FanDuel - WFBC

April 05, 2008

NASCAR Rookie Survives Unbelievable Crash: NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Michael McDowell tested the new safety features in the Car of Tomorrow yesterday during qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway, slamming into a Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier at more than 100 mph and rolling eight times (see the video). "That was the hardest hit I think I've ever seen anybody take," driver Tony Stewart said.

posted by rcade to auto racing at 11:37 AM - 30 comments

According to those in the know on the Speed channel, the on -board electronics showed that Michael went from 160 mph to 0 mph in about a foot. This is before the car started to slide than roll. In slow motion I counted 8 complete wheel to wheel rolls, plus sliding along the asphalt. It is something to see if you haven't seen it. Parts are flying everwhere and the safety equiptment is doing it job. Very similar to "King" Richard Petty's wild ride and on taken by "Rocketman" Ryan Newman. Not why I watch the races but thankful that these drivers can walk away from wild rides.

posted by coach at 01:36 PM on April 05

Great post coach. I had seen it on ESPN yesterday, and crindged as I watched. The way the 00 went into the wall reminded me of the way the 3 car hit the wall at Daytona for it's last race. Although similar in it's angle of impact with the wall, this wreck was certainly much more violent. I think I heard the comment that it was about 18 g's at impact. There is little doubt in my mind that had this happened in the years prior to the safer barrier and the COT, this driver would have not walked as McDowell did. And I as you coach, look forward to a couple of very fast races at Texas this weekend without any more incidents like this one.

posted by amigo59 at 02:17 PM on April 05

I would like to add to this post by raising the question as whether or not McDowell is ready to be running in the sprint cup series. We hear vets like Gordon, Dale Jr. along with many others talking about how hard the COT is to handle. I remember Dale Sr. saying that a driver needed to drive 3 seasons in the Nationwide series before graduating into the sprint side of the competition. Yes he looked good in the ARCA series, but jumping from ARCA to Sprint cup is a hell of a leap. I'm very happy he came out of the wreck unschaved, but I wonder if Michael Waltrip has jumped the gun a bit with this kid.

posted by amigo59 at 02:43 PM on April 05

Can I have a house built out of the windshield material? It's not even cracked!

posted by grum@work at 03:49 PM on April 05

That crash was epic. Incredible he not only survived, but walked away. Dug up info on David Purley who is the holder of the record for most amount of G's endured and survived. From Wikipedia: "He survived an estimated 179.8 G's in 1977 when he decelerated from 173 km/h (108 mph) to 0 in a distance of 66 cm (26 inches) after his throttle got stuck wide open and he hit a wall." Would be curious to know if he still holds that record after McDowell's crash. And rolled eight times? Fairly sure I counted at least 10, but he was rolling so fast it's hard to tell. (I have HD MPEG2 footage of the crash here.) Despite loathing NASCAR with a passion, I always enjoy seeing an epic crash in any series where the driver walks away unharmed. McDowell walking away, and who got pole for the Bahrain GP today (won't spoil it), it's been a good day for me as a racing fan.

posted by Drood at 07:31 PM on April 05

I think if you look close at the beginning of the slide up the track there is some smoke coming from the back of the car. I believe something broke either in the engine or the rear of the car for it to turn right that quickly. Have not seen any more video but did notice that puff of smoke just before he lost it.

posted by coach at 08:22 PM on April 05

It looks to me like he hit the oil that was laid down by the car that was qualifying just a few minutes earlier (David Gilliland.) Jamie McMurray was complaining that there was oil on the track during his attempt right after Gilliland (and two cars before McDowell). I also think the puff coach mentions wasn't smoke, it was speedy-dry.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 08:47 PM on April 05

I updated the video link to the live footage with McDowell walking out unscathed. I believe the technical term is "lucky sumbitch."

