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. It is most commonly used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, although occasionally seen at other tracks as well, such as Dover International Speedway.
Coining the phrase
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". News articles began using the term "Big Wreck" to describe such crashes in 1998, and by 1999, its use was widespread. Drivers began to openly admit they were apprehensive of its possibility.
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." One of the first published instances of the term "The Big One," was an April 18, 2000, article on ESPN.com about a crash in the DieHard 500. 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, as saying "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."
By 2001, the phrase was widely used by competitors, fans, and in print and broadcast media. It soon became standard NASCAR vernacular, and it became a retronym to describe past such accidents as well.
By 2009, Talladega Superspeedway marketed itself on the notorious crashes, with a one-third-pound frankfurter sold at the track called "The Big One".
Monster Energy Cup Series
- 2001 Daytona 500: On the back straightaway on lap 173, fifth-place Robby Gordon got into the back of fourth-place Ward Burton, turning Burton left into third-place Tony Stewart's right rear. Stewart's car went straight into the wall, catching air, landing on its side on top of Gordon's car, and tumbling across the track while getting hit by other cars. The car briefly landed on top of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte before falling onto the track and rolling to a stop in the infield grass. Burton's and Stewart's cars blocked the track, starting a chain reaction crash that collected 18 cars in total, including Burton, Stewart, Labonte, Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Steve Park, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Jerry Nadeau, Jason Leffler, Elliott Sadler, John Andretti, Jeff Burton, Andy Houston, Jeff Gordon, Kenny Wallace, Buckshot Jones, and Dale Jarrett. Dale Earnhardt, who was running seventh, just avoided the spinning Ward Burton, and the crash would later be overshadowed by Earnhardt's fatal crash on the last lap.
- 2002 Daytona 500: Second-place Kevin Harvick attempted to block the advancing Jeff Gordon going into turn one on lap 149, resulting in the two making contact and Harvick being spun down to the apron. Harvick slid up the track, hit the wall, and slid back down the track, collecting an additional 17 cars (18 in total). Matt Kenseth, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, John Andretti, Kenny Wallace, Casey Atwood, Johnny Benson Jr., Bobby Labonte, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, Mike Wallace, Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Hamilton, Todd Bodine, Dave Blaney, Jerry Nadeau, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (his third incident in the race). Eventual race winner Ward Burton barely made it to the inside of the spinning Harvick to avoid the crash.
- 2002 Aaron's 499: On lap 164, Jimmie Johnson shuffled Kyle Petty out of line in turn 1. Coming on to the backstretch, Petty found a spot in line, but the whole field stacked up behind him, causing Mike Wallace to force Tony Stewart against the outside wall, collecting 24 cars: Steve Park, Rusty Wallace, Mike Skinner, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Casey Atwood, Bill Elliott; Johnny Benson, Jr.; Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Jeremy Mayfield, Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon, Ricky Craven, Jimmy Spencer, John Andretti, Steve Grissom, Bobby Hamilton, Dave Blaney, Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd. Sadler took the biggest hit in the wreck by slamming the corner of the inside wall on the right side, while Benson had to be pulled out of his car after it caught fire on pit road. However, all of the drivers involved escaped injury.
- 2003 Aaron's 499: On lap 4, entering turn one, Ryan Newman blew a tire, bounced off Mark Martin, and smashed hard into the turn one wall, almost turning over. One of Newman's tires came off as he spun back down the track, and the tire bounced off Ricky Rudd's hood, causing it to bounce over the catch fence and land in a restricted access area outside the track. Mayhem ensued as cars checked up behind attempting to avoid Newman, who spun across the middle of the track, resulting the largest recorded wreck in modern Cup Series competition. The crash collected a total of 27 cars: Newman, Rudd, Jack Sprague, Jerry Nadeau, Hermie Sadler, Mike Wallace, Steve Park, Rusty Wallace, Mike Skinner, Mark Martin, Jimmy Spencer, Johnny Benson Jr., Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Jeff Green, Casey Mears, Jamie McMurray, John Andretti, Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader, Todd Bodine, Dave Blaney, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton, and eventual race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who received minor front-end damage.
