Talladega Superspeedway

Friday 5: Jordan Anderson recounts fiery Talladega crash

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Life can change in a second, but Jordan Anderson endured 20 terrifying seconds in a burning truck before he could bail out of it Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Count to 20. 

Getting to 10 seems to take forever. 

Yet that is only half the time in which Anderson felt flames that burned his eyelashes, cheeks, neck, right hand, right arm and both knees. The heat was so intense that the front windshield started to crack. Smoke enveloped the cockpit.

One thought rushed through Anderson’s mind.

“Whatever is on the other side of this window can’t be worse than what’s going to happen if I just sit here.” 

His truck was still moving and headed for a wall. 

Nearly a month after the accident, Anderson said he will be at the track for the first time this weekend to watch his Xfinity Series team compete with Myatt Snider at Martinsville Speedway.

Anderson is recovering from second- and third-degree burns. He is thankful for the medics who treated him, NASCAR’s safety officials, friends, family, team members and fans for all they’ve done for him since the accident.

The letters and notes have been overwhelming, he told NBC Sports in his first public comments about the incident. He was struck by a message from a 13-year-old who stated that he was praying for Anderson.

“I keep saying the word humbling,” Anderson said of the support he’s received.

While it would be easy to lament his painful injuries, Anderson reflects upon what father-in-law Larry McReynolds recently told him. 

“There was more right that happened than what could have potentially gone wrong,” Anderson said, recounting McReynolds’ words. “With 32 trucks behind me, it could have been really ugly if I’d gotten hit or pinned in the truck or something like that.”

The 31-year-old Anderson was making his 138th Camping World Truck Series start that day at Talladega. While he’s had limited success with his underfunded operation, he’s gained notoriety for his dedication. He ran one truck an entire season and often drove the dually that pulled his ride in a trailer. 

He sold some items after the 2019 season to have money to purchase an updated truck. He finished second in the 2020 season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway in that truck and said: “This finish tonight, hopefully, is for every underdog in America, every kid that stays up late and works on his dirt late model or his Legends car and dreams of coming here to Daytona. Hopefully, this finish tonight encourages them to never give up on their dreams.”

Anderson started racing at age 7 and gained notice of NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin at age 10 when Anderson competed against Martin’s son in the Bandolero division at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Anderson was dominant. 

Eventually sponsorship mattered and Anderson didn’t have as much as he worked his way to NASCAR. The lack of funding stunted his success, but it didn’t stop him from competing.

That runner-up finish at Daytona in 2020 was his career-best result in the Truck Series. He matched it in the 2021 season-opening race at Daytona in the same truck.

He was driving that vehicle at Talladega on Oct. 1. Anderson qualified ninth in the 36-truck field and was running fourth on Lap 19 when smoke suddenly shot from the truck and then flames engulfed it. 

“From what we could tell,” Anderson told NBC Sports, “something got into the oil line off the pump on the front of the motor and cut hole in it. It basically drained the entire contents of the oil tank to the headers. That’s why the fire was so big and so hot and lasted for so long. 

“The way the Trucks have the naca duct on the right front A post (between the windshield and right side window) that basically kind of acted like a vacuum as the fire came out from underneath the hood and went right inside the (truck).”

What happened next, Anderson said, felt like was in slow motion.

“I remember seeing the fire on the right side of the floor, shutting the motor off, slowing down,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of motors blow in the past and there’s some fire that comes in and then typically goes away. (This time) it’s like, ‘Alright, there’s fire. There’s a lot of fire. Now the fire is in my face. 

“It’s getting hot. It’s getting really hot.’”

Anderson tried to slow his truck so he could exit. 

He drove off the banking between Turns 1 and 2, started sliding and slammed the brakes, which turned him back up the track as flames shot through the front wheel wells and the back of the vehicle. The field passed as he fought to regain control of the burning truck.

Anderson removed his seat belts, lowered the window net and poked his head out the window.

“I was ready to get out of there, whether it was the roof or the deck lid,” he said. “I was going to try to climb out there just because I couldn’t stay in there any longer. 

“It got to the point where all the adrenaline in me was like anything is better than staying in this truck. (That’s) how hot it got. I could feel like my whole body was just so hot. I could feel everything start to burn.”

He poked his head out the left side window a second time but saw he was about to hit the wall. He ducked his head back into the vehicle.

