G. Bodine survives high-flying crash in 250 truck race

13-truck collision sends 2 into grandstand fence

Daytona notebook

February 19, 2000|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Mike Wallace won the Craftsman Truck Series inaugural Daytona 250 yesterday, but Geoffrey Bodine was among those who made bigger news, when he was caught up in one of the worst crashes ever witnessed at Daytona International Speedway.

Just beyond the start-finish line, at the beginning of lap 57, rookie Kurt Busch and Rob Morgan made contact and set off a 13-truck collision that sent two drivers and five fans to Halifax Medical Center. Another four fans and eight drivers were treated and released from the infield medical center.

The race was stopped for 2 hours and 23 minutes, while repairs were made to the "catch fence" that protects and separates the grandstands from the track.

When hit, Bodine's truck flew into the protective fence along the grandstands and burst into flames. It then tumbled along the front stretch, its sheet metal flying, until there was only a roll cage left with Bodine hanging in it. As it bounced again, the truck of Lance Norick passed under its midair flight.

When Bodine's truck came to rest, his engine was 250 feet away.

"I've never had a wreck like that in my life," said Bodine in a release after being admitted to intensive care in serious, but stable condition. "I was fully aware of the trouble down on the inside of me. I saw that they were coming up into me and then I just went on a wild ride."

"I thought Bodine was dead," driver B. A. Wilson told the Associated Press. "Worst wreck I've ever seen, by far."

Behind Bodine, the truck of Jimmy Hensley also piled into the fence and ripped it from its moorings.

"I had momentum," Hensley said. "I saw smoke. I was up on the outside and couldn't get down. I couldn't see anything. I just kept hitting things. It was like a pinball machine."

Bodine's brother, Todd, said, "Geoff's going to be all right. The important things, his head and his motor functions, are fine. He has some broken bones, but they'll heal. I was scared stiff watching that wreck. It was probably one of the most violent wrecks you'll ever see."

Bodine suffered facial lacerations, a broken right wrist and "a small fracture" to a vertebra, which reportedly is not considered serious. Driver Jimmy Kitchens also was taken to the hospital. His condition was reported to be stable and non-life-threatening.

The five injured fans were not identified. Two were admitted to the hospital, one with a fractured arm and the other with facial lacerations and a possible fractured sinus. The other three were treated and released.

This is the third incident at major-league races in the last three years involving fans. Accidents at a Championship Auto Racing Teams race at Michigan Speedway in 1998 and at an Indy Racing League event at Charlotte Motor Speedway last year resulted in the deaths of six fans.

Rough week for Md. driver

Donnie Neuenberger of Bradywine, Md., finished ninth in his first Craftsman Truck race in his Ebay.com Ford.

"It's a miracle," Neuenberger said. "We made a pit stop for two right side tires under the preceding caution and when I came out of the pits it didn't feel right. We took the green and made a lap and I told the crew, `It don't feel right' and about that time I had to get out of the gas and slow down a little bit. I backed up and that big accident happened right in front of me."

When the race was red-flagged, Neuenberger discovered the truck's lug nuts were loose.

It was the best news of the week. A few days ago, Neuenberger said, "Everything I own got stolen down here. They even cleaned out my debit account."

Earnhardt's sixth sense

Dale Earnhardt won his sixth International Race of Champions race here. It was also his 34th win at Daytona. Afterward, NASCAR president Bill France Jr. asked him "Does that take the edge off?" referring to Earnhardt's irritation after finishing 11th in Thursday's Twin 125-mile qualifiers.

"I told him, `Yeah, it does. A little.' But I still want to win the Daytona 500," Earnhardt said.

Tony Stewart finished second and Jeff Burton third.

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