Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows a thing or two about major NASCAR wrecks. For one, he had to deal with the terrible tragedy of losing his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., to a fatal crash at Daytona in 2001. Junior himself also suffered a number of concussions and other injuries throughout his NASCAR career as a result of massive wrecks.
So, after Bubba Wallace‘s wreck at Pocono back in 2018, which Wallace referred to as the “hardest one of my career,” Junior, in an episode of his Dale Jr. Download podcast, shared his own thoughts about Wallace’s wreck and broke down what exactly goes through drivers’ minds when they know that they’re about to crash.
“When you have a failure and there’s been some kind of failure on the car where you’re either out of control — you don’t have control of the steering — or you don’t have any brakes, and so you’re flying into the wall,” Earnhardt said, according to For The Win. “And you know you’re going to hit it, but you have enough time to think about it. Normally in wrecks, you get hit, and the hitting just starts. You don’t have time to think about, ‘Oh, I’m about to hit this, and this is going to hurt.’
“But in that rare situation that Bubba described where something breaks and you’ve got time to think, like you’re heading toward this wall at 180 miles an hour and you’re gonna hammer that damn thing, you don’t know what the result’s gonna be. And you do think about your ability to survive it.
“Are you gonna survive it? Are you gonna die? Are you going to be injured? You would be surprised what all you can cover in a mere couple seconds.”
This is some great insight from Junior, although Wallace certainly had some insight of his own following his high-speed wreck.
“[The wreck was the] hardest one of my career,” Wallace said. “I was just telling them here, there’s no feeling like being helpless in that situation, going off into Turn 1 and it scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know if I was going to remember it when I hit or not. We’re good. Bit my cheek, banged my foot off the pedal. I’m okay though. I’ll wake up tomorrow (and) be a little sore, but the safety has come a long way so it’s good to be able to climb out of the car.”
“The EMTs were worried that I didn’t let the window net down soon enough and I was like, hell, that’s the last thing I thought about! I’m sorry. Everything was good. They gave me an ultrasound, no twins or anything so I’m good. Just unfortunate ending for us. Our Mile 22 Chevrolet was decent. We were trying to get by and trying to salvage a decent finish and just had brake failure.”
It’s, of course, a relief that Wallace made it out all right from what could have led to a devastating outcome. All in all, the Richard Petty Motorsports driver learned a pretty valuable lesson when it comes to dealing with car failure in the moment.
This post was originally published on August 1, 2018.