry, as due to what was seen as a calculated maneuver to both attack Cullen and damage his car further, Swinford will likely never be allowed back to the Anderson Speedway, and was also fined all of the money he earned during all races he ran at the Anderson Speedway in 2017. Cullen was suspended for at least two events for leaving his car before the red flag could be flown. Both were DQ’d from the event as well.
38. REPEATEDLY HITTING THE SAFETY TRUCK (1998, RENAULT MEGANE, ZANDVOORT)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 17TH
Masters of Formula Three’s relevance and necessity has decreased with F3 itself. The race, which is held at Zandvoort, saw 47 entries in 1998 and only 16 in 2016, and wasn’t even held in 2017. However, Zandvoort is a good track choice for the race, with its undulating turns and many sand pits, the track is far from easy.
During a Renault Megane support race during the Masters of Formula Three weekend in 1998, a driver by the surname of Van Der Waals crashed on the end of the second lap after hitting some debris, sending his car airborne, but not injuring him. A local yellow was waved, and a safety truck arrived to assist Van Der Waals, who was standing near the barrier for whatever reason.
Two cars dueling for position entered the last bend, and they both spun out. Van Der Waals hopped over the barrier just in time, and was forced to watch as the pair slammed into the back of the safety truck, knocking it into Van Der Waals’ car and sending the Renault to the inside of the circuit. Another safety truck arrived on scene, only to get rear ended by another spinning car. The first safety truck was then hit hard by a car that just didn’t turn. According to Ritzsite, no injuries were reported, and the race was red flagged and run to completion later that day.
Zandvoort’s social media said that the cause of this crash was a mix of the drivers not respecting the yellow flags and the day’s Meganes being bulkier and much easier to lose control of if the throttle is suddenly lifted.
37. JOHN PRIOR FLIPS AFTER THE RACE (1985, ARCA, DUQUOIN)
NEW TO LIST
Crashes after the race ends are rare, but they do occur, as drivers often still have a rush of adrenaline coarsing through their veins even after the checkered flag falls. Technically, Austin Dillon’s terrible crash at Daytona in 2015 was after the flag, though drivers were still at speed, as Daytona is not somewhere where you can slow down after the race. The one mile dirt oval at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois is not a superspeedway, yet John Prior proved that these accidents can happen anywhere and still be spectacular.
Lee Raymond was class of the field at the 1985 ARCA race at DuQuoin, passing Gary Bettenhausen early and, for the most part, hanging on to the lead for the rest of the 200 mile race. After Bettenhausen fell back, Dean Roper was the one chasing Raymond, though with the exception of a pit stop cycle he never passed him.
John Prior’s #00 and Bob Brevak’s #34, however, were the ones putting on a real show. The pair apparently traded the third spot several times in the last few laps, with Prior prevailing. Prior, a local driver, beat Brevak in a side by side duel, then proceeded to slide right into the turn one guardrail and flip his car after the checkered flag had already flown. Prior was okay.
36. RON FELLOWS’ STRANGE MANEUVER (2011, NASCAR N’WIDE, ELKHART LAKE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 11TH
When NASCAR takes to Elkhart Lake, everyone wins. They always put on a wonderful show, and unexpected winners are frequently seen, with Nelson Piquet, Brendan Gaughan, the luckless Michael McDowell, and even independent veteran Jeremy Clements possessing victories at the circuit. In 2011, when the race was still a 200 miler rather than its current 180, road racing expert Ron Fellows was hoping to be that surprise winner. So when Justin Allgaier ran out of fuel under the race-ending yellow and Reed Sorenson was slowing down even further, he zoomed on by and was picked up by the pace car. However, when NASCAR reviewed the footage, they eventually gave the win to Sorenson. Why?