“I got on the brakes as hard as I could,” Anderson said. “I’m kind of like watching the wall get closer, and I was like as soon as I hit the wall, I need to be on the way out the window. You watch the video (of the accident) and if (I exit) a second earlier, it would have been really bad because it would have been me between the truck and the wall.

“I tried to time it just perfectly. It’s crazy going back and watching it because it looks like I can’t see where I’m going, but, thankfully, I can see out the left side window. I could see the wall. I’m trying to time it. Just was very fortunate that when I hit the wall, it just kind of helped (me exit). 

“I laugh about it now, it wasn’t funny at the time, but it kind of helped to jack me out of the truck when I hit the wall. I can’t say that I planned it like that. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie the way it worked out.”

With smoke billowing from the vehicle, Anderson climbed atop the SAFER barrier along the inside wall. He jumped from the barrier, briefly buckled, rolled to the ground and laid flat on his back as a safety crew arrived.

“I remember leaning on the wall, standing up, looking at the truck and jumping off the wall, landing on my feet and it was just like the pain of the burns kicked in,” Anderson said. “That’s when I went to the ground. 

“I can’t remember the lady’s name that was the first one to me, but everybody on the NASCAR side, they were to me so quickly and helped get everything off me. When they got me in the ambulance, they cut my suit off. That gave me some relief. 

“When I got to the care center, I was in a lot of pain. So they gave me an IV and that’s when they got me to the helicopter. To be honest, once I got to the care center, I don’t remember much until waking up at the hospital (after a helicopter flight from the track). … It’s crazy what heat can do because it did just feel like my whole body was on fire when I was laying there on the ground (next to the truck) just because everything got so hot.”

Anderson suffered third-degree burns on his right arm and neck. He had second degree burns elsewhere. 

Jordan Anderson is loaded into a medical evacuation helicopter at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t until he was in the hospital for a few hours that he was offered a mirror by a nurse to look at his face.

“I looked over at my wife (Kendall) and asked the nurse, ‘Do you think all of this is going to be healed up by mid-December?”

“Why?”

“Well, that’s when we’re actually supposed to go on our honeymoon because we never got to take it during the season.”

“If you’re worried about that,” the nurse said, “you must already be feeling better.”

Jordan and Kendall were married April 16. She wasn’t supposed to be at Talladega when he raced because she was to have run in a marathon in North Carolina. The event was postponed by weather, so she went to Talladega for the race.

“I know it was hard for her to see it, but I can only imagine how hard it would have been if she hadn’t been there,” Anderson said of his wife. 

She was among several friends and family members who went to the hospital to be with Anderson after the accident.

“When they rolled me out of the hospital with a wheelchair, they were all in the waiting room,” Anderson said. “It was pretty humbling.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. dispatched his plane to take Anderson home to North Carolina. Earnhardt was among many in the sport who offered their support or well wishes.

“We all want to be competitive on the race track, but things like that off the race track, that means a lot,” Anderson said. 

Anderson can’t wait to get back on the track. This accident hasn’t diminished his desire to race.

“I’m not going to let this incident define me and who I am,” he said. “If anything, it’s just going to give me that much more motivation to get back out there.”

The 2023 season opener for the Truck Series at Daytona is less than four months away. Anderson eyes that event for his return. He may even drive the same truck that burned in Talladega since it has such a good track record at Daytona.

“We’ve already looked at the truck in the shop,” Anderson said. “The front clip is OK. We got to cut the A post forward and go send it to the blasters and replace the wiring because it’s all burnt up. The motor is not hurt too bad.

“I’m already figuring out what we’ve got to do to fix the truck and take it back to Daytona.”

2. Pivotal session 

Saturday’s qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway (12:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the most important of the season.

Seven playoff drivers are vying for the final three spots in next week’s championship race at Phoenix and at least two drivers will advance via points. 

In the four previous short track races this season — both Richmond races, the spring Martinsville race and the Bristol night race — at least five of the top six finishers in the first stage of the race started in the top 10. 

Track position matters at short tracks since passing can be difficult. It was at Martinsville in the spring. The top six finishers in the first stage all started in the top seven. Stage points could determine who advances to the title race.

That’s why qualifying could be so important Saturday. 