- 2005 Aaron's 499: On lap 132, Mike Wallace, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together at the pit road exit in the tri oval, forcing Scott Riggs and Wallace to careen into to the wall hard, and collecting 28 other cars (31 in all): Kyle Busch, Dave Blaney, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Mike Wallace, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Mike Bliss, Brian Vickers, Scott Wimmer, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Sterling Marlin, Jeff Green, Jason Leffler, Boris Said, Casey Mears, Joe Nemechek and Carl Edwards. Fox studio analyst Jeff Hammond estimated the total damage at $8 million. The race was halted for about 43 minutes for extensive cleanup.
- 2012 Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500: On lap 189, the last lap of a green-white-checker restart following Jamie McMurray's spin with five laps to go, Tony Stewart tried to block the advancing draft of Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears in turn four. As Stewart moved down to block Waltrip, he was passed on the outside by Matt Kenseth (the only car ahead of the crash; would go on to win the race). Stewart came across the front of Waltrip's car, turned sideways, and spun up into the pack, collecting 24 other cars (25 in all): Waltrip, Mears, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose, Sam Hornish Jr., Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Regan Smith, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., David Gilliland, Terry Labonte, Travis Kvapil, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch. Stewart's car went upside down and landed on top of Kahne, Menard, and Bowyer before flipping back over and coming to rest at the exit of turn four. Gordon and Busch, who were both outside the top 15, received only minor fender damage while escaping the wreck on the apron to finish in second and third, respectively. Most of the cars were caught in the initial pileup; however, five cars (Keselowski, Truex, Bobby Labonte, Travis Kvapil and Gilliland) were swept up as the others cars began the spin down into the infield and another (Hamlin) spun out by himself and sustained front-end damage. Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman avoided the wreck at the back of the pack to take top-ten finishes. Following this crash, Earnhardt, Jr., who had taken a few hard hits in the crash, was diagnosed with a concussion, requiring him to sit out the next two races (Charlotte and Kansas). He was replaced by Regan Smith at both of them.
- 2014 Sprint Unlimited: On lap 36, going through the tri-oval, Matt Kenseth attempted to move to the inside to carry his momentum around the slightly slower car of Brad Keselowski; however, he didn't have enough room and was turned by Joey Logano. As Kenseth came back up the track, he collected Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.. Stewart and Gordon ended up pinned against the wall, with Busch's front end under Gordon's car and Stenhouse's front end under Busch's car. Danica Patrick spun out while trying to miss both the larger crash and the spinning car of Edwards, but she did not hit anything. As her car came to a stop, she was t-boned by the accelerating Stenhouse, who couldn't see because of front-end damage and was trying to make it back to the garage. Kevin Harvick was also involved in the crash, but his damage was only from running through debris.
- 2015 Coke Zero 400: On lap 161, the final lap of a green-white-checker finish, second place Denny Hamlin got tapped by Kevin Harvick, spinning him in front of the 27-car lead pack as they crossed the finish line. Hamlin drifted back up into traffic and was hit by Austin Dillon, causing Dillon's car to fly over two other rows of cars, flip, and hit the catch fence. The crash collected 25 cars, with the only uninvolved cars from the lead pack being race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., second place Jimmie Johnson, and fifth place Kurt Busch. Twenty-four cars from the lead pack, as well as the trailing car of Brad Keselowski, were swept up in the melee. The crash occurred after the cars crossed the finish line, as Hamlin finished third and Harvick fourth, while Dillon finished seventh.
- 2016 GEICO 500: The first of four big crashes on the day occurred on lap 96 when Austin Dillon got turned into the outside wall by the car of David Gilliland, and in the ensuing check-up Jimmie Johnson spun out, and Chris Buescher flipped several times down the backstretch. Also involved were Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, and Michael Annett. The next crash occurred on lap 161, when Kurt Busch attempted to give Johnson a push going into turn 1, which sent Johnson into the outside wall and back into traffic, collecting 20 other cars. Among those involved were Greg Biffle, Kyle Larson, Dillon (his second crash of the afternoon, as was Johnson's), Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman. On lap 181, Michael McDowell bumped into Danica Patrick, sending her car into the 20 of Matt Kenseth, sending him into the air and into the inside wall before he flipped back over. While this took place, McDowell slid up into the outside, catching Aric Almirola, sending him spinning down into Joey Logano. All told, this crash caught 12 cars, many of whom had some damage already from the lap 161 crash. The final crash occurred on the last lap into the tri-oval when Landon Cassill hooked Cole Whitt into Kevin Harvick, sending Harvick into the outside wall and into Ricky Stenhouse Jr., putting Harvick on his side before landing back on four wheels. Also collected were Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger as Brad Keselowski crossed the line to take the win. All told, 35 of the 40 cars received some damage on the day, and the first car a lap down at the end of the race was Johnson, who finished 6 laps behind in 22nd. 