You cannot pass under yellow, of course. However, if due to driver neglect, a dry fuel can or mechanical issues, you are free to. There is no need to stay behind a driver who has stalled on the track. Sorenson did slow down, but not by very much, and he quickly got back going. After all, he’d just seen his teammate run out of fuel. Fellows appeared to read the rules too literally, seeing Sorenson slightly slow down and assuming he was out of fuel when he wasn’t. Sorenson was given the win at the end with Fellows second, and Fellows was not penalized further.
Sports cars are interesting to see race. They’re beautiful, sleek, and powerful, but on the other hand, one mistake and a million dollar racer can be lost, a massive hit to the pockets of teams and especially privateers…usually.
Extreme Supercars is a standard sports car series from South Africa in which Ferraris, Lambos, BMWs, and Porsches duel one another, with occasional appearances by Ford GTs, Alfa Romeos and McLarens. One common racer in this series is Craig Jarvis, who according to his own Facebook is a CEO at a company which assists in streamlining the medical billing process.
During a qualifying session at Kyalami in early November 2017, Craig wrapped up his lap and shifted to the inside, where he collided with Johann Engelbrecht’s Porsche GT2 RS. Johann spun his Porsche into the wall, and Craig, who according to Engelbrecht’s team was unaware of Johann’s presence, backed his Ferrari 458 GT3 into the steel guardrail, sending the sleek sports car rolling end over end. Both drivers were okay, but Johann’s Porsche was badly damaged, and Craig’s Ferrari was a write off.
Despite this all, Craig posted to his Facebook within a few days of the crash that he’d acquired a new Ferrari, apparently having received an insurance payout. Insurance? On a Ferrari you use in racing? That’s news to me…
34. TAXBRAIN STEALS JUSTIN PHILPOTT’S CAR (2006, SUPER LATE MODEL, ALTAMONT)
NEW TO LIST
Forgiveness is a privilege to some.
In the mid 2000s, Justin Philpott was one of the up and coming super late model racers in California, running at Altamont and Stockton 99. He eventually caught the eye of tax sorting company Taxbrain. Taxbrain got its wanted publicity on the sixteen-year-old’s super late model, but apparently they wanted more, and they decided to 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 Speedway, but no one else, and on August 13, 2006, they executed their plan. According to the East Bay Times, an unnamed actor hopped the fence, got in the car while the Philpotts were celebrating a win, and took off. He did about two or three laps before being stopped by a combination of Justin’s brother and a wrecker backed onto the circuit by track officials.
After a lengthy investigation, undisclosed sanctions were laid against Taxbrain, and no charges were filed. Bizarrely, however, Justin Philpott chose to keep Taxbrain for his moving up to the All American Series in 2007. In fact, Philpott, who is still racing in southern California and is still very successful, made one of the strangest moves I have ever seen a racer make. Instead of leaving a sponsor who conducted a stunt that could have easily killed him and his family behind him…
…Justin stayed with Taxbrain for about another five years. So uh…are you sure that’s a good idea, Justin?
Well, we’re back. I decided to redo this list and see what new incidents and bouts of stupidity I could add. Fifty strange, bizarre and wild moments across the racing spectrum. I will not be including drag racing, motorcycles, or rallies simply to ease up on my selections. Maybe I’ll do separate lists for those another day, but for now…let’s get started.
50. JIMMY WATTS TIRE INCIDENT (2009, NASCAR CUP, ATLANTA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 43RD
On lap 69 of the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a tire was spotted rolling out into the quadoval grass by several crewmen during the pit stop cycle. NASCAR’s policy is for crewmen to stay put if this happens, but evidently someone was not listening.
By trade a fireman in his late thirties, Jimmy Watts, the gasman for the #47 JTG-Daugherty car of Marcos Ambrose and a NASCAR crewman since at least 1998 according to the LA Times, rushed out to gather the tire and rolled it back to waiting officials. The pit stop cycle was under way, so had he not done this, NASCAR likely would have waited until the tire rolled further towards the track surface to throw the caution. However, with a crew member in the infield, NASCAR was forced to put the race under yellow during the pit stop cycle, trapping several cars a lap down. Watts would be banned for four races, with last updates noting the possibility of further penalties. He was also put on probation for the rest of the year. Watts publicly apologized, and even Marcos Ambrose himself noted that Watts’ decision to fetch the tire was not very smart.
