As all of you who know me you know that I’m a big fan of IndyCar and NASCAR racing. What I’ve never told anyone is that I have strange recurring dreams about giant crashes in both of these forms of racing. While I do often record a race on my DVR and skip through it just to watch the crashes, I’m not such a sicko that it only watch racing to see the crashes. I like to think of myself as someone who likes to see people walk away from crashes safely. When I have the dream crashes, there are always way more spectacular and strange than anything I’ve ever seen in real life or on TV. They’re even bigger than some of the more famous crash scenes in Hollywood movies. The only thing that I’ve ever seen that actually occurred that is as spectacular (read “horrific”) as the crashes in my dreams would’ve been the season-ending IndyCar crash at Las Vegas Speedway that took the life of Dan Weldon last year. Drivers in that race described the scene as something that looked like it was the set of a Transformers movie. That’s the kind of crashes in my recurring crash dreams.
A little over a week ago I had another crash dream of a NASCAR crash. It was no wonder that NASCAR was on my mind because Daytona Speed Week was approaching which kicks off the start of the NASCAR season. In my dream there was an incident that I thought was typical of the kind of unrealistic and bizarre character of my recurring crash dreams. One of the features of the dream was that Jeff Gordon was involved in a crash and that his car did several barrel rolls and landed upside down. That’s not really that strange. NASCAR cars have been known to do barrel rolls especially at a track like Daytona. Although they’ve paved much of the infield areas where the cars run off in accidents, there are still lots of grassy areas that the cars can slide through. If they slide sideways at a 90 degree angle typically the tires dig into the mud and the cars do a barrel roll. It was unusual because I knew it was Jeff Gordon. Typically in my dreams these crashes involve nameless drivers and unrecognized cars. Although the barrel roll was not unusual, there was something else unusual about this crash but we’ll get to that later.
Daytona speed week starts off with a non-points paying race called the Budweiser Shootout. It’s a brief race only for those who have won a race or qualified on the pole recently. It’s a trophy dash with a winner take all cash prize. It doesn’t really count towards the Sprint Cup points. It’s really just sort of an exhibition to kick things off sort of like preseason in NFL or NBA. The race was a week ago on Saturday night and to no one’s surprise there were many crashes. But I was surprised when Jeff Gordon driving car number 24 like he always does was in a crash, slid sideways, and did two and a half barrel rolls landing upside down. It was very eerily similar to my dream. I was watching the race on TV with my dad and I turned to him and said “You’re not going to believe this but a couple of nights ago I had a dream about Jeff Gordon being in a crash in which he did two barrel rolls.” But I went on to explain that my dream was slightly different than the crash in the Budweiser Shootout that night.
In my dream crash was caused because he crashed into a safety vehicle that had for some reason wandered out onto the track while the cars were still moving at high speed. Dad and I both kind of chuckled saying “yeah like that could ever happen”.
Sunday afternoon I prepared myself to watch this year’s running of the self-proclaimed “Great American Race” the Daytona 500 but unfortunately it was rained out. They rescheduled it for noon on Monday but the rain continued. They then rescheduled it for 7 PM Monday night under the lights in prime time. It only took about one lap +100 yards before there was a big crash. Multiple time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson got sideways and caused a chain reaction that took out several cars including the star of the show Danica Patrick who this year switch to from IndyCar to NASCAR with much fanfare and hype. It was your typical Daytona crash. There were other typical Daytona crashes throughout the rest of the evening none of which were as spectacular as the ones in my dreams. That is until we got to top 160 out of the 200 scheduled.
There was some small incident that caused a yellow flag. Former IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya who drives the number 40 Target car in the NASCAR series had come into the pits with the rest of the leaders but had noticed some vibration in the back of his car. While they were busy cleaning up the track from the previous accident, he returned to the pits and had the crew check over his rear suspension. Finding nothing wrong, they sent him back out onto the track. He wanted to be caught up to the field when the green flag came out so he was going faster than normal during a yellow light. There’s nothing wrong with that. People do it all the time. You just stay low on the track, watch out for the safety vehicles, and get caught up to the pack. But as he pulled out of the pits, he noted on the radio that is vibration was continuing. As he approached some safety vehicles at the end of the backstretch entering the third term, something broke on the car. His car spun out of control as it passed one of the safety vehicles and it crashed into the back of a second vehicle.
A bit of an aside for a moment… When they clean up the race track after a crash, they spread a powdered substance on the track called “oil dry” that soaks up any oil or other fluids that are spilled on the track as a result of an accident. They then sweep up or blow away the absorbent powder leaving a clean track. Here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the cleanup is usually done by a standard street cleaning machine. It’s a huge white truck somewhat resembling a Zamboni that’s used to clean the ice at a hockey game. It has rotating brushes underneath a large vacuum system to suck up the powder or debris or whatever. You will recall that a few paragraphs ago I said that the difference between my dream about Jeff Gordon crash and the actual Jeff Gordon crash was that he had crashed into a safety vehicle. In my dream, the vehicle he crashed into was one of these street sweeping vacuums. However I learned for the first time last night that the Daytona Motor Speedway does not typically use the sweeping machines because the corners at Daytona have a banking of 30 degrees which is too steep to safely drive these trucks. Instead they use a heavy-duty quad-cab dual rear wheel pickup truck towing a trailer which contains a jet blower. A jet blower is a small gas turbine engine the kind used in small helicopters. It has a vent which blows hot air down onto the track. Typically they are used to dry the track after a rain but at Daytona and they also use them in place of the street sweeper machines to blow the debris off of the track during caution periods. The bizarre thing about my Jeff Gordon dream was that not only did he do a barrel roll, so did the street sweeper machine. That’s how bizarre my dreams are. But as many have said, truth is stranger than fiction. This incident involving Juan Pablo Montoya and a “safety vehicle” was not a street sweeper. He crashed into the jet engine being towed by the safety vehicle.
When Montoya hit the truck, it was 90 degrees sideways and the front end of his car crashed into the jet blower. He then spun around and the rear of his car hit the driver side door of the pickup truck. He then spun to a stop with flames coming out the front and rear of his car. He climbed out okay. The driver of the safety truck had to climb out the passenger side and was helped down to 30 degrees banking. He was shaken up but was unharmed. Then the flames started pouring out of the jet dryer. It took several minutes for multiple fire crews to try to bring the thing under control. The question then was if there was any damage to the asphalt. The race had been stopped under a red flag with 40 laps to go. After a delay of well over an hour they finally had the mess cleaned up, the track had been scrubbed clean and patched with a quick patch material and the race continued. There were still more wrecks of course but nothing as bizarre as the exploding jet engine. They finally completed the race at 12:56 AM Tuesday morning.
I hardly think I’m clairvoyant. I dreamed that Jeff Gordon crashed into a sweeper vehicle and both of them did barrel rolls. What really happened was Jeff Gordon did barrel roll or two on his own and then a week later Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a different kind of safety truck than the one I dreamed of. Neither Montoya nor the jet dryer did barrel rolls. But it still was a bizarre experience overall.
Here is a YouTube version of the entire scene of the Montoya crash as it played out live on Fox network. This version probably will not last long on YouTube since it’s an illegal copy but I’ll post it here anyway. There are more versions below from Fox sports that will stay available permanently.
Here is a highlight video from Fox sports showing the Montoya crash. More video below this…
Here is a Fox sports video highlights of the Budweiser Shootout featuring the Jeff Gordon crash near the end of the race.