You can’t watch a NASCAR race without seeing at least one crash. And with all the new safety features, such as the HANS device (head and neck support), along with the safer wall barriers at the tracks, it’s still incredible that drivers can walk away without a scratch, even when their cars are completely totaled. Here’s my top 10 list of the most devastating crashes where the drivers incredibly walked away from the wrecks:
10. Ryan Newman – Daytona
After winning Nascar’s Rookie of the Year in 2002, Ryan Newman had a devastating crash at the Daytona 500 on February 16, 2003. At just 56 laps into the race, Ward Burton hit Ken Schrader, which caused them both to hit the wall. Newman’s #12 Alltel Dodge then slid down the track into the grass, where his car went airborne and flipped several times before landing on its roof. Thankfully, Newman was uninjured.
9. Richard Petty – Daytona
On February 14, 1988, Richard Petty took a wild ride during the Daytona 500. On lap 106, Petty’s car flipped several times before crashing into the fence. He flipped a few more times before stopping on the front stretch, where another car crashed into him and spun Petty’s car around several more times. Petty escaped unharmed, except for temporary sight loss due to an incredible amount of g-force.
8. Elliott Sadler – Talladega
Elliott Sadler had a vicious ride on September 28, 2003 at Talladega. After making contact with Kurt Busch on lap 181, Elliott Sadler lost control of his car, which went airborne over the grass. He then landed on his roof on the pavement, followed by a slide across the grass, still upside down. Once making contact with the pavement again, his car flipped numerous times before finally making a stop on the edge of the grass. Not surprisingly, Sadler emerged from the car looking a little shook up, but thankfully he was not injured.
7. Carl Edwards – Talladega
On April 26, 2009, it looked as if Carl Edwards was going to win the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. During the final lap, Carl Edwards tried blocking Brad Keselowski, but his car got turned instead. Edwards’ car became airborne, where he hit Ryan Newman’s car, and then flew into the fence, where debris flew into the stands. Unable to finish the race, Carl Edwards climbed out of his torn up race car and ran across the start/finish line. As for the race results, Keselowski won, while Edwards went from first place to the 24th position.
6. Rusty Wallace – Daytona
It was February 14, 1993 at the Daytona 500. After Derrike Cope and Michael Waltrip got into each other, Rusty Wallace came along and got clipped by Cope. Rusty Wallace’s race car then became airborne and flipped numerous times before stopping on the grass. Wallace incredibly walked away from his car, which was absolutely disintegrated.
5. Rusty Wallace – Talladega
Not even three months after Rusty Wallace’s disastrous wreck at Daytona, he left everyone speechless again on May 2, 1993. During the final lap of the Winston 500 at Talladega, Wallace’s car became airborne as the checkered flag was waving. He crossed the start/finish line while his car was still airborne. Similar to the Daytona 500, his car flipped several times before making a complete stop on the grass. Despite taking an incredibly wild ride, Wallace still managed to finish in 6th place. Wallace’s crash was caused by aerodynamic forces and NASCAR added roof flaps to the tops of the cars prior to the 1994 season.
4. Michael McDowell – Texas
On April 4, 2008, rookie Michael McDowell was running his qualifying laps for the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. McDowell got loose going into the corner and lost control of his car. After crashing into the wall, his car slid on its roof for several moments before flipping numerous times. And to everyone’s amazement, he walked away from the wreck and waved to the crowd.
3. Richard Petty – Darlington
NASCAR has come a long way in protecting their drivers, and on May 9, 1970, Richard Petty felt the repercussions of not having a window net. During the Rebel 400 at Darlington Raceway, Petty smashed into the inside retaining wall and flipped several times before stopping on its roof. Even the fans could see his body inside the car with his arms out of the window. Shortly after, window nets were mandatory to keep drivers inside their cars in case of an accident.
2. Mike Harmon – Bristol
August 22, 2002 is the date of one of the worst NASCAR crashes I’ve ever seen. During practice at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Busch Series (known today as the Nationwide Series) Food City 250, something broke in Mike Harmon’s car which sent him up the race track into the wall. The impact was extra devastating, as the crossover gate where he hit wasn’t secured properly. After the initial hit, his car was completely destroyed and Harmon was totally exposed. To make matters worse, Johnny Sauter ran straight into Harmon’s car. Miraculously, Harmon walked away uninjured.
1. Michael Waltrip – Bristol
On April 7, 1990, Michael Waltrip was involved in what I consider the worst NASCAR wreck of all time. It was during the Busch Series (known today as the Nationwide Series) Budweiser 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Twelve years before Mike Harmon’s devastating crash, Michael Waltrip had the same type of wreck in the exact same spot. Waltrip’s car crashed into the wall, where the crossover gate again wasn’t closed properly. With his car literally smashed into pieces, Waltrip incredibly walked away from what many people consider to be the worst crash in NASCAR history.
by Jocelyn LeBlanc