Interestingly, according to motorsport.com, Watts was a fire captain in the city of Charlotte in 2002, and was mourning the loss of a fireman under his watch at the time of the interview. Watts knew tragedy, making this decision to cross the track even less understandable. Watts still works as a firefighter in the Charlotte area, and he still works as a gasman for Front Row Motorsports according to NASCAR’s website.
49. ARCA BRAKES DURING PRACTICE (1995, ARCA, DAYTONA)
NEW TO LIST
During practice for the 1995 ARCA Daytona 200, 1990 ARCA Series champion Bob Brevak, a grizzled veteran making one of his last couple starts in the series, spun his car and backed it into the wall in turn four. The veteran was uninjured, and the red flag was waved on the session as a safety truck arrived on scene.
ARCA is famous for the term ‘ARCA Brakes’, meaning drivers refuse to slow down in a crash. Though mostly falsely attributed to the ARCA Series, there have indeed been many instances of them in the series itself, with the following being a fairly unknown one.
Ron Burchette, an owner driver from North Carolina who mostly ran the big tracks, refused to slow down as he entered the accident scene and shot in between the stalled #34 and the safety truck. Burchette eventually slowed to a stop on the trioval apron, where he was promptly yelled at by the usually level-headed track workers. Brevak would fail to finish the 200, while Burchette, who retired from ARCA after a spectacular crash in the infamous Atlanta race the next year, finished tenth.
48. CRASH UNDER RED (2013, WTCC, MACAU)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 30TH
The World Touring Car Championship fell during its last couple years, but it made a few attempts to get the crowd back before its merger with TCR in 2018 such as the reintroduction of the famous Guia Race of Macau and some new gimmicks such as rallycross-style Joker Laps. But back to Macau, it’s a twisty hillside circuit with a few full speed highway sectors. Over the top of one of these hills was where the field would epic fail in 2013.
During the race, Tom Chilton suffered an exhaust failure on his Chevrolet Cruze and stalled the car at Maternity. Local driver Eurico de Jesus, in a Honda Accord, rounded the blind turn and, unsighted, plowed into the back of Chilton. Franz Engstler stopped his BMW 320 on the track’s outside, and so did Yvan Muller in his Cruze. Macanese driver Felipe de Souza in a Cruze, Hong Konger Charles Ng in a BMW, and Macanese Henry Ho in another BMW all piled in to Muller and Engstler, and the red flag was waved.
Even with the red flag having flown, several drivers seemingly did not care. Yukinori Taniguchi zoomed up the hill and smashed on the brakes, having noticed that the flagmen were putting their yellow flags down. Taniguchi did not hit anyone. Michael Soong and Jo Merszei (#70), on the other hand, were too busy battling to bother slowing down. Soong, a Hong Konger in a Seat Leon, and Merszei, a Macau native in a BMW, crashed into the back at Taniguchi despite the fact that the race had already been red flagged. Despite a second red flag, the race was resumed, with de Jesus, Chilton, Ng, Soong, Merszei, and Taniguchi out of the race.
47. JEAN ALESI JUMP START (2009, SPEEDCAR, BAHRAIN)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 50TH
Speedcars were an intriguing experiment.
In short, the Speedcar Series was a stock car series that ran in Asia for two seasons, 2008 and 2008-09. It was a neat idea, having F1 legends such as Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Alesi, and Ukyo Katayama race stock cars across the Middle East, but due to finances the series did not last long.
At the series’ final race at Bahrain, the lights seemingly were delayed for whatever reason, and the drivers, performing a rolling start, were forced to stay in line until the race began. Jean Alesi, however, was unwilling to wait and, despite starting in the back, he was leading by turn one, having achieved one of the most blatant jump starts in all of motorsports by zipping by the entire grid before the lights had triggered.