posted by rcade at 08:50 PM on April 05

Drood, if you like crashes, you would love the late Davey Allison's crash at Ponoco in '91 (I think). It was worse looking than this one and all he got was a broken shoulder and some "red eye". (although he did miss 2 or 3 races) Rusty Wallace had a wild crash at Daytona too. I don't know if they are on Youtube or not. I do have to say the COT did hold up pretty well as far as proctecting the driver. But sometimes the human body can only take so much. How many years did McDowell run in ARCA before going to Sprint Cup racing? I think no matter how many years you have in another racing venue, you will only get Cup experience in the Cup Series. Some have it, some do not. (see Kinser, Steve)

posted by steelergirl at 09:00 PM on April 05

Here it is Drood, at about 1:03 into the clip.

posted by steelergirl at 09:06 PM on April 05

I'm assuming the crash you've linked is NOT the fatal one? Allison died racing didn't he? I do enjoy a good wreck but don't watch racing for them. I'd much rather see a good battle, but they're an inevitable part of racing, and when the driver is okay it's okay to enjoy them in my book. Like Lewis Hamilton had a big one in practice in Bahrain and as always I held my breath until he was obviously okay. The onboard of that with the sound made me cringe. With racing crashes, it seems the minor ones are the fatal ones. Like Senna's. I've seen two other crashes at that corner prior to that. Both were far worse crashes to look at. Worst injury was Berger suffering burns. Like Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash. To this day whenever I see that, it seems like such a minor crash. Spectacular crashes are often the safest as all that stuff flying off the car is helping dissipate energy from the crash, which means it isn't being absorbed by the drivers internal organs.

posted by Drood at 10:27 PM on April 05

I really don't want to sound preachy... And I'm totally agnostic on the "social implications" or that crap... But can we admit we go to NASCAR or the Indy 500 or the local dirt track... we're always there with the knowledge there might be an horrific crash. And we're okay with that. I got drunk in a motel bar in Dodge City a few years ago with a few professional bull riders. I don't think there's a harder way on the planet to be a professional athlete than to be a professional bull rider. For one thing. Half the crowd is rooting for the bull. Here's a link to Joe Poznanski's blog with an interview with Liz Clarke about her new NASCAR book. http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/

posted by Monkeyhawk at 11:39 PM on April 05

Part of it us how the sport is reported. How many more times does TV show wrecks than a moment of skilled driving in the Number Four corner? Remember that NASCAR is a santiziized version of an original American blood sport: moonshinin'in'. The basis of this game is "How much would it take to get you into this motor vehicle and risk your neck?" There's an incredible, albeit limited, skill-set required to drive a state-of-the-art funny car down an NHRA track. But the only reason it's a spectator sport is that the funny car might blow up some day. No. Nobody goes to the horse races just to see an entry break down. But what are the days at the track when people tell their stories? "I *SAW* that wreck!!!" is a badge of being an authentic NASCAR fan. Not "I saw that pit stop!" or "I *SAW* that drafting!" We go there for the wrecks.

posted by Monkeyhawk at 11:55 PM on April 05

I'm assuming the crash you've linked is NOT the fatal one? Allison died racing didn't he? Allison died in a helicopter crash at a race track. Can't remember which track.

posted by elmrfdd at 12:28 AM on April 06

But the only reason it's a spectator sport is that the funny car might blow up some day. I disagree with this, most people who watch these motor sports are true fans of the racing. The speed created by those huge motors in such a short distance, and what an incredible job it does take to manage to pilot those cars down the strip. The same goes for the dragsters. No. Nobody goes to the horse races just to see an entry break down. But what are the days at the track when people tell their stories? Most of the big stories from the horse tracks are from the big pay days! Granted that anyone attending these events knows that there is the possibility of a fatal accident. (horrific or not) I would doubt that there are actually that great of a number of "fans" paying to attend any of these NASCAR or NHRA events on the chance to see a horrific crash. A person like that would hardly be considered a "fan of the sport." They would more aptly be called a fan of consequences.

posted by jojomfd1 at 04:57 AM on April 06

As an older NASCAR fan, I personally do not want to see any accidents. I would love to see 500 miles of good clean racing without any damage to any of the cars. Mechanical problems are there all the time but no damage to cars or people. I remember the days of Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Bobby Issac, Cal Yarabough, Tiny Lund, and more. Just good ole' fashion racin'!!!!!

