Stock car racing (and any form of racing, for that matter) is an inherently dangerous activity. This has sadly been proven many times over the 120 year plus history of auto sports. There is no escaping the fact that some race tracks are intrinsically more dangerous than others. Here are the ten most dangerous tracks on the Nascar Cup Series schedule.
The most dangerous track statistically in NASCAR is Daytona International Speedway which has seen 14 driver fatalities since its opening in 1959. It is also the most likely track to see multi car crashes during a race. However, tracks like charlotte, talladega and Bristol also are considered both difficult and dangerous racetracks
Safety advancements – as well as attitudes toward safety – have come a long way since the early days, and most racing facilities endeavor to make their venue as safe as possible> however racing is dangerous and despite these improvements in both track and car safety there are still accidents. We take a look at where these accidents may occur in this list of the the ten most dangerous tracks in NASCAR.
Ten of the Most Dangerous Tracks in NASCAR
We have listed this as a top ten, but judging the exact order is a strange task, there is a clear number one but the criteria to judge others can vary. Fatalities are, thankfully, rare in NASCAR racing but crashes are not. So the below list takes both into consideration.
10. New Hampshire International Raceway
The “Magic Mile,” as the New England track is nicknamed, was the site of one of the last Cup Series driver deaths to occur (that of Kenny Irwin, Jr.). Fourth-generation driver and grandson of “The King” Richard Petty, Adam Petty also lost his life here at only 19 years old that same year (2000) at the track in what is now the Xfinity Series.
While New Hampshire International has been free of such tragic incidents since, it remains a track to be respected due to its combination of high speeds and flat corners.
9. Bristol Motor Speedway
While the fan favorite half mile “bullring” may not seem like an obvious choice for a list such as this one, “The world’s fastest half mile” didn’t come by that title by accident.
With its super-high banks (a still-impressive 26 degrees after the 2007 reconfiguration) “Thunder Valley” sees impressive speeds for a short track, sometimes topping 140mph (225km/h). Drivers have compared racing at Bristol to flying a fighter plane in a parking lot.
Michael Waltrip’s 1990 crash at Bristol is proof that the track is not to be taken lightly, as is the horrific crash that Mike Harmon survived there in 2002.
As the table below highlights it is also the third most likely track to see a crash that involves multiple cars.
8. Watkins Glen International
The Watkins Glen road course has been a fixture on the circuit for a long time now, and is known as one the most – if not the most – demanding tracks in the sport. It features several long straightaways among the 11-turn layout, meaning drivers must contend with some very high speeds as they negotiate the course’s tricky chicanes and switchbacks.
Watkin’s Glen was tragically the site of a deadly crash for veteran driver J.D. McDuffie, who careened into the out wall going into the notorious carousel turn. Jimmie Johnson’s incredible impact into the wall here in 2000 is one of the worst non-fatal hits in recent memory.
6. Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oval)
The sport’s home track, and home of the prestigious Coca-cola 600, is also historically one of its most dangerous, second only to the no.1 entry on our list with 3 Cup Series fatalities (along with the defunct Langhorne Speedway). Drivers Jimmy Pardue, Harold Kite and, perhaps most famously, Fireball Roberts all lost their lives in Cup racing-related incidents at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Charlotte is the second most likely track to see a multiple car crash on in a season.
7. Darlington Raceway
One of Nascar’s oldest tracks, the Darlington Raceway is also without question of its most colorful. This distinct, egg-shaped oval was the site of the closest and arguably most memorable finish in series history.
It is also one of the most dangerous of Nascar’s racing circuits with its demanding, narrow turns that force drivers to ride the racing groove mere inches from the wall…and disaster. The prestigious Southern 500 has claimed the lives of drivers Bobby Meyes and Buren Skeen.
5. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
There is an old adage that says “Indy will bite you if you don’t respect it.” Sadly, this has proven true many times in Indy Cars, but so far there have fortunately not been any Nascar racing deaths to occur here to date.
Yet Indy still remains a track to be taken seriously, with its formidable flat turns and long straights. While the Nascar Cup Series is experimenting by moving to the infield road course, drivers still know that this most iconic of race tracks commands every iota of skill if disaster is to be averted.
4. Atlanta Motor Speedway
The high banks of this 1.5-mile speedway (which will get even higher after its reconfiguration) have provided some of the fastest and most entertaining racing on the schedule in recent years. When it was reconfigured back in 1997 the track saw qualifying speeds in excess of 197 mph (317km/h).
