Rookie Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 00 Camry, walked away from a horrendous crash where his car hit the track wall head on before tumbling eight times over during qualifying for Sunday’s Samsung 500.
The crash happened on McDowell’s second lap in turn one, where minutes earlier, David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Fusion, had blown an engine and spewed oil over the track.
“I came off of [turn] four on the first lap and I just felt a little bit off, like something wasn’t right,” McDowell said. “I went down into [turn] one and I don’t know if it was just the oil dry or something happened,”
Crews cleaned up the track after Gilliland’s incident, but multiple drivers complained that oil was still on the track when qualifying resumed.
McDowell’s crash not only decimated his car, but also caused serious damage to the outside wall of the track. The wall is surrounded by a Steel And Foam Energy Reducing barrier designed to absorb energy from an impact. The SAFER barrier’s steel beams were permanently bowed in after the impact.
After the wreck, McDowell was assisted out of the car and was on his feet, waving to the crowd before being escorted to the track’s infield care center for evaluation.
“For me to walk away from that wreck right there is unbelievable,” he said.
The bulk of McDowell’s car came back to the garage on a tow truck, but safety crews brought the entire front end of the car, including the radiator, in pieces in the back of a pickup truck. NASCAR confiscated the vehicle and immediately began examining it to gather data for further research.
Following qualifying, TMS officials will replace 20 feet of the wall in time for Saturday's Nationwide Series race. During qualfying, crews installed quarter-inch weld plating where the wall had bowed in.
McDowell was attempting to make his first start at Texas Motor Speedway after making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event last week.