“It’s tough,” Ross Chastain said of qualifying at Martinsville. “I haven’t figured it out. I just have struggled to maximize a single lap. It takes me, especially at Martinsville, a bit of time to get into a rhythm and start making lap time. … Definitely don’t want to start back wherever we started in the spring.”

Chastain started 27th in the spring at Martinsville. While he finished the race fifth, he scored no stage points. Six other drivers scored more points than he did at Martinsville that day. 

Chastain enters the weekend with the biggest advantage, sitting 19 points above the cutline, but that’s not a guarantee he’ll advance. Twice in the last three years a driver 20 points or more above the cutline going into the Round of 8 finale did not advance to the title race.

Chase Elliott enters the weekend 11 points above the cutline. William Byron is five points above the cutline going into Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC)

Those below the cutline are Denny Hamlin (-5 points), Ryan Blaney (-18), Christopher Bell (-33) and Chase Briscoe (-44).

Hamlin qualified 25th at Martinsville in the spring, scored no stage points and finished 28th in the race. Twenty-six drivers scored more points than Hamlin did in that race. 

In the spring race at Martinsville, Elliott won the pole, Byron qualified fifth and Bell started seventh. 

3. Looking for a turnaround

It has been a rotten Round of 8 for Ryan Blaney, leaving him outside a transfer spot to the championship race. 

“If I wouldn’t have made a mistake the last two weeks, we’d be sitting in a really good spot heading into this weekend, but that’s just not the case,” he said. 

Blaney lost control and hit the wall while running third at Las Vegas two weeks ago. He finished 28th. Last week, Blaney spun on the access road after exiting pit road during a green-flag stop. He finished 17th. 

That’s left him 18 points behind William Byron, who won the spring Martinsville race, for the final transfer spot. 

In Blaney’s favor is that his average finish of 10.2 at Martinsville is best among active drivers. He’s also led in four of the last five races at the historic half-mile track.

Blaney also gets crew chief Jonathan Hassler back this weekend. Hassler had missed the past four races as a penalty for a wheel coming off Blaney’s car in the Bristol playoff race. Zachary Price returns as the rear tire changer. Jourdan Osinskie, who took over jackman duties after the penalty, will remain in that position. Graham Stoddard, who had been Blaney’s jackman, moves over to Joey Logano’s team.

Blaney still seeks his first points win of the season. If he gets it Sunday, he’d be the record-setting 20th different winner this year.  The only driver to make it to the championship race without a points win in that particular season was Ryan Newman in 2014. 

4. More to watch

While the focus will be on playoff drivers this weekend at Martinsville, non-playoff drivers will have some things to focus on.

AJ Allmendinger has finished in the top 10 in each of his last six starts. 

Brad Keselowski seeks to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 12 either this weekend or next. Martin Truex Jr. also seeks to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to eight either this weekend or next.

Michael McDowell has the best average finish in the playoffs among non-playoff drivers at 13.6.

Keselowski has scored the most points in the playoffs among non-playoff drivers at 213 (William Byron has scored the most points in the playoffs of any driver at 294).

5. What’s next for Texas?

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, which owns Texas Motor Speedway, joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. on this week’s Dale Jr. Download and discussed a variety of topics, including if any changes will be made to the Texas surface.

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway will host only one Cup weekend in 2023 and it comes in the playoffs. That gives Smith time to decide what to do with Texas.

“What we’re doing now is working with iRacing to research a couple of different profile changes that we might do at the track,” Smith said. 

“I want to kind of investigate what the options are. We learned a ton with iRacing around the Atlanta (reconfiguration). Atlanta is the first track that’s been (reconfigured) based on an iRacing simulation.  … We were able to not just build a track with a CAD drawing and all the engineering and math that goes into designing a track, we were able to put virtual cars and go race and tweak it and make little itty-bitty changes that made a big difference in Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“The way it raced was the way we saw it was going to race on iRacing. That was a huge lightbulb moment. So we’re trying to figure out what could happen differently at Texas Motor Speedway. We haven’t figured out exactly what it’s going to look like yet.”

NASCAR weekend schedule for Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers race on the road for the final time this season Sunday, as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course ends the playoffs’ Round of 12.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course incorporating the CMS oval and infield will determine the eight drivers who will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott won last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and is the only driver who has qualified for a spot in the Round of 8.

