McDuffie killed in Watkins Glen race Car goes airborne, then hits tire wall

August 12, 1991

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Longtime stock car racer John Delphus "J.D." McDuffie was killed yesterday when his car became airborne and smashed into a tire wall and guardrail five laps into the Budweiser at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup race.

It appeared in television replays that McDuffie's left front tire came off, triggering a 160-mph slide off the Watkins Glen International track at the end of the long straightaway -- the fastest part of the 2.428-mile, seven-turn road course.

His car skidded through the grassy area in turn five, cutting little speed, if any. The Pontiac flipped into the air and the driver's side slammed into the tire wall and adjoining guardrail before coming to rest on its roof.

The 52-year-old driver from Sanford, N.C., was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the cause of death.

McDuffie was married with two children. His son Jeff was his crew chief.

Jimmy Means slid off the track just behind McDuffie and also hit the guardrail, but he did not touch the other car and was able to scramble out of the wreck without injury.

Means said of McDuffie, "He lost his brakes or something. . . . If you lose your brakes or have any kind of problem at all [at that point], you're running too fast. It's all flat and you go with the momentum of the car, wherever it's going to take you. This situation, nothing would have helped. The fence wasn't the problem."

When Means got out of his car, he immediately bent down to look into McDuffie's car to see if he could help the other driver. He said, "It was so bad I closed my eyes."

He quickly stood and began to signal for help.

The rest of the field, completing lap six of a scheduled 90-lap event, was red-flagged to a stop while safety workers removed McDuffie from his car.

Track workers had to replace six sections of the guardrail and six posts, interrupting the race for nearly two hours.

McDuffie, whose Winston Cup career began in 1963, was competing in his 653rd event. His best finish, a third, came in a 100-mile race in 1971 at Malta, N.Y.

1. (3) Ernie Irvan, Rockwell, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $64,850, 98.977. 2. (22) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $37,325. 3. (2) Mark Martin, Jamestown, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $31,440. 4. (21) Rusty Wallace, Concord, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 90, $16,680. 5. (14) Dale Jarrett, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $18,565. 6. (7) Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $11,600. 7. (19) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $16,030. 8. (30) Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Buick Regal, 90, $11,320. 9. (31) Richard Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 90, $11,640. 10. (9) Davey Allison, Hueytown, Ala., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $18,100.

11. (23) Chad Little, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $5,590. 12. (28) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Ford Thunderbird, 90, $7,250. 13. (26) Derrike Cope, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $13,560. 14. (29) Joe Ruttman, Franklin, Tenn., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 90, $8,720. 15. (8) Dale Earnhardt, Doolie, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $16,180. 16. (27) John Paul Jr., West Palm Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Lumina, 90, $4,610. 17. (11) Dorsey Schroeder, Ballwin, Mo., Pontiac Grand Prix, 90, $6,840. 18. (16) Bobby Hillin Jr., Harrisburg, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 89, $11,370. 19. (18) Rick Wilson, Cornelius, N.C., Buick Regal, 89, $7,515. 20. (38) Jim Derhaag, Chaska, Minn., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 88, $5,120.

21. (40) Michael Waltrip, Huntersville, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 88, $6,995. 22. (4) Geoff Bodine, Julian, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 86, $12,575. 23. (12) Alan Kulwicki, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 82, $10,680. 24. (39) Oma Kimbrough, Tyrone, Pa., Buick Regal, 80, oil line, $3,620. 25. (17) Brett Bodine, Harrisburg, N.C., Buick Regal, 77, $6,685. 26. (34) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Pontiac Grand Prix, 76, $4,725. 27. (32) Jimmy Spencer, Mooresville, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 72, $6,265. 28. (15) Harry Gant, Taylorsville, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 71, $6,105. 29. (33) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 69, $3,995. 30. (6) Ken Schrader, Concord, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 68, camshaft, $6,660.

31. (37) Kim Campbell, Tayler, Texas, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 64, $3,725. 32. (5) Wally Dallenbach Jr., Basalt, Colo., Ford Thunderbird, 58, steering, $3,010. 33. (10) Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Pontiac Grand Prix, 55, $5,575. 34. (1) Terry Labonte, Archdale, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 47, engine, $9,490. 35. (24) Rick Mast, Rockbridge Baths, Va., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 41, transmission, $4,830. 36. (25) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 33, engine, $9,800. 37. (20) Dave Marcis, Avery's Creek, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 11, brakes, $4,745. 38. (13) Irv Hoerr, Peoria, Ill., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 8, engine, $2,710. 39. (36) Jimmy Means, Forest City, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 4, crash, $2,655. 40. (35) J.D. McDuffie, Sanford, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 4, crash, $2,595.

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