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Montoya escapes Daytona inferno

Juan Montoya was lucky to escape unhurt after a mechanical failure sent his car into the back of a jet dryer, engulfing both vehicles and the track in a fierce fire.
Just when fans thought they'd seen it all this year at Daytona, the whole thing went up in flames at turn 3. [See video of Montoya's accident]

The race was under caution after David Stremme blew an engine on lap 157, and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing's Juan Montoya was among those to pit under the yellow flag and then back in a second time to have the car checked out for a serious vibration. He was back on track and catching up with the field when the car suddenly snapped right on him and he lost control.

Montoya had been running along the bottom of the track to give plenty of room to the safety vehicles that were carrying out routine caution period clean-up activities at the top of the high banked speedway, but the sudden snap sent the #42 straight up the track and into the back of a jet dryer.

The collision was bad enough, but it ruptured the dryer's 200-gallon tank filled with jet fuel to power the jet engine used to burn off any surface water from the track resulting from rainfall. The fuel caught fire and engulfed the jet dryer in a huge fireball.

The fuel seeped out of the ruptured tank and ran down the banked track, catching fire as it went and leaving a literal wall of flame right across the track that took several minutes to bring under control. The race was red flagged as fire crews tackled the blaze, with real fears that the intensity of the heat could cause race-ending damage to the track surface if not extinguished quickly.

Montoya was not seriously injured by either the impact or the ensuing fire, but he was a bit singed by the experience.

"I'm okay. My foot hurt, but I'm okay. For as big of a hit that way; I'm pretty good to be honest," he said after getting checked out at the medical centre. "I was full on the brakes and when I hit, I hit driver's side and my foot slipped onto the clutch and it scratched the top of my foot."

The fire burned Montoya's race helmet before the force of the collision pushed the #42 clear. "I saw the flames. My helmet got a little burned and everything," he said. "I didn't think about the truck, I thought 'I'm actually hitting the jet and it's not going to be fun.' Before I got there I was thinking 'this thing is going to be on fire pretty bad' and it was."

The driver of the dryer truck, Duane Barnes, also escaped serious injury, although he was taken to the local Halifax Health Medical Center for treatment before being released shortly afterwards.

"He came with me [in the ambulance]. He was pretty scared, but he looked okay," said Montoya. "I am sure he is pretty shaken and is going to be sore."




Related Pictures

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Cars are stopped on the backstretch under red flag as track workers clean Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Track workers clean Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway after a mechanical failure to Juan Pablo Montoya`s car caused it to slideinto a track dryer [Pic credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR]
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Don - Unregistered

February 28, 2012 9:55 PM

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