Auto racing is an adrenaline-fueled sport that evokes excitement in competitors and spectators alike. But like any sport, auto racing has had its share of embarrassing moments. Here are five of the worst.
1. Bad Math Leads to Loss
There are so many details that a driver must keep track of during a race – from speed and fuel consumption to engine temperature and track conditions. In April of 1994, Mark Martin appeared poised for a victory in Bristol, Tennessee when the yellow caution flag came out near the end of the Busch series NASCAR race – meaning Martin could stay in first place until he saw the checkered flag. A jubilant Martin crossed the finish line and turned into pit road to celebrate his victory. One problem: he lost count of the number of times he had circled the track. Martin had only finished 249 of the necessary 250 laps.
2. Brand New Track Great for Everything (Except Racing)
Everything’s bigger in Texas, so it was no surprise that the people who built Texas Motor Speedway outside of Fort Worth went for broke. The magnificent facility was completed in 1996, and its first NASCAR race was held the following year. During practice sessions, some drivers complained about the abrupt and tight transitions in the track’s corners. No one took their complaints seriously, and the race got underway – and then a multi-vehicle crash occurred in the very first turn of the very first NASCAR race at TMS. (Four years later, officials attempted to stage an open-wheel race on the NASCAR-designed track. But because the steep bankings in the turns forced drivers to absorb as much as 5Gs of force and even black out during practice runs, the race had to be canceled.)
3. Worst In-Race Interview Ever
This horribly awkward moment took place off the track while the 1994 Daytona 500 was in progress – and there was nothing funny about it. David Hobbs, a CBS announcer who was covering pit road during the race, got a chance to interview racing legend Bobby Allison, whose sons Clifford and Davey were also longtime NASCAR drivers. Hobbs asked Allison how he felt about the fact that the ’94 Daytona race was the first in 34 years not to have an Allison behind the wheel (at 3:12 of this video). Here’s the problem: Allison had just lost both of his sons in tragic accidents during the previous 18 months. Talk about tasteless.
4. Monkeying Around
Unfortunately, there’s no video of this unique moment in motorsports. In 1953, auto racer Tim Flock ran eight races with a co-pilot: a trained monkey. “Jocko” even had his own firesuit and seat in Flock’s car. But having a charming sidekick in the racecar backfired during a race at Raleigh. While speeding along the track, Flock opened a trap door in the floor of his car to check for tire wear (a common tactic for drivers in those days). But a pebble from the track bounced up and struck Jocko on the head, forcing the monkey to panic and jump onto Flock’s head. The racer was forced to pit and get Jocko out of the car, costing Flock a 2nd-place finish. Jocko never rode with him again.
5. So Close… And Yet So Far
In order to win the Indianapolis 500, a driver must successfully navigate 800 turns before anyone else in the race does. In the 2011 edition of the nation’s most famous auto race, Indy car rookie JR Hildebrand found himself in the lead by several seconds after completing 799 of those turns. But on turn #800, Hildebrand swung wide to get around a lapped car and slammed into the outside wall with the finish line in sight. Dan Wheldon blew past him to take the checkered flag.
Video credits: youtube.com