Two of the 28 total Cup driver fatalities have occurred here, the most recent being Grant Adcox in 1989. While concerns have been raised over the reconfiguration, only time will tell what’s in store for one of the series’ stalwart venues.
3. Pocono Raceway
The two-and-a-half-mile Pocono Raceway is one of the more unique tracks in Nascar, and has seen some of the most devastating crashes in the sport’s history. It was the site of the crash that ended Bobby Allison’s career. Elliot Sadler’s 2010 crash into the inside wall has been described as the hardest hit in Nascar history. Thankfully Elliot was able to walk away shaken but unhurt.
2. Talladega Superspeedway
Second only to its sister track on this list, the Talladega Superspeedway has long been considered one of the most dangerous. Nascar’s biggest track is known for “the big one,” and lore has it that the track is cursed it has claimed two lives those of Larry Smith in 1973, and TIny Lund in 1975 in recent history.
One of the sport’s most bizarre occurrences came here when 1970 Cup Champion and Nascar Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac abruptly pulled out of the race and ended his full-time Cup career. After Isaac’s death a few years later, it was revealed that Isaac’s reason for pulling out at Talladega was that a voice in his head told him he would die if he continued.
It is also the track that had the huge crash of Bobby Allision into the catch Fencing. That and the speed record Bill Elliott set where the spark that started restrictor plate racing in NASCAR.
1. Daytona International Speedway
That Daytona is the most dangerous track in Nascar is probably no surprise to anyone. It was the site of the sport’s biggest heartbreak in recent memory when Dale Earnhardt lost his life in the 2001 Daytona 500 – the last driver fatality for the Cup Series up to this point (and hopefully for good).
Two of the three previous Cup Series fatalities came at the 1994 Daytona 500, where drivers Rodney Orr and Neil Bonnet were killed in separate practice incidents. The track has seen 14 driver deaths total across NASCAR, far more than any other in the sport’s history.
Were Old NASCAR Race Tracks ‘Dangerous?
As mentioned we have included only the current NASCAR racing tracks in this list as these are the ones you may still visit. However there are ones from the past that have been equally if not more dangerous NASCAR tracks. We give these a dishonorable mention below.
Riverside International Raceway, California: This racetrack is now a shopping centre in California. Ithad a fatality in the first race in 1957 When John Lawrence rolled his car between turn 5 and 6. The track also claimed the life of Ken Miles, whose story is told in the movie, Ford Vs. Ferrari, in 1966 during testing. Joe Weatherly also lost his life here in 1964.
Langhorne Speedway, Pennsylvania: Although now gone this racetrack was one of the most dangerous in Motorsports. 27 people, drivers, spectators and flagmen had died here before it. In a sign of the times it is now a shopping development. it had a corner drivers names Puke Hollow, due to the speed and uneven track. Parnelli Jones said of it
Memphis Arkansas Speedway: Was a very short-lived NASCAR Grand National Venue, Only in operation for 3 years. It still holds the record for the longest dirt track in NASCAR history at 1.5 miles, and claimed the lives of two drivers in two days in 1956, when Clint Mchugh and Cotton Priddy crashed in qualifying and on race day.
Which NASCAR Track Has the Most Accidents?
Daytona has by far the most accidents in a race overall., consequential ones, there are tracks, often short courses that have more accidents in an actual race (see below) but with the speeds, the motivation and the number of cars involved makes Daytona more likely to have an incident and involve more drivers.
The table below includes data from buildingspeed.org. (who has the full list and excellent information) Who uses an index of accidents per 100 miles ( as short course races often are short but with more accidents) and number of cars involved. you can follow the link for the full track list.
|NASCAR Track||Accidents per 100 miles x number of cars involved.|
So as you can see accidents and crashes are not just reserved for the Superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, short tracks also have just as many risks. When driving for so far, for so long, and with so many other drivers around you accidents are just a moment away.
Short tracks can be just as dangerous and risky as the large fast tracks, but the spectacle of the ‘big one’ at these fast tracks is more likely to involve more cars. However what makes a NASCAR tough track can vary, and we go into that in more detail here.
Whatever the track, one thing can be assured, driving at speeds of up to 200 miles an hour, bumper to bumper is dangerous no matter at which track it is done.