Entering Sunday’s race, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the playoff cutline. Bowman will not qualify for the next round because he is sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.

The race (2 p.m ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 81 with a 6% chance of rain.

Saturday: Mixed clouds and sun. High of 67 with a 3% chance of rain.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 68 with a 3% chance of rain.

Friday, Oct. 7

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 – 5 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Saturday, Oct. 8

Garage open

  • 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Rodney Childers fined $100,000, suspended for four races

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NASCAR has suspended Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, for four races and fined him $100,000 for what the sanctioning body called modification of a part supplied by a vendor.

The team was penalized for a modification to the deck lid.

Harvick, who is out of the Cup Series playoffs, and the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team were docked 100 points.

Harvick’s car and that of Martin Truex Jr. were taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. after last Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. There were no penalties assessed to the Truex team.

Harvick has been particularly critical of the Next Gen car in recent months, once referring to the “crappy-ass parts” provided by suppliers.

Harvick’s car erupted in flames during the Southern 500 Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway. After he climbed from the smoking car, Harvick blamed the fire on “just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times. They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.

“The car started burning and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.

“What a disaster for no reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned-up car, and we can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”

MORE: AJ Allmendinger to return to Cup Series in 2023

Unless the team appeals, Childers would miss races at Charlotte, Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville and would return for the season finale at Phoenix.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps told the Associated Press that officials have not targeted Harvick. “I would say that’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney or anyone at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Harvick tweeted, “Seems strange…” A Childers tweet called the penalty “Shocker…..”.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday it has suspended Young’s Motorsports crew chief Andrew Abbott indefinitely for a behavioral violation during pre-race inspection. He must undergo anger-management training to be reinstated. The team races in the Camping World Truck Series.

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Roval

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The lineup for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 8 will be decided in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Entering the race, the final event in the Round of 12, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the cutline. Bowman will miss the race — and thus the cutoff — as he continues to battle concussion-like symptoms. Noah Gragson is scheduled to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet Sunday.

Cindric is tied with Chase Briscoe for the eighth playoff spot, but Briscoe would claim it on the tiebreaker. Byron is 11 points back, and Bell is 33. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty to Byron that dropped him below the cutline. That appeal is scheduled to be heard Thursday.

MORE: Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

Any playoff driver who wins Sunday’s race and isn’t already qualified — Chase Elliott qualified for the Round of 8 by winning last week at Talladega Superspeedway — automatically advances to the Round of 8.

Drivers to watch Sunday at the Roval (2 p.m., ET, NBC), the final road-course race of the season:

FRONTRUNNERS

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: Won at Talladega, 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2019 and 2020

Elliott is the clear favorite to win a second championship. He won Sunday at Talladega to advance to the Round of 8 and can relax Sunday at Charlotte having punched his ticket. Relaxing isn’t likely, however, as Elliott will be among the favorites to win.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 2nd at Talladega, 4th at Texas, 30th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2018.

Blaney continues along a path that could result in him winning the Cup championship without winning a race. He came within an eyelash of winning Sunday at Talladega but fell victim to Chase Elliott’s last-lap charge. He should be a threat Sunday at the Roval, where he has four straight top 10s.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 18th at Talladega, 9th at Texas, 5th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2021

Larson’s last win — and his last top-four finish — came at Watkins Glen seven races ago. He is 18 points over the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Austin Cindric

  • Points position: 9th
  • Last three races: 9th at Talladega, 15th at Texas, 20th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Sunday will mark his first Cup race. Has three top threes in four Xfinity starts.

Cindric hasn’t won since the season-opening Daytona 500 and is one of five drivers still in the playoffs who own only one victory this year. His ninth-place run at Talladega ended a streak of four straight finishes of 12th or worse.

MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 7th
  • Last three races: 8th at Talladega, 12th at Texas, 19th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Best finish in four starts is 13th

Suarez is 12 points above the cutline entering Sunday’s race. He has never led a lap at the Roval and has never finished in the top 10.

Chase Briscoe

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 10th at Talladega, 5th at Texas, 14th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Finished 22nd last year in his only Cup start

Briscoe is teetering on top of the cutline in search of a spot in the Round of 8. He hasn’t won since the fourth race of the year at Phoenix and had a poor performance at the Roval last year.

 

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).