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Friday, August 23
Waltrip recalls 1990 Bristol wreck
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The first thing Michael Waltrip did after Mike Harmon's car was split in half in a scary accident at Bristol Motor Speedway was examine the wreckage.
Then he went to see Harmon and laugh about his good fortune.
Waltrip can relate -- he had an almost identical accident in the same spot on the track in 1990. Like Harmon, who escaped serious injury in Thursday's wreck during Busch series practice, Waltrip was not hurt.
''It was weird for me to be standing there looking at it -- his engine was on one part of the track, his steering column was somewhere else -- it reminded me exactly of my accident,'' Waltrip said Friday. ''We're just thankful that Mike Harmon is still wandering around and he and I can laugh about it now.''
But no one was laughing at the circumstances of the accident, which was escalated when Harmon hit an unsecured crossover gate in Turn 2. When closed, the wall is bolstered by six thick metal posts, but they were not in place, causing the gate to give way on contact.
The concrete sliced through the front of Harmon's Chevrolet, and the pieces shot down the track and into Johnny Sauter's path. Sauter hit the front piece of Harmon's car and came to rest in the middle of the backstretch.
Harmon, beyond the point of the split and surrounded by his intact roll cage, came to rest on the apron in Turn 2.
''I'm highly upset about it,'' four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon said. ''That could have cost a guy his life. I don't know who dropped the ball on that one, but Mike Harmon is a lucky guy.''
Bristol officials have admitted the gate was not secured, but aren't sure why it wasn't.
''It's pretty unfortunate that it happened and that part of it is definitely not a laughing matter,'' Waltrip said. ''I suggested they put a real wall there because I don't know why it's necessary to have a gate there.''
Bristol has gates because, until this year, there was no tunnel for people to walk through to get in and out of the track. But since the tunnel was opened this spring, the second gate that Harmon hit is obsolete.
Harmon, meanwhile, was thankful to be alive on Friday.
''I hit the wall and thought it was going to be a normal deal and suddenly I realized I was getting real close to the wall with my body,'' Harmon said.
''From there, the next thing I remember is the deal was over with. I looked up and the roll cage was cut in half. I didn't know if it was on fire or what. I just looked at the car and said, 'I'm just glad I survived.'''
''They know it's important to me,'' he said. ''It was the focal point of my whole life and professional life until I came to Winston Cup and the fire hasn't gone out.''
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