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Hood: Daytona Bonfire Makes Top-10 List Bid

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 1 2012

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team members look over what's left of their burned race car. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

The 2012 Daytona 500 will forever be remembered for Juan Pablo Motoya’s No. 42 Chevrolet suffering a mechanical failure under caution and slamming into a jet dryer.

The resulting ball of fire and lengthy cleanup that followed dominated Tuesday morning’s headlines. The incident also overshadowed Matt Kenseth’s victory in the Great American Race.

I’ve followed NASCAR closely for more than 30 years. And when it comes to bizarre moments, Montoya’s collision with a safety vehicle is already an instant classic.

Here are few other odd moments in NASCAR history that come to mind:

10. I didn’t personally witness this at a NASCAR event, but I’ve been told the flagman has actually dropped the flag on the track multiple times throughout the years. I was at a NASCAR-sanctioned Late Model race near Atlanta one night about 10 years ago when the honorary starter drop the green flag on top of the field as they started that evening’s feature event.

9. At the 2008 Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., a large caution light fell off the catch fence and landed onto the racing surface. All of the cars were able to dodge the gigantic piece of debris.

8. Tropicana sponsored the Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway in 2004. Thanks to a large gust of wind, a gigantic balloon shaped like an orange went out of control and landed on the track during qualifying.

7. An intoxicated fan watching a race from the infield at Pocono Raceway in the 1980s spotted a portajohn on the outside of the track. He was desperately trying to find a restroom. So he decided to run across the track during the 500 mile event and attempted to scale the fence. Fortunately, no one was injured.

6. When I heard an explosion while sitting in the media center about 30 minutes following the Sprint Cup season finale in 2005, I hustled to the area behind Turn 2 to see what the commotion was all about. It turned out that two helicopters transporting folks from the speedway to various local airports had collided in mid-air. There was one casualty and several injuries.

5. In the July race in Loudon, N.H. about five years ago, the speedway experienced a complete power failure twenty minutes prior to the scheduled start. It was a day race, so you figure just wave the green flag, right? Well, that’s basically what happened. The show went on as TV and radio broadcasts were able to continue while working off generators. The press box felt like a sauna on that summer day until electricity was restored about 75 laps into the event.

4. In the late 1970s at Atlanta Motor Speedway (it was known as Atlanta International Raceway at the time) a huge fire broke out in the parking lot. An entire row of cars were torched as a large cloud of black smoke covered the track. Tall grass underneath a hot vehicle was the culprit.

3. Winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour didn’t stop eight Army skydivers from parachuting into North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. prior to the start of the Sprint Cup race there in February 2003. Three of the skydivers were injured, including one who bounced off Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s transporter.

2. Neil Bonnett’s qualifying run at Pocono in the mid 1980s came to an abrupt end after his Chevrolet ran into a deer, which had jumped a fence and wound up on the track.

1. In 1986, a fan stole the pace car just minutes before the start of a race in Talladega, Ala. The pace car driver stepped out of the car for a moment and that was the cue for a guy with a pit pass to jump in and take off. ESPN camera followed him taking a joy ride that came to an end near the entrance of pit road where safety workers set up a roadblock.

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 1 2012
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  • Fred says:

    One of my favorites happened at Pocono in July 1989. After Lake Speed and Greg Sacks broke the turn 1 wall in a huge crash, a rabbit found its way to the front straight during the caution. ESPN showed the track safety crew frantically trying to catch the animal, which they did after the rabbit ran right between the guy’s legs once.

    Then there was the guy at Watkins Glen in the late 2000s who hopped a fence and asked Matt Kenseth for an autograph during a red flag.

    BTW, it was 1993 when the guy ran across the track at Pocono during green flag racing.