posted by coach at 06:17 AM on April 06

Remember that NASCAR is a santiziized version of an original American blood sport: moonshinin'in'. The basis of this game is "How much would it take to get you into this motor vehicle and risk your neck?" This is an awfully simplistic view of the sport, in my opinion as a casual viewer. The sophistication of the cars and teams makes it an engineering competition. The good ol' boy days are long past. How many more times does TV show wrecks than a moment of skilled driving in the Number Four corner? Are you watching races? There are cameras everywhere. They show manuevers all the time, and you can even get more of them on pay-per-view.

posted by rcade at 07:36 AM on April 06

Allison died in a helicopter crash at a race track. Can't remember which track. Davey died at Talladega on July 13th 1993 while trying to land his helicopter in the infield to watch a test session. (also on April 1st of 1993 Alan Kulwicki was killed in Bristol Tenn. in an airplane crash while returning from an autograph session.)

posted by ImissDAVEYnAlan at 09:02 AM on April 06

sounds like someone needs to buy a lottery ticket...

posted by 4ArmShiver at 09:29 AM on April 06

Spectacular crashes are often the safest as all that stuff flying off the car is helping dissipate energy from the crash, which means it isn't being absorbed by the drivers internal organs Right you are Drood. Indy cars and F1 are prime examples. Alex Zenardi's crash was horrific. Yes he lost his legs below the knees (I believe) but he is getting back into racing. And I agree, Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash seemed minor. I don't watch for the crashes either. And some of the best racing was the "oldtimers" Dale, Rusty. Dale J. Mark, etc. etc. It seems to me making the racing field equal has taken a lot of the real battles on the track out of racing.

posted by steelergirl at 09:47 AM on April 06

A hundred thousand people don't go to the Daytona 500 to watch "an engineering competition." That's Liz Clarke's argument. Instead of personalities -- Dale, Rusty, Jimmy Johnson... NASCAR has turned into a bunch of antronaut-vanilla technicians programmed to recite all their car's sponsors. The only reason we watch NASCAR is because it's a dangerous sport. I'll never be able to dunk a basketball. I'm not only small, but I'm slow so most stadium sports aren't my ticket to superstardom. But hell, I can DRIVE a car! The only-est reason we go to car races is because it's a dangerous enterprise. It's a tried and true meme about how motor racing helped create better automotive technolgies -- from the rear-view mirror at Indy to the disk brake from Le Mans, the seat belt, the roll cage..... But a hundred thousand people show up in the coliseum every weekend to watch gladiators literally put their lives on the line. It's a blood sport. Like boxing. The COT rules are the latest version of the Marquise of Queensbury's rules; another subparagraph about what can stuff the boxing glove. Maybe we as a species need this s#it. I dunno. And without rehashing all the cliches about how football is a metaphor for war; "...the playing fields of Eton;" and all that. Something we seek in sports is ultimately rooted in our need to dominate an opponent. And you can't get more dominated than dead.

posted by Monkeyhawk at 11:20 AM on April 06

The only reason we watch NASCAR is because it's a dangerous sport. What's the "We" stuff, you got a mouse in your pocket? How much NASCAR have you watched recently? I am just a casual viewer, like rcade above, however I don't see how you can say that there are no personalities in the sport anymore. You may not like the ones that are there, but that doesn't make them absent. NASCAR and boxing are so dissimilar that there is no comparison. Two people in a square punching each other can't be compared to 43 cars driving on asphalt. As for the more dominated than dead, I can see that reasoning in the boxing part of your comparison. When a NASCAR driver dies on the track, usually it is not attributed to someone else "dominating" them. NASCAR is a dangerous sport, but most sports have some level of danger involved in them. By your "danger level = more fans" logic, there should be a World Base Jumping League(WBJL). Would the fans be lined up to see a chute fail? Millions watch for more than just with the dangerous part of any sport. Not just NASCAR.

