The Worst Wreck in NASCAR History

In most cases, NASCAR crashes barely make a blip on the news. Death-defying flips, cars shearing apart into pieces — none of it really qualifies as news, except in rare cases. One of those cases was the Daytona 500 in 1960. There were nearly 70 cars on the track, which is unusual. It was an intentionally massive spectacle, designed to put on a show for both a record-setting crowd and the very first NASCAR race broadcast on television. With a field that big, everyone involved was prepared for things to go wrong. What they didn’t plan for was just how quickly things would fall apart. A minute and a half into the race, driver Dick Foley’s Chevy spun out. He managed to regain control, and would eventually finish the race in 10th place. The drivers behind Foley weren’t so lucky. The ensuing wave of sudden adjustments to avoid the out-of-control Chevy set off a chain of collisions that gave that first live TV audience an indelible image that followed NASCAR for decades after. Suddenly, 37 vehicles smashed into each other in a wild pileup. Of those, 12 flipped, with 8 drivers sent off the course in ambulances, while 24 drivers were left with demolished vehicles and were consequently disqualified. The race was stopped entirely for 39 minutes while trucks rushed to pull each of the mangled stock cars off the track. The 1960 Daytona 500 wreck will likely remain alone in NASCAR history for a very simple reason — there was a massive field in the earlier days of NASCAR, and that's no longer the case. Although the 1960 Daytona 500 crash didn’t lead to any deaths, it did raise questions about the integrity of the sport. The field was consequently cut down to 40-50 competitors, and the season was shortened from 48 events to 31 events. There will always be inherent risks associated with NASCAR races, but changes to the cars and the races themselves have made it a much safer sport today.