At the Martinsville cut-off race this year, the pace car had an issue late in the race, and it was taken to the garage to be replaced by a second pace car. It got us thinking about all of the biggest pace car fails in NASCAR history. Well, here are the five craziest we found.
5. Pace Car Causes the Leaders to Spin: 2009 Kroger 200 at IRP
In the early laps of the 2009 Kroger 200 Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Michael Annett spun out in turns three and four. It seemed like a straightforward caution early in the race until the top 2 cars, Trevor Bayne and Steven Wallace, spun out. Well, a replay showed that the pace car came onto the track sooner than anticipated, which caused the two to get together.
The ESPN broadcast was exceptionally critical of the pace car. Particularly Rusty Wallace, who is Steven Wallace’s father. Thankfully, both drivers recovered as Bayne finished seventh and Wallace finished fifth.
4. Pace Car Breaks Down: 2023 Xfinity 500 at Martinsville
Of course, this incident was too good not to include on this list. As the field lined up for the restart, the pace car broke down in front of the field, and it had to be towed back to the garage. The reason was an interesting one.
Well, Chevrolet explained to Fred Smith of Road & Track, “Rubber debris from the track damaged the wiring harness to the fuel pump, disabling the pace car”. How about that? Who knew that rubber marbles could be such a threat to the pace car of all things?
3. Pace Car Picks Up the Wrong Leader: 1990 First Union 400 at North Wilkesboro
The pace car has a simple job once the caution comes out, pick up the leader. Well, in 1990 at North Wilkesboro, the pace car picked up Dale Earnhardt as the leader through a cycle of green flag pit stops. The problem was that Brett Bodine was determined to be the leader by NASCAR.
After 18 laps of caution, NASCAR finally sorted out the scoring. Brett Bodine went on to win the race, but Darrell Waltrip to this day believes he won this race. Well, those complaints have gone unanswered by NASCAR to this point.
2. Pace Car On FIRE: 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
The 2014 Sprint Unlimited, now known as the Clash, at Daytona, was a war of attrition. Cars were picked off one by one in different accidents throughout the night, and not even the pace car was immune. Late in the race, the pace car caught fire.
Yes, the pace car caught fire while leading the field. Thankfully, the pace car driver got out of the car uninjured. The race went off without a hitch to the finish as a backup pace car was used.
1. Pace Car Stolen: 1986 Winston 500 at Talladega
However, the craziest pace car fail in NASCAR history came at Talladega in 1986. A fan literally snuck onto the grid, and they took the pace car for a joyride around the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. How he ended up in the pace car is forever a question that fans will ask.
After driving around the track for a bit, NASCAR lined up safety vehicles off of turn four into a roadblock. There, the perpetrator was apprehended. Thankfully, this has never happened again at a NASCAR race track.
Sometimes, the pace car finds a way to steal the show at a NASCAR track. Hopefully, this remains a rare occurrence.