Alesi would not finish the race, which was won by Vitantonio Liuzzi, very well. The series, organized out of the British Virgin Islands of all places, ran out of money shortly thereafter when its backer pulled out, and that was the end of that.
46. JARED CARLYLE HORSE JUMP (2007, NZV8, PUKEKOHE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 29TH
Being part of a team owned by, according to tentenths, one of the members of AC/DC, isn’t a guaranteed pass for a driver to be very lucky.
Pukekohe Park in New Zealand is really weird. It’s a circuit full of swerves which, with the exception of a hairpin, are all high speed. It also used to be pretty low quality in terms of the circuit itself, possibly stemming from the fact that there’s a steeplechase layout for horses. But all in all, it just wasn’t a high quality circuit. A V8 Supercar famously took out a pole on which a PA transmitter was situated in 2005, warranting a red flag. In 2008, a pileup during the NZV8 race saw one car break one of the gates and four cars get on top of the guardrail, which folded, allowing two of them to go over the wall.
But youngster Jared Carlyle, part of a team apparently owned by one of the AC/DC members, showed just how ridiculous this track once was. He got turned around on the back chute in 2007 and took a wild ride over a horse jump.
After 2008, Pukekohe dropped off the V8 schedule, but returned in 2013 as a new and improved facility with proper tire walls, runoff, barriers where needed, and a new chicane at the end of the back chute. It’s stayed on ever since.
45. MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS IN THE PIT LANE (2011, FIA GT, SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 36TH
Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof, a sports car racer out of Austria, Eugenio Amos, the gentleman racer from Italy who is also the husband of model Margherita Missoni, and HSH Prince Albert Von Thurn Und Taxis, a billionaire leader of one of Germany’s Houses, came together for the 2011 24h of Spa in a Lamborghini Gallardo. Unfortunately, their effort ended just past the second hour.
Spa has two pit lanes, the F1 pit lane, where cars enter off the chicane and exit off of La Source, and the regular pit lane, which is entered off of La Source and exited off of Eau Rouge, with an access area lasting through Radillon. If the event has a large field size, such as the Spa 24h, the pit lanes are combined.
Entering the pit lane too quickly, Mayr-Melnhof slid his car on the wet access road. The car shot across the grass and struck a barrier right in front of the marshals and turning the car onto its door. Mayr-Melnhof was unhurt, but his day was over, and a safety car was warranted.
Mayr-Melnhof ran in the Blancpain Sprint Series in 2017, while Amos and Von Thurn Und Taxis spent the year racing where they pleased. I suppose when you have money…
44. D.C. CROWDER STEALS THE PACE CAR (1986, NASCAR CUP, TALLADEGA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 47TH
This one’s famous.
When the command to start engines at the 1986 Winston 500 was given, not everyone had stepped into their cars. Specifically, the pace car driver was out talking to a few officials still.
Enter Darren Charles Crowder, a 20 year old from Birmingham who’d had too much to drink and was standing in the pit lane. Seeing his opportunity, he hopped in and started up the red Pontiac Trans Am to take it for a 100mph joyride. Seemingly not every official had been told who the pace car driver was, so it took a bit for the officials to know it was stolen. Reportedly, the first words acknowledging the situation from an official who did know were: “Who’s that f–ker in the pace car?” (The Drive)
When the situation was identified however, the response was quick. Crowder was greeted by a roadblock of Alabama’s best when he came around to finish lap two, and he decided to slow, only to decide against giving up and lock the car’s doors according to The Drive. Someone had found a spare set of keys, and he unlocked the car’s doors, then Crowder locked them again before the doors could be opened. This pattern continued for a bit until Crowder was too slow in locking the door and was removed from the car. He was arrested, the race was started, and Bobby Allison would bring it home.
