The Big One (NASCAR)

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The Big One is a phrase describing any crash usually involving five or more cars in NASCAR and ARCA stock car racing.

Coining the phrase[edit]

Typical three-wide pack at Talladega Superspeedway in 2008.

Until the 1990s, massive crashes were referred to as "major"[1][2][3] or "terrific"[4] crashes.

By the mid-1990s, competitors and media began taking note of the multi-car wrecks at Daytona and Talladega. In 1997, Dale Earnhardt described a final-lap crash at the 1997 Pepsi 400 as "the Big Wreck".[5] News articles began using the term "Big Wreck" to describe such crashes in 1998,[6] and by 1999, its use was widespread. Drivers began to openly admit they were apprehensive of its possibility.[7]

One of the first times the term "The Big One" was used on-air was during the Winston 500 on ESPN October 11, 1998. Commentator Bob Jenkins said during the crash on lap 134 "this is the big one we hoped we would not have."[8] One of the first published instances of the term "The Big One," was an Apr 18, 2000, article on about a crash in the DieHard 500.[9] The term was also being used informally by fans on message boards.

During the 2001 Daytona 500 Fox commentator Darrell Waltrip used the term on-air to describe an 18-car crash in the backstretch on lap 173: "It's the big one, gang; it's The Big One. It's what we've all been fearing in this kind of racing is going to happen."[10]

By 2001, the phrase was widely used by competitors, fans, and in print and broadcast media.[11] It soon became standard NASCAR vernacular, and it became a retronym to describe past such accidents as well.[12][13]

The Big One has been the subject of criticism of NASCAR.[13] Some have complained that the sanctioning body, promoters, and media have celebrated the crashes.[13]

By 2009, Talladega Superspeedway marketed itself on the notorious crashes, with a one-third-pound frankfurter sold at the track called "The Big One".[14]


Sprint Cup Series[edit]

Nationwide Series[edit]

  • 2013 DRIVE4COPD 300: In the trioval, coming to the checkered flag on lap 120, leader Regan Smith was turned into the outside wall by second-place Brad Keselowski. Chaos ensued behind as 14 out of the 15 lead cars crashed in total. After hitting Smith, Keselowski himself was turned around by Sam Hornish, Jr. and went up the track in front of Kyle Larson, with Larson being turned sideways after he was hit in the back by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. Larson pushed Keselowski's car right-side first into the wall just as two cars (Brian Scott and Justin Allgaier) from behind this crash impacted the right side Larson's car after they had hit the spinning Regan Smith, causing Larson's car to go airborne and fly up into the catchfence. The front tires and the engine of his car were torn out and landed on the spectator side of the fence as part the fence was torn down by the impact of Larson's car. Simultaneously, Elliott Sadler impacted Regan Smith's spinning car, almost causing it to go airborne as well. Also, past the start-finish line, Alex Bowman spun through the infield and across the track, making hard contact with the outside wall. After Bowman hit the wall, Earnhardt Jr. drove under him, jacking the rear of Bowman's car up in the air (very similar to Kyle Busch's crash in the 2009 Coke Zero 400 when Kasey Kahne drove under him). The drivers involved were Smith, Keselowski, Earnhardt, Hornish, Larson, Scott, Bowman, Sadler, Allgaier, Travis Pastrana, Parker Kligerman, Eric McClure, Robert Richardson, Jr., and Nelson Piquet, Jr.. Race winner Tony Stewart cut down through the infield and back up on the track to escape the melee.[24] 28 spectators were injured, 14 of whom were treated at the infield care center and 14 of whom were taken to nearby hospitals, including seven taken to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, six more being taken to Halifax Health Medical Center in Port Orange, and one being taken to another area hospital. Six of those spectators sustained serious injuries.[25]


  1. ^ ESPN SpeedWorld - 1989 Winston 500, May 7, 1989,
  2. ^ CBS Sports - 1992 Daytona 500, Feb 16, 1992,
  3. ^ NASCAR on ABC- 1998 DieHard 500 telecast, 4/26/98
  4. ^ ESPN SpeedWorld - 1994 Pepsi 400, Jul 7, 1990,
  5. ^ "One-lap restart irks Pepsi drivers". The Augusta Chronicle Online. Jul 6, 1997. Retrieved Feb 11, 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Jarrett Outruns Crashes and Gordon". The New York Times. Oct 12, 1998. Retrieved Feb 11, 2009. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Engines Start For Winston 500". 1999. Retrieved Feb 11, 2009. [dead link]
  8. ^ NASCAR on ESPN - Winston 500 telecast, 10/18/98
  9. ^ "Gordon ends drought with Talladega triumph". Apr 18, 2000. Retrieved Feb 11, 2009. 
  10. ^ NASCAR on Fox - 2001 Daytona 500, Feb 18, 2001,
  11. ^ Lipsyte, Robert (Jul 9, 2001). "'The Call' Is Answered in Earnhardt's Pepsi 400 Victory". The New York Times. Retrieved Feb 11, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Matt Hagans comments on Talladega accident". Oct 6, 2005. Retrieved Feb 11, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c "The ‘Big One’ signals need for big change". Yahoo! Sports. Apr 27, 2009. Retrieved Apr 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Coming To Talladega Superspeedway: "The Big One"". Talladega Superspeedway. Apr 14, 2009. Retrieved Apr 5, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Matt Kenseth avoids 25-car pileup to win at Talladega - ESPN". ESPN. October 9, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  16. ^ Final Laps: Kenseth wins as field wrecks behind. NASCAR (YouTube). October 7, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ Post-Race Reactions: Good Sam 500. NASCAR (YouTube). October 7, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Junior out with concussion". NASCAR. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  19. ^ Matt Kenseth Starts Huge Wreck in Segment 2 - Sprint Unlimited - 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup. Fox Sports (YouTube). February 15, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2014. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ 2002 Aaron's 312 30 Car Wreck at Talladega. NASCAR (YouTube). January 31, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  22. ^ Huge wreck in Nationwide Series race at Talladega. NASCAR (YouTube). January 31, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  23. ^ Final Laps: Buescher survives final lap mayhem. NASCAR (YouTube). February 25, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  24. ^ 2013 Drive4COPD Nationwide Kyle Larson crashes into fence. NASCAR (YouTube). February 23, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Daytona Nationwide crash: 28 fans injured; Daytona 500 will go on as scheduled". February 23, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 

External links[edit]