WATCH: Dale Earnhardt’s steering wheel pops off mid race. Disaster ensues

i
Source: AP Photo/John Bazemore

It seems like everything crashed and burned in spectacular fashion at the Talladega Superspeedway. Dale Earnhardt very much bore the brunt of catastrophe, despite not being involved in “the big one” at the Geico 500. Thanks to Carl Edwards spinning out of control, he was knocked off course and actually caught fire momentarily.

Bad enough that he narrowly survived being scorched to death, but the moment he got back on track and checked his steering wheel, it popped right off.

“The steering wheel came off and I was trying to get it back on and the car was headed towards the wall. Well, I wasn’t going to let it hit the wall, so I grabbed the column and steered it with that — tore my hands all up, but it didn’t hit the wall. We have to look at something to keep that from happening anymore.”

While he did not actually crash, he did take the steering wheel mishap very much to heart.

He’s not very sure what the problem was, but he thinks that the earlier explosion may have caused some unseen damage to the vehicle.

“We had something torn up and drove into Turn 1 and I just felt the right front [of the car] fall down and that was it — you’re kind of just along for the ride.”

On the one hand, none of these occurrences were any good for his racing. He ended up in the 40th place, the last place in all of Geico 500. So we really don’t blame him for being despondent. But it’s easy for racers to forget that surviving so many close brushes with death is an achievement in and of itself. Maybe they take it for granted that their lives are on the line every time they step into their vehicles, but we viewers on the edge of our seats certainly don’t. The fact that they do what we never would dare too is a large part of why we watch them in the first place.

Salute