Legendary Carnage: Famous crashes at Darlington Raceway

Richard Petty crashes after brushing the 3rd and 4th wall, then hitting the inside wall. 1970. FILE PHOTO/DARLINGTON RACEWAY

Richard Petty’s helmet can clearly be seen hanging out of the car door after the 1970 crash. FILE PHOTO/DARLINGTON RACEWAY

#43, Richard Petty’s Plymouth Roadrunner, after the May 1970 crash at the Southern 500, Darlington Raceway. FILE PHOTO/DARLINGTON RACEWAY

By Stephan Drew, Editor


On the outskirts of Darlington, South Carolina, the Darlington International Raceway stands as one of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks, earning the nickname “The Lady in Black” for its treacherous, egg-shaped configuration. Since its inception in 1950, this 1.366-mile asphalt oval has witnessed its fair share of breathtaking victories and heart-wrenching defeats. But one of the things that truly etches Darlington Raceway into the annals of motorsports history are the unforgettable race car crashes that have taken place on its hallowed grounds.

1970 Rebel 400 – Richard Petty’s Crash:

In the inaugural running of the Rebel 400, a race renowned for its brutal nature, Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR, experienced a terrifying crash. Petty’s Plymouth Superbird collided with another car, sending him careening into the guardrail. The impact was so violent that it tore a wheel from his car. Miraculously, Petty survived, and this crash became a testament to the incredible resilience of NASCAR drivers.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 – Elliott Sadler’s Wild Ride:

Elliott Sadler’s crash in the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 is etched into racing lore. After making contact with another car, Sadler’s vehicle soared into the air, flipping several times before slamming back down onto the track. It was a jaw-dropping moment that showcased both the dangers of racing and the safety innovations that help protect drivers today.

2004 Darlington 500 – Jeff Gordon’s Flipping Fiasco:

Darlington’s “Too Tough To Tame” reputation struck again in 2004 when Jeff Gordon found himself upside down during the Darlington 500. After a collision with another car, Gordon’s Chevrolet took a wild ride, ultimately flipping over. Thankfully, Gordon emerged unscathed from this harrowing incident.

2017 Southern 500 – Erik Jones’ Fiery Crash:

In a more recent incident, Erik Jones faced a terrifying moment during the 2017 Southern 500. His car hit the wall and burst into flames, creating a stunning scene of danger and bravery. Jones swiftly evacuated the vehicle as the flames engulfed it, serving as a testament to the rapid response and safety measures in place at Darlington Raceway.

1990 TranSouth 500 – Phil Parsons’ Barrel Roll:

Phil Parsons experienced a spectacular barrel roll during the 1990 TranSouth 500. After contact with another car, Parsons’ vehicle flipped and tumbled down the track before finally coming to a rest. It was an awe-inspiring, gravity-defying moment that showcased the sheer unpredictability of racing.

While these crashes were indeed spectacular, they also remind us of the inherent risks that come with high-speed, competitive racing. The Darlington Raceway, with its unique characteristics, has often been a proving ground for both drivers’ skills and the advancements in safety technology that continue to evolve.

In the world of NASCAR, the allure of Darlington Raceway remains irresistible. The Lady in Black, with her unforgiving turns and storied history, continues to draw drivers and fans alike. And while these famous crashes may remind us of the dangers of the sport, they also highlight the incredible bravery and resilience of those who dare to take on this legendary track, ensuring that Darlington Raceway will forever be etched in the annals of motorsports history.

Author: Stephan Drew

Share This Post On

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Posts Remaining