EXCLUSIVE: What happened to Tony Stewart in the sand dunes from eyewitness Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme

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Legendary drag racer Don “Snake” Prudhomme gave NBC Sports a first-hand account of Tony Stewart’s accident in the Southern California sand dunes Sunday.

Stewart and a number of current and former racers including Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Prudhomme were having a day of fun in the sun and sand when Stewart became separated from the group and went missing for about 90 minutes.

Here’s how Prudhomme described the incident to NBC Sports:

“We were riding these sand rails. We do that quite a bit. We were all together. What really happened is, it isn’t hard to get split off from one another. In other words, if a guy makes a left turn and you’re not watching his flags or there’s dust or something, you can make a right turn and kind of get lost.

“So, we got mixed up and (Stewart) was probably missing for an hour-and-a-half from the pack, at least. He was missing, he was not there. We figured maybe he got hooked up with one of the other guys.

“Then we were stopped and kinda gathered up and started to shoot the s— and asked, ‘Where’s Tony?’ One of the guys (on the dunes) came driving up and said, ‘Hey, one of your buddies is hurt over on the other side of the hill.’

“There was about three of us who went back on our buggies and we came upon him. He was laying there. He got out of it (the sand buggy) and was laying there in the sand on his back.”

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From left, Rusty Wallace, Tony Stewart and Don Prudhomme before they and others including Ray Evernham, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle hit the sand dunes this past Sunday in Southern California. (Photo courtesy Don Prudhomme)

Contrary to media reports, Prudhomme said Stewart did not roll his sand buggy. Rather, Stewart apparently caught air in a jump and landed hard.

“What happens in the dunes, there was kind of a big mound and he flew over it and came down hard on the shocks,” Prudhomme said of Stewart. “In other words, it bottomed itself out. What happened then, it drove the seat up into his ass, basically. It was like, BAM! He hit really hard, but we were running pretty fast.

“We pulled up, asked ‘How you doing, dude?’ He was on the ground and said his back’s hurt. We made sure he could move all his legs and everything, so everything was good there.”

Prudhomme said Evernham took charge of the scene. Gordon, car collector Ron Pratte and Prudhomme provided assistance.

“Ray Evernham is a real good guy, a real responsible guy,” Prudhomme said. “He’s been around situations like this before. Basically we got (Tony) into Ron’s cart and Ron drove him real slowly out of there. (Tony) was holding himself up, as if his ass was real sore.

“Ron has a place in the area, so he had his helicopter fly over and land on this pavement because he couldn’t land on the sand. Tony had his arm around my shoulder and had another arm around Ray’s shoulder and Gordon was holding him up by the belt. He was walking real slow and we got him into the helicopter and laid him in the back seat.

“Ray got in the helicopter to go to the hospital. The pilot said he was going to Palm Springs Hospital and got on the radio. Ray was the best guy for the job, so he went with Tony and looked over Tony until midnight.”

Prudhomme defended Stewart’s driving.

“(Stewart) wasn’t driving reckless or crazy or anything else,” Prudhomme said. “He just happened to hit this (sand) ramp and the way it came down, and it was a lot taller or higher up than he probably realized. And it came down and crashed. We went back to get the car he was driving after he got into the helicopter and just fired that baby up and drove it back to the ranch.

“It wasn’t like it flipped over. I’ve heard people say it flipped over. No, it didn’t flip over, it just came down so hard that it messed his back up.”

Stewart was conscious and alert throughout the entire episode, Prudhomme said.

“He was hurting, and we were all concerned about him,” Prudhomme said. “But he wasn’t like knocked out or anything like that. He was totally coherent, totally everything. It’s just his back was screwed up.

“None of us realized how bad it was. The next day Ron and I went over to the hospital to see him and we sat in the room and he was showing us X-rays and s— and talking. Tony’s Tony. He looked at me like he could just get up and walk out of there, but he couldn’t. But he looked great.”

When asked to describe how Stewart looked in the hospital the day after the wreck, Prudhomme borrowed a page from Stewart’s usual comedic playbook.

“He needed a shave and a bath, I know that!” Prudhomme quipped.

“(Stewart) was great. In fact, we were in the hospital and it didn’t look like he was going to have to be operated on. It was just going to be where they were going to put a support on him. He walked around with the doctor early in the morning with a walker.

“So we told him, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I’ll have to be operated on.’ But apparently when they got him back to Charlotte, these guys, whoever looked at him, felt he needed an operation.

“I just hope he’s going to be alright. He wasn’t doing anything crazy. Those things can run 110 mph pretty easy on the sand. It’s a nice piece of equipment.”

As it turned out, Stewart had traveled a couple of miles in the wrong way, Prudhomme estimated.

When asked about when Stewart was missing, Prudhomme said the three-time Sprint Cup champ was starting to worry if anyone would find him.