- 2016 AAA 400 Drive for Autism: On a restart on lap 354, race leader Jimmie Johnson was unable to get his car into third gear and was rear ended by Martin Truex, Jr., stacking up the field behind him. A total of 18 cars were collected in the wreck. In addition to Johnson and Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, A.J. Allmendinger, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, and Michael McDowell were involved.
- 1999 Touchstone Energy 300: On lap 68, a massive melee involving 28 cars erupted in turn one. It started when Kelly Denton rammed into Ken Schrader, spinning Schrader four times before his car burst into flames. The other 27 cars who were trying to evade Schrader got into a huge pile-up when Mike Dillon blew a tire.
- 2002 Aaron's 312: On lap 14, the largest crash in modern NASCAR history (1972–present) took place at the exit of turn two, with 31 cars being involved. Three cars (Stacy Compton, Jason Keller and Kenny Wallace) had cleared pole-sitter Johnny Sauter as the field started down the back-straightaway. Scott Riggs (fourth on the outside) tried to pass Wallace on the outside, but checked up, causing Shane Hmiel to get in the back of him. Subsequently, Kevin Grubb bumped Hmiel, causing both Riggs and Hmiel to turn sideways down the track and hit the right-rear of Sauter and the right-front of Joe Nemechek, respectively. The impact from Riggs' car caused Sauter's car to turn sideways and flip twice in the middle of the track, thus blocking the track and causing a massive pile-up behind. The drivers involved were Riggs, Hmiel, Grubb, Sauter, Nemechek, Todd Bodine, Larry Foyt, Jack Sprague, Jeff Purvis, Jimmy Kitchens, Randy Lajoie, Kerry Earnhardt, Tony Raines, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Ashton Lewis, Mike McLaughlin, Lyndon Amick, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Scott Wimmer, Ron Hornaday, Jr., Shane Hall, Tim Sauter, Jay Sauter, Michael Waltrip, Joe Ruttman, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Wallace, Mike Harmon, Jeff Fuller and Coy Gibbs. At the time of the crash, 41 of the 43 cars were on the track. Of those, only Compton, Keller and Wallace (who were in front of the crash), and C. W. Smith, Hank Parker, Jr., Casey Mears, Andy Kirby, Tim Fedewa, Larry Gunselman and Chad Chaffin (all of whom either got slowed down in time to miss the crash or had lost the lead draft altogether and were elsewhere on the track) made it through without damage. This crash brought out a 40-minute red flag and caused one minor injury to Mike Harmon (required stitches for biting through his tongue).
- 2008 Aaron's 312: On lap 70, Kevin Lepage had returned to the track following a pit stop and merged onto the track right in front of the field. A few of the lead cars went around Lepage on the outside, but Carl Edwards ran over the back end of Lepage's car, causing Edwards to catch air and set off a 15-car pile up. The drivers involved were Lepage, Edwards, Kyle Busch, David Reutimann, Reed Sorenson, Brad Keselowski, Cale Gale, Patrick Carpentier, Mike Wallace, Kenny Wallace, Steve Wallace, Marcos Ambrose, Stephen Leicht, Kyle Krisiloff and Kelly Bires.
- 2012 DRIVE4COPD 300: In turn 4 on the last lap, leader Kurt Busch attempted to block the two two-car drafts of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, and Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler, both of whom had runs on Busch and drafting partner Kyle Busch. They all made contact, with Kurt Busch ending up sideways against the outside wall, Stewart and Sadler being pinned to the wall by Bayne, and Logano being sent spinning across the track as a result of left-rear contact with Kurt Busch's sideways car. Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. both moved to the bottom of the track, but Stenhouse turned Busch into the outside wall as they tried to miss the spinning Logano. A similar fate befell Kasey Kahne and Cole Whitt (who were just behind Busch and Stenhouse), with Kahne moving down into and spinning Whitt. Brad Keselowski, who was behind Whitt, received contact from Kahne and Whitt, causing his car to become out of control. James Buescher, who was 11th when the crash started, got through the crash on the track apron and slipped around Keselowski (as he was trying to regain control of his car) to win, followed by Sadler and Keselowski.
- 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. 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.
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