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Crash and Burn: 5 Of the Worst NASCAR Crashes of All Time

Posted on March 14, 2014 by Dixie Somers
Fireball Roberts died following a 1964 crash in Charlotte.

Fireball Roberts died following a 1964 crash in Charlotte.

When it comes to NASCAR, many people only see cars driving in circles for a few hours, with zero excitement, competition, or intrigue. However, this is a fast-paced, dangerous sport that is never short of close calls and frightening accidents and crashes. Yes, crashes are common in NASCAR, however, some look a lot worse than they actually are. The following are some of the worst crashes we’ve seen since the beginning of NASCAR:

Fireball Roberts, Charlotte 1964
Glenn “Fireball” Roberts was part of a deadly domino effect during the 1964 World 600 when he tried to avoid the crashed cars of Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett. Roberts’ Ford hit the wall and burst into flames. Badly burnt, he was taken to the hospital where he died weeks later after slipping into a coma. This wreck prompted the development of mandatory fire suits, rubber fuel cells and in-car fire extinguishers.

Richard Petty, Darlington 1970
Richard Petty was part of a bad crash took place in Darlington on May 9, 1970. He broke his shoulder during the Rebel 400 when his Plymouth rolled after making contact with the retaining wall.

It was the first NASCAR accident shown live on TV, and viewers could see Petty’s arm dangle out the side window opening when the car flipped and eventually landed on its roof. This incident prompted NASCAR to install mandatory protective nets subsequently in all its race cars.

Bobby Allison, Talladega 1987
During the 1987 Winston 500 on May 3, Bobby Allison shredded a tire on his car, spun backwards and bounced off the catch fence. While Bobby walked away from the wreck and spectators only sustained non-life threatening injuries from debris, this crash maintains notoriety for two reasons: It led to the installation of restrictor plates for races held at Talladega and Daytona, and Bill Elliot set a record for the highest speed ever for a NASCAR vehicle during this race (over 212 mph).

Dale Earnhardt won seven NASCAR championships before being killed during a 2001 crash at the end of the Daytona 500.

Dale Earnhardt won seven NASCAR championships before being killed during a 2001 crash at the end of the Daytona 500.

Dale Earnhardt, Daytona 2001
Dale Earnhardt crashed on the final lap at the Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001. He was hit by Sterling Marlin from behind, then by Ken Schrader in the side and sent into the wall. The wreck itself did not look bad, but Dale was unresponsive, taken to the hospital and pronounced dead because of the direct hit to his head. NASCAR made neck restraints mandatory after this crash.

Carl Edwards, Talladega 2009
Carl Edwards was involved in a crash at the end of the Aaron’s 499 on April 26, 2009 when trying to block Brad Keselowski. This caused Carl’s car to fly into the catch fence. The fence bent back, the car broke apart and several pieces of metal flew into the stands. Carl walked away from the crash, but several spectators were not so lucky. One teenager even sustained a broken jaw and needed reconstructive surgery.

If you once thought that car racing isn’t a sport with risks, stiff competition, or severe dangers, you can now see how it is far more dangerous than most contact sports. While crashes cannot be prevented all the time, NASCAR continually evaluates safety features in order to prevent dire consequences. It is unfortunate that men so many men have lost their lives to this sport, however, they participated at their own risk. The silver lining is that with each crash, experts of the sport are able to develop new safety tools, technologies and methods to keep the drivers safe. Information for this article was provided by the auto professionals of who specialize in used auto parts.

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