Interestingly, there appears to be no further documentation on Darren Charles Crowder. He’s disappeared off the Earth a la D.B. Cooper. Shall we call him D.C. Crowder?
The days when the European Touring Car Championship was relevant…
As the field rolled in to Silverstone, the Jaguars were coming off of an excellent run at Spa, which they’d dominated similarly to how they’d destroyed the field so far that year. Mother Nature seemingly wasn’t on the side of the Jaguars, however, and she showed it in an incredible downpour.
A bit past halfway in the 107 lap race, the skies suddenly darkened while most of the cavalry was out on slicks. Rallyman Marc Duez was first off in a Rover, and from there cars just kept piling in. BMW driver Barrie Williams was in for a scare when he had to jump on the roof of Chuck Nicholson’s Jaguar to avoid the spinning Alfa Romeo of Terry Drury. Interestingly, most of the lapped cars were stuck in the pit lane still due to reduced priority in pit stops, so they were mostly spared. The Rover of Duez-Allam, the Jaguar of Percy-Nicholson, the Alfa Romeo of Drury-Wilds, the BMW of Williams-Sytner were out of the race, with the BMW of Felder-Hamelmann suffering heavy damage but eventually continuing after the restart. The race’s eventual winner were the pairing of Kelleners-Brancatelli in the BMW, though Jaguar easily brought it all home at season’s end.
In 1980, Alabama inventor George White demonstrated a full head and neck restraint to NASCAR officials, including Bill Gazaway. Gazaway noted that while he had been shown the device, little to no testing of the device’s abilities had been done. It wouldn’t be long before this proved to be a mistake.
Usually remembered for the coma he slipped into after his accident, Rick Baldwin spun and struck the wall during qualifying for a race at Michigan in 1986. The Texan remained in a coma for eleven long years, eventually passing away in 1997.
Richard Allen Baldwin was born on June 10th, 1955 in Corpus Christi, Texas to Jim Baldwin and Patricia Owens. Jim, whose owned a roofing company during the day, was also a racer, and taught Rick the tricks of the trade, both in roofing and racing. In 1971, Jim decided to make the trip down to Mexico to participate in the Baja 1000. Rick was to help plot the exact route and to remain on standby with spare parts for their team’s Plymouth. Jim is documented as having entered the race, though any further details are unknown. In any case, in 1972, Rick started his racing career. The pair competed against each other frequently at the quarter mile Corpus Christi Speedway and an old half mile dirt track outside of Corpus Christi known as Cuddihy Field, along with another oval of unknown length just outside the town known as Riverside Raceway.
In December 1977, Rick married Debbie C. Anderson in San Antonio. He would have two children with Debbie, those being Jennifer and Tiffany.
Rick’s first NASCAR start came in 1981 at the Texas World Speedway for DK Ulrich’s team. Baldwin’s car blew its engine about three-quarters through the race, and he finished 21st out of 34 cars. He raced every now and again during the ensuing years, qualifying for the Daytona 500 in 1983, where he finished midfield.
Besides racing at the race tracks in and around Corpus Christi, Rick worked with his father in the family roofing business and also worked as the flagman at Riverside Raceway. He was, by all accounts, a devoted family man with a passion for racing and little to write home about.
Baldwin, together with his wife and children, moved to North Carolina in 1985 as he began to run NASCAR races a little more frequently. In all, Rick made eleven starts, his best finish being 12th at Charlotte in 1982.
Baldwin, a bit of a pinch hitter, was tapped to drive the #67 car for Buddy Arrington for the first Michigan race of 1986. On June 14th, Baldwin was qualifying the car when he broke loose and spun up the first turn. The Ford struck the wall with the driver’s side and slid back down the circuit.