posted by jojomfd1 at 02:03 PM on April 06

The only reason we watch NASCAR is because it's a dangerous sport. I'll never be able to dunk a basketball. I'm not only small, but I'm slow so most stadium sports aren't my ticket to superstardom. But hell, I can DRIVE a car! That's two reasons. When I watch NASCAR, it's to enjoy the videogame-like camera shots, the drama-queen drivers losing their shit after a dustup, the constant references to sponsors and the occasional redneck witticism. I don't watch because there's a chance somebody might die.

posted by rcade at 05:59 AM on April 07

on -board electronics showed that Michael went from 160 mph to 0 mph in about a foot. Not trying to doubt the impact of the crash, as it was certainly very violent, but there is no point in that run when the car decelerates from 160 mph to 0 mph in one foot. That would be over 850 g's! Perhaps when the car was sliding sideways and he was applying the brakes, the wheels stopped turning that fast, but the car was still moving and decelerated much more slowly.

posted by bender at 08:20 AM on April 07

I saw this crash on ESPN... The guy is lucky

posted by bruce2ww at 08:39 AM on April 07

It's a blood sport. Like boxing. I have to disagree with this. My understanding of "blood sport" is one in which Participant A wins or succeeds or gets more points based on the amount of hurt they put on Participant B. Under that definition, boxing is absolutely a blood sport, and auto racing absolutely is not, no matter how much carnage may take place on the track. There's a valid discussion to be had re: spectator pleasure in sporting biffs, but I don't think such a discussion is really aided by blanket statements about what everybody thinks or feels (and I also don't think that this particular FPP is a good launch pad for such a discussion).

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:04 AM on April 07

NASCAR has turned into a bunch of antronaut-vanilla technicians programmed to recite all their car's sponsors. You hit the nail right on the head, Monkeyhawk. don't see how you can say that there are no personalities in the sport anymore. You may not like the ones that are there, but that doesn't make them absent. See above, jojomfd1. Yeah, the "personalities" are there but they are all the same flavor-vanilla. God forbid anyone show any passion or temper, they get smacked down right now by NASCAR. So I don't watch much anymore, don't buy merchandise, and don't go to races, and I don't think my life is worse for it.

posted by steelergirl at 09:38 AM on April 07

If you go back and watch the accident Friday and the one Dale Sr. had in Daytona, you'll see major differences between the two. Dale's car hit square to the wall. That is the worst kind of impact to have. All of his forward momentum stopped at impact. It creates a strain on the body that sometimes it just can't handle. I realize there is a huge safety difference between today and then. Back then, the cars were built strong. They didn't absorb the impact like they do today. If you look at Dale's car after it stopped, only the nose of the car was damaged. The weakest link in Dale's accident was Dale himself. When Michael spun, the car spun around enough where it hit on the left front and the car still had forward momentum after it hit. The wall, the car, and the rolling over took the impact. I know Nascar catches a lot of flack but they should be commended for putting so many safety features into these cars.

posted by dbt302 at 10:49 AM on April 07

The g forces that were calculated in the McDowell and David Purley crashes have to be looked at a little more closely. I believe that McDowell's vehicle did not come to a dead stop, but rather collided with the wall, appeared to change direction, then stopped. Thus, the g forces were dissioated over a longer time than just the few milliseconds of impact. I know nothing of the Purley collision, so I won't comment, but 179 g's would be fatal if applied in a straight line. Here's a documented case of straight-line deceleration that produced 46.2 g's on a human. Col. John Paul Stapp was the experimenter.

posted by Howard_T at 09:08 PM on April 07

You guys can toss around all the science you want, but I just got off the phone with Doctor Stupid, and he told me, "That was one hella wicked smashup!" Put that in your slide rule and smoke it. As for watching racing only for the wrecks, those aren't fans. Not real fans, anyway, because real fans go for the racing, and we often tell each other, Yeah, I was at Charlotte, and I saw him do that! Craziest move I've ever seen!" Some of us are in it for the win, not the wreck.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 11:54 AM on April 08

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