One driver was injured and several others badly shaken up today in a flaming eight-car crash in the early going of the $100,000 Daytona Sportsman 300 stock car race.
The scheduled 300-mile race was ended by rain after 172 miles. The race was won by Darrell Waltrip, who also captured a 125-mile qualifying race Thursday. Waltrip goes after a triple in Sunday's Daytona 500 Classic.
The massive pileup on the fourth lap occurred as the field was rounding the second turn. Freddie Smith's Chevrolet spun and rammed Joe Frasson's Mercury against the wall. Frasson's car burst into flames as his gas tank erupted. As Frasson bounced off the concrete barrier, Del Cowart's Nova struck the fiery car.
The chain reaction also caught up a pair of Chevelles driven by Don Williams and Red Farmer, a Mercury handled by Buddy Byles and Paul Dean Holt Jr.'s Torino.
Williams, of Madison, Fla., was listed in critical condition at Halifax Hospital with head and chest injuries and a fracture of his upper right arm suffered when he swerved into the wall trying to avoid the pileup.
Frasson, of Pauline, S.C., suffered a contusion of his right knee and a minor facial burn. Farmer, of Hueytown, Ala., had an ankle abrasion in addition to a minor leg burn.
"The fire melted my helmet and singed my fire suit," said Frasson. "Twenty-two gallons of fuel burning in a car can get pretty hot. That's about as near to panic as I've ever gotten."
Smith, whose loss of control started the accident, said, "I can't tell you what happened. Something knocked my windshield out and I don't remember anything after that until it was over."
The possibility of a fuel shortage has "terrorized" auto racing promoters and drivers at Daytona, according to Dr. Dick Berggren, the Ph.D. who edits Stock Car Racing magazine.
"Promoters are making plans now to survive," he said. "All they ask (in case of a declared emergency) is that auto racing be treated no differently than any other sport."
Leo Mehl, director of Goodyear Tire's worldwide racing program, said, "The impending fuel crisis will cast a new light on everyone's thinking. I frankly doubt there will be more than 14 races for Indianapolis-type racers, no matter which group sanctions them."
Mehl was referring to the split between the U.S. Auto Club (USAC) and Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Each organization is trying to set up schedules of 12 to 14 events. CART has the cars and drivers, except for A.J. Foyt, while USAC controls the big money races.
Pete Babb of Marveco Excavating in Bladensburg, Md., is still in auto racing. He is co-owner of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ray Hendrick drove in yesterday's 300-miler for late model sportsman sedans.
Local representation was very thin during this Speed Week. Jack Bland of Riverdale, Md., injured in a serious crash here last year, had no ride in the sportsman race. Joey Michaels of Baltimore qualified 28th of 40 in the sportsman class. Bill Dennis of Glen Allen, Va., and Lennie Pond of Chester, Va., are in the last two rows for today's Grand National 500-miler.