NASCAR Crashes: The 20 Most Dangerous Near-Disasters in Cup History

Ryan PapasergeCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2011

NASCAR Crashes: The 20 Most Dangerous Near-Disasters in Cup History

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    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Although many fans wouldn't like to admit it, crashes are as much a part of NASCAR as lead changes, photo finishes and Jimmie Johnson winning Sprint Cup championships.

    Even though it seems as if the amount of crashes in the sport has decreased a bit since the rise of the Car of Tomorrow in the 2007 season, there's no question that crashes have occurred that have caused viewers to gasp in shock—fearing the worst for the driver(s) involved.

    Obviously, myriad accidents happened up to that point in which drivers cheated death or severe injury.

    Here's a look at 20 wrecks and accidents that could have been much, much worse.

Carl Edwards' Final Lap Flip (Talladega, April 2009)

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    The final lap of this race has been ingrained in the minds of NASCAR fans over the past two seasons.

    On the final lap of the spring event at Talladega, leader Carl Edwards attempts to block Brad Keselowski from pulling off a huge upset by winning his first Sprint Cup race in just his fifth career start—the key word being "attempts."

    Keselowski tries to make the pass by using the bottom groove to sneak under a closing Edwards, accidentally sending the No. 99 Ford soaring in the process.

    Edwards came away unscathed and walked across the finish line.

Brad Keselowski Flips (Atlanta, March 2010)

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    In a clear act of retaliation—both for the Talladega race and an incident between the two earlier in the race—Edwards intentionally took out Keselowski in the late stages of the March 2010 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

    Much like Edwards in the Talladega race, Keselowski is sent flying, ending his chances of earning his first top 10 as driver of the No. 12 Dodge for Penske Racing.

    Obviously, this could have been much worse.

Steve Grissom's Hard Impact (Atlanta, March 1997)

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    This is one of those crashes that must be seen to be believed.

    The impact by which Steve Grissom—driving the No. 41 Chevy for Larry Hedrick Motorsports at this point—hits the inside retaining wall, causing the rear of the car to essentially disintegrate and the gas tank to explode away from the machine.

    A former Nationwide Series champion, Grissom came away unscathed from this incident.

Elliott Sadler Slammed (Pocono, August 2010)

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    Sadler hits the inside barrier so hard that the engine is removed from his No. 19 Dodge.

    The camera angles provided by the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" are poor in this case, so you'll have to look closely to see how hard Sadler's crash was.

    Once again, Sadler walked away. 

DEI Destruction (Pocono, July 2002)

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    After a lengthy rain delay pushed the start of the Pennsylvania 500 back three hours, this Lap 3 incident between Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park would cause a one-hour delay to repair a bent guardrail from the incident.

    Luckily for both drivers—and especially for Park, whose career would never be the same after a brutal wreck at a Nationwide race in Darlington one year before nearly killed him—no injuries were suffered.

Steve Park Slams Into Pit Wall (Atlanta, March 1998)

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    Atlanta (and Steve Park) makes another appearance on this list, this time in a 1998 practice crash at the 1.5-mile speedway. 

    After slamming into the Turn 4 wall, Park is sent careening into the pit road wall, with the impact causing him to shatter a femur in the process.

    While Park's injuries kept him out of action for most of his rookie season, he came away relatively unscathed compared to other injuries he would suffer throughout his NASCAR career.

Mark Martin Takes a Trip into The Infield (Talladega, May 1994)

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    I'm pretty sure the title of this slide explains it all.

Cale Yarborough Leaps Over The Wall (Darlington, September 1965)

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    Once again, the title of this video explains it all.

Dale Earnhardt's Daytona 500 Flip (Daytona, February 1997)

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    One year before his historic victory in the "Great American Race," Earnhardt was sent flying in this incident.

    Earnhardt not only came out of this incident unscathed—he also finished the race because the car was still drivable.

Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt on Their Sides (Talladega, April 1998)

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    The amazing thing about this incident is the fact that Earnhardt and Elliott were both on their sides and still collided into each other for an extended period of time.

    Despite all of the flames and on-track carnage, the only injury suffered was a singed mustache by Earnhardt.

Bobby Labonte Goes Flying (Talladega, October 2001)

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    Bobby Labonte went from battling in the lead pack at Talladega to flipping over in the "Big One," avoiding injury despite violent impact.

    Note that they still raced back to the flag at this point.

Dale Jarrett Is Nearly Run Over (New Hampshire, September 2003)

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    Watch this video and you'll see why the "Lucky Dog" rule was created right after this race.

Jeff Gordon Is Unlucky in Vegas (Las Vegas, March 2008)

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    Jeff Gordon suffered one of the worst impacts recorded in NASCAR history in the late stages of the March 2008 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

    Thanks to advances in safety since the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt, Gordon walked away unscathed.

Michael McDowell Goes Airborne (Texas, April 2008)

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    Michael McDowell somehow avoided serious injury after going airborne during his qualifying attempt at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Hornish Jr. Run Out Of Room (Watkins Glen, August 2009)

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    No serious injuries here, but notice the monotone delivery of ESPN's Jerry Punch describing the incident to viewers. Good thing he's back on pit road.

Jimmie Johnson Makes Monster Mile Save (Dover, June 2006)

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    Instead of saving himself from injury, Jimmie Johnson made an incredible move to keep the No. 48 Chevy from any damage during qualifying for a 2008 race at Dover.

Jamie McMurray Goes Drifting (Las Vegas, March 2009)

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    Notice how long McMurray kept the No. 26 Roush Fenway Racing Ford from spinning. He went sideways for an entire turn in an impressive move.

A.J. Allmendinger Lacks Darlington Stripe (Darlington, May 2009)

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    Instead of moving up into the wall, Allmendinger somehow runs the high line without brushing the wall—preventing the infamous "Darlington stripe" and allowing him to continue his run.

Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray Make High-Speed Saves (Talladega, April 2008)

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    Are 200 mile-per-hour wrecks preventable at Talladega if a car is bumped? Just ask Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray.

Michael Waltrip Avoids Heavy Impact (Talladega, April 2009)

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    In his last full season of Sprint Cup competition, Michael Waltrip showed that some of his restrictor-plate success may not be fully due to being in DEI equipment for his four wins at Daytona and Talladega. 

    Thoughts? Did I leave anything out? Comment below.

    Ryan Papaserge is a junior journalism/mass communication student at St. Bonaventure University and a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.