Baldwin was rendered unconscious by the hit, which had severed his spinal column, leading some, such as Baldwin’s wife, to believe that the window net had failed. This couldn’t be determined simply from the video, as the car’s roof was opened to extricate Baldwin, Whether or not his head had actually hit the fence aside, Baldwin’s listed chance of survival was 1%. Surprisingly, Baldwin made it past the first few days, but this was the start of a long eleven-year trial for Debbie.
Baldwin was transferred to a nursing home in San Antonio two weeks after the crash, with Debbie and their children moving into an apartment close by. By early 1988, Baldwin was opening his eyes on occasion and was not attached to any life support systems. Debbie mentioned to the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal that, since the move to San Antonio, she had not been contacted by any officials. Drivers and crew members, however, still frequently sent letters and called. NASCAR had a $50,000 insurance policy for all drivers, and this had been fully spent around the same time as Baldwin’s move to San Antonio.
In 1990, Debbie Baldwin filed a suit against NASCAR, maintaining that the window net was defective and had bulged. NASCAR insisted that Rick’s head had struck the roll bar. In 1992, a jury, finding no evidence of the window net being defective, ruled in favor of NASCAR, and cleared both Rick Baldwin and NASCAR of any fault. Debbie later stated that she was reluctant to press the suit, but had done so at the request of Rick’s father Jim.
As the years passed, however, it became apparent that Baldwin would not awaken. At at least one point, an offer was made to discontinue feeding Baldwin, which was permitted by Texas law, but Rick’s parents refused. However, they did request that Debbie divorce Rick to ease up on her financial burden. This was declined. Eventually, Rick and Debbie’s children made it to high school. According to Debbie, the girls said that Rick was attempting to set a Guinness World Record for ‘taking a nap’ if anyone asked.
Rick Baldwin passed away on June 12th, 1997, two days after his 42nd birthday. NASCAR’s life insurance contains a $15,000 payout to the families of fallen drivers, but NASCAR declined to pay, insisting that, for the payout to be made, a driver must die less than 90 days after the accident. After a short time, however, they agreed to pay Debbie $15,000 for a decrease or loss of limb function, which went towards the funeral.
By the time the new millennium arrived, several racing series had required the usage of a HANS or Hutchens Devices on all tracks. Despite the fact that full restraints since at least 1980, it took until the summer of 2002, after the death of John Baker, for NASCAR to start requiring full restraints on every track. While Rick Baldwin did not die from a basilar skull fracture, it’s very likely that a full restraint would have saved him.
‘Rick Baldwin’, post made to LoneStar Speedzone on February 22, 2007
‘Dream Comes True for Local Driver’, July 23, 1971 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times
‘Progress not optimistic for injured driver Baldwin’, February 13, 1988 edition of the Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal
‘When Is It Going To Be Enough?’, July 6, 2001 edition of the Orlando Sentinel
‘NASCAR cleared in suit stemming from 1986 crash’, January 19th, 1992 edition of the Herald-Journal
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 forcefully 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. 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. 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, though at least one forum post noted that unlike with the crash of Paul Warwick, police did not forcefully seize the footage of Shanahan’s crash.
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 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. The car then struck the catchfence with its underside, instantly killing Renna from massive internal trauma. The accident was captured on a security camera in turn three.
Speculation is all over the place when it comes to Renna’s accident, due to how little is known about it. However, if all eyewitness reports of the crash are correct, then Renna’s crash is the most gruesome accident in motorsport history.
After the investigation concluded, Tony George sealed the tapes in the vault under the speedway. Apparently, George went out of his way to make sure no footage of Renna’s death was made public, even seizing the security tapes of a gas station across the street which had captured smoke rising. There are a few aftermath images showing track workers repairing the damaged catchfence sometime later, some of which show damage to the unoccupied bleachers, but the video of the crash itself will likely never be released.
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 some time.
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 – gingerly – 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 race was cancelled after the crash, though the drivers still in the race agreed to a five lap tribute to Wheldon, during which Amazing Grace was played over the PA system and the attendees at the speedway stayed respectfully silent.
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 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.