“It scared the s— out of us guys,” Prudhomme said. “We were saying that Tony had been missing, and then we’re told Tony’s hurt. It was a ways away from where we were at. We found the trail he was on, went over there, and I said to (Stewart), ‘Dude, how long have you been laying there?’ He said, ‘About an hour-and-a-half.”

But there was a bit of comfort for Stewart, so to speak, Prudhomme added.

“It was the most comfortable place you could lay in the soft sand with a bad back,” he quipped. “In other words, he wasn’t ready to get up. I think he was starting to doze off a little bit (while waiting to be rescued). He just rested there.

“You know Tony, he’s a tough son-of-a-bitch.”

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Elliott Sader retakes Xfinity points lead after Daniel Suarez’ Iowa exit

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A top-three finish by Elliott Sadler in the U.S. Cellular 250 and a DNF by Daniel Suarez put Sadler back on top of the Xfinity Series points standings.

Sadler leads Suarez by 14 points after finishing third. Suarez had been the points leader for the previous eight races.

Erik Jones, who leads Xfinity regular with three wins this season, is fourth in the standings, trailing Sadler by 49 points.

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Stats and results for Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway

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Erik Jones led 154 of 250 laps on the way to winning the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, his fifth win in 45 Xfinity Series starts.

The rookie started second and led the final 16 laps before earning his third win of 2016.

The top five was filled out by Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong.

Here are the full results for the U.S. Cellular 250, the 19th race of the season.

 

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Erik Jones takes third Xfinity win of year at Iowa Speedway

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Ty Dillon did his best to keep the outcome in question by leading late, but Erik Jones made Iowa Speedway his own by leading 154 laps, including the last 16, to win the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

The 20-year-old driver grabbed the lead at the outset of the race after starting second and finished the night with his third Xfinity Series win of the year.

It’s the sixth Xfinity win by Joe Gibbs Racing in the last seven races.

Ty Dillon led his chunk of the race after beating Jones off pit road during a caution that began on Lap 150. Before that, Jones failed to lead just 13 laps to go.

The 83 laps were the most Dillon has led this season.

“The high line wasn’t there,” Dillon told NBCSN. “Every lap I was having to do everything I could to get him behind me. Trying to watch him and get in his line … it just wore my stuff out more than I needed to.”

With 16 laps to go, after staying within a half second of Dillon, Jones retook the lead and streaked away.

“I wasn’t saving much. I was working as hard as I could to get around Ty,” Jones told NBCSN. “It was tough. The aero game is pretty tough. Needed to get clean air for a long time. Burned a lot of tire off the DeWalt Camry there at the start. It’s a great day, had a great car. One that definitely deserved to win tonight.”

It’s Jones’ first win since he was victorious at Dover International Speedway on May 14.

Jones called the win “redemption” for his last visit to Iowa, which ended in 27th place due to a mechanical failure.

Jones was followed by Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong.

HOW ERIK JONES WON: The rookie didn’t get bogged down in traffic after losing the lead in the pits during a caution. Jones stayed close to Ty Dillon and took the lead for the final time with 16 laps left.

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: A month after his Iowa win for Joe Gibbs Racing, Sam Hornish Jr. failed to lead a lap, but still finished sixth in only his second NASCAR race of the season … Brennan Poole started the night in 25th and fought his way to finish fourth, his second top five of the season … Dakoda Armstrong, driving the No. 18 for JGR in place of Matt Tifft, started a career-best third and finished fifth. He had never finished in the top 10 in his previous 91 starts.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Darrell Wallace Jr. was in 11th on Lap 28 when he made contact with another car and hit the outside wall before spinning low down the backstretch. Wallace spun again on Lap 121 and finished 27th, 11 laps down … On Lap 150, Brandon McReynolds broke loose entering Turn 1 and spun before smacking the outside wall. The No. 24 car finished 32nd … On the resulting restart, Daniel Suarez ran into the back of Josh Berry, damaging his hood. The No. 19 eventually finished the night in the garage in 30th.

NOTABLE: Brad Keselowski finished eighth, continuing the 23-race winless streak for the No. 22 team and Team Penske in the Xfinity Series.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “My heart’s been broken every race since Indy, I want to get in victory lane again,” Ty Dillon after leading 83 laps and finishing second. Dillon hasn’t won since the 2014 Xfinity race at Indianapolis.

NEXT: Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. ET on CNBC

WATCH LIVE: NASCAR Xfinity race from Iowa Speedway at 7:30 pm ET

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series races tonight at Iowa Speedway and NBCSN has all the coverage.

Countdown to Green begins at 7:30 p.m. ET with race coverage beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Green flag is scheduled for 8:14 p.m. ET.

Sam Hornish Jr. won in the most recent Xfinity race there last month.

If you’re not near a TV, you can watch online or on the NBC Sports app at the NASCAR stream on NBC Sports.

If you plan to stream the race on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 7:30 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Starting Grid

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