During a hot laps session for the Spring Nationals race at the Smoky Mountain Speedway on Saturday night, a gasp went up from the crowd as the car of Powell, Tenn. racer Mark Vineyard hit the turn one wall then went flipping multiple times along the banking. The familiar red, white and blue CVR Race Car then came to rest on its roof as safety crews and track officials scurried to aid the trapped driver.
Anxious moments passed as workers lifted the car onto its side and eventually laid it to rest on its wheels with Vineyard still inside.
“I’m a little sore, but I’m good,” Vineyard declared moments after the incident.
But in the initial seconds after the wreck, the driver had his own anxious moments.
“To be honest, it kind of had me dazed and I had to kind of get myself back together,” he explained. “It knocked the breath out of me pretty good, but I got that part straightened back up and then I realized the fuel was running down. That’s always your worst concern when you’re on your top like that is a fire. We were in a pretty compromised position where I couldn’t get out so I was trying to let them know I was OK for them to just try to get this thing flipped back over so I could get out of the car.”
Early assessment of the situation pointed to a mechanical failure as the culprit in Vineyard’s accident. “We had a right rear wheel to break right at the end of the straightway so there wasn’t really much I could do with it.”
As recently as last season, radar equipment was used at the end of Smoky Mountain’s long straightaways to clock speeds of the cars at their fastest point. Some reached as high as 125mph, and that led to a hard jolt for Vineyard.
“That’s probably the hardest I’ve ever hit,” the veteran racer explained. “The straightaways are pretty fast here and the race track was good and fast. It broke at the worst place it could break, getting right into the corner. I didn’t have any warning or nothing. It just started barrel rolling. I don’t know how many times it flipped.”
Vineyard says that the incident likely claimed that particular car, but he has a backup plan that should allow him to continue racing.
“This car is done,” he said. “It hit in the top, it hit in the back and it hit in the front. It hit pretty much everywhere, but we’re pretty lucky. My sponsors just teamed up with Bruce Nunnally and they’re opening up a new shop called Brucebilt. They teamed up with Rocket just last week. They’re going to start a program there so we were eventually going to do something through that anyway. This will probably speed up what we were going to do there.”