EDITORS NOTE: The following is a first-hand account from Tim Quievryn of Speed51.com and 51’s TheThirdTurn.com of Jordan Ives’ fiery crash in Super Late Model practice Saturday during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.
First off, I have to say I’m happy Jordan Ives is okay after his fiery clash in Saturday’s World Series practice at New Smyrna Speedway. Genuinely no one likes watching a racecar burn up or seeing a racer having to run away from an accident scene because simply climbing out of his racecar isn’t enough to bring him to safety.
But as I stood from the New Smyrna flagstand watching fire and smoke billow from the accident scene in turn three, I felt the same thing that I’m sure all the others drivers and teams felt as they walked or ran up pit road to check out what was happening – a mix of concern and awe and a powerful reminder that this is a sport where everything can change in an instant.
At first, it genuinely looked like a typical racing incident in the waning moments of Super Late Model practice. I was photographing cars flying by the flagstand to add some neat shots to our Race Central Live coverage and was just about to head down before I caught something happening in turn three out of the corner of my eye. I started shooting the sequence transfixed with what I would wind up seeing on the other end of my lens.
Ives had just lost control of his car heading into that turn and backed it into the outside wall. As Ives’ car slid along the wall, leaving a black streak right along the “New Smyrna Speedway USA” marker, a trickle of flame began to appear and follow his No. 18 machine. By the time Ives came to a stop, the trickle had caught up to the crumpled decklid and engulfed it.
Ives climbed out within about 15 seconds, clearly a bit shaken up, but also knowing he needed to clear the scene. He didn’t even turn around to look back at the fire until he reached turn four and by then his car was completely in flames. The fiberglass of the body was melting and dripping down in a plasma-state onto the asphalt of New Smyrna Speedway.
I’ve seen a few people question if New Smyrna’s fire crew did a good enough job yesterday to put out the flames. Honestly, there is very little they could do. I can’t speak to fires at the track in the past, but Ives’ car was consumed by the fire less than a minute after his initial impact. Fire crews were on the scene just as it was past that point of no return, a response time that was respectable. Besides, honestly, even if they had gotten there a few seconds sooner, it would not have made a difference. The heat was intense and the smoke overpowering.
The still-dangerous state of the situation was made clear about 90 seconds after the car became completely consumed. Ives’ had locked his car down as fast as possible following the crash and as a result it stayed high up the banking as Ives escaped unharmed. But as the fire continued to burn through the wires and engine department, the car became loose and rolled down the banking. That’s the moment many fans across the world have since seen, either on 51, through Twitter or Facebook shares or on stories of the crash picked up on FOXSports.com and NBC’s NASCAR America as the car meandered down the track.
The billows of smoke were so thick that fire crews didn’t even notice the car had left their initial scene for about a minute. The fire continued for about 10 minutes before the water and extinguishers won the battle. As I walked to the smoking skeleton of the racecar, a few moments stick out in my mind.
Ives watched the whole thing. He fought back tears and didn’t say a word as a year’s worth of work was lost in about ten minutes. The machine was a brand new, state-of-the-art Super Late Model that was built with money earned from winning the Champion Spark Plug Challenge. Add to that, the team made a pair of 22-hour drives from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the last month to be able to compete in the World Series during Florida Speedweeks. As the car burned beyond recognition, a few drivers stood next to him. They gave him space, but also existentially experienced his pain as they all could sense the loss.
After the fire had been extinguished, all that remained was the char-broiled remains of the frame. Plastic congealed on the cooling car like icicles caught mid-drip. Metal flapped in the wind like a tattered kite caught in the branches of a tree. Smoke kept creeping out of random corners of the car. Firemen were spraying random chunks of plastic up into the air with their high-pressure hoses as they tried to make sure everything would be cool to the touch.
Finally what was left after the car was towed away. Plastic and metal were burned onto the track in layers. The track crew sent a Bobcat vehicle out onto the track to make a few scraping passes to peel up the debris the same way you would use steel wool to get grease out of a pan. It was an awful sound for an awful moment in this 49th running of the World Series.
Speed51 will continue coverage from New Smyrna Speedway today with Race Central Live from tonight’s K&N Pro Series East and American Canadian Tour action. RCL will also continue throughout the week and free live FansChoice.TV video coverage will return on Monday.
— Story & Photos by Tim Quievryn, Speed51.com // 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn