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


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.”

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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Watch LIVE: NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Greg Biffle, James Hinchcliffe and more

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America covers both NASCAR and IndyCar and begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Dave Briggs and Parker Kligerman host from Stamford, Connecticut, and are joined by Marty Snider and Greg Biffle from NBC Charlotte and Steve Letarte in Burton’s Garage.

Included in today’s show is:

· Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race was a good one for Greg Biffle and his Roush Fenway Racing team. The driver of the No. 16 Cheez-It Ford joins the show to discuss the race, Roush’s improved performance in 2016 and what it’s like to be the veteran driver on a young team.

· From nearly bleeding to death in a practice crash last year at Indianapolis to winning the pole for Sunday’s 100th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is writing an incredible comeback story – one he hopes to complete with a “500” victory. Dave Briggs and Parker Kligerman sit down with Hinchcliffe to discuss the dramatic year he’s had and his feelings going into a historic afternoon at the Brickyard.

· Parker Kligerman breaks down the on-track moves that won and lost Saturday’s All-Star Race and Sprint Showdown at Charlotte.

· And with the NASCAR Hall of Fame set to announce its Class of 2017 tomorrow, we’ll look at the nominees that are up for the sport’s highest honor and have a special “nominee edition” of My Home Track. Tune into NASCAR AMERICA tomorrow at 5pm ET to see the inductees announced live – exclusively on NBCSN.

Report: K&N East driver loans car to Ronnie Bassett Jr. after team’s shop fire

Ronnie Bassett
David Calabrese
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For at least one more weekend, the family of Ronnie Bassett Sr. won’t have to call it quits on its dreams of racing.

Three days ago, a fire swept through Bassett Racing’s shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, destroying all of its K&N Pro Series East cars and equipment for drivers Ronnie Bassett Jr. and Dillon Bassett. On Monday, the family was given a reprieve courtesy of competitor David Calabrese.

According to Speed51.com, Calabrese called Ronnie Bassett Jr., early Monday afternoon and offered to let Bassett drive his No. 43 Ford Fusion this weekend at Dominion Raceway in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Bassett Jr., currently third in the K&N East point standings, will get the chance to keep pursuing the championship thanks to Calabrese, a rookie in the series Bassett barely knew.

“I’ve met him one time,” Bassett Jr. told Speed51.com. “We met at Bowman Gray (Stadium) a couple weeks ago after a Modified race. We’ve said hey to each other at the race track, but we didn’t grow up together. We’ve raced together a couple races and that’s about it.”

Calabrese, a native of Toms River, New Jersey, has only competed in two K&N East races this season, but was scheduled to race this weekend at Dominion Raceway.. Bassett Jr. has been on the K&N East circuit since 2013.

Calabrese said part of the reason for offering to help the Bassetts out is their crew chief, Bruce Cook, who is also a native of New Jersey.

“Bruce has been helping me out since we blew a couple motors and he’s helped us get back on our feet and been giving us a hand,” Calabrese told Speed51.com. “When all of this stuff happened with Bassett I wanted to step in and help since they’re third in points. I want Bruce to finish good in points this year.”

The team-up will continue on a week-to-week basis.

Head to Speed51.com to read their entire report on the collaboration between teams.

Winning paint scheme design for Kasey Kahne’s Coke Zero 400 car

Kahne - Daytona 2
Hendrick Motorsports

Last week Kasey Kahne and Great Clips held a vote for fans to choose what paint scheme the Hendrick Motorsports’ driver would have for the Coke Zero 400 in July at Daytona International Speedway.

The vote was among four designs created by patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital as part of its “Strong Against Cancer” program.

Kahne later revealed the winner of the contest, which was designed by an 8-year-old named Noelia from White Center, a suburb of Seattle. The paint scheme can be seen on July 2 on NBC.

Below is how the car will look in the race and the original design.

Kahne daytona 2 original

Poll: Who would you select for next NASCAR Hall of Fame class?

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 30:  (L-R, back row) NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett, Leonard Wood, Glenn Wood, Darrell Waltrip, Bud Moore, Junior Johnson, Dale Inman, Rex White, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, Jack Ingram, Bobby Allison, (L-R front row) Maurice Petty, and Fred Lorenzen pose for a photo opportunity after the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 30, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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Voters will gather Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, to select the next five-member class to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The class will be introduced on NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN. Krista Voda will host and be joined by analysts Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton.

Here are the Hall of Fame candidates followed by a poll for you to make your selection. Which five would you choose?

Buddy Baker, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500

Red Byron, first NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949

Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

Ray Evernham, three-time NASCAR premier series championship crew chief

Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner

Rick Hendrick, 14-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

Ron Hornaday Jr., four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion

Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR premier series championship crew chief

Alan Kulwicki, 1992 NASCAR premier series champion

Mark Martin, 96-time race winner in NASCAR national series competition

Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion

Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner

Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR premier series champion

Larry Phillips, five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion

Jack Roush, five-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400

Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner/namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence

Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships

Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR premier series championships as an engine builder

Robert Yates, won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner