On Feb. 18, fans young and old remembered the loss of NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a last-lap crash at Daytona international Speedway in 2001. However, few fans realize that there were fatalities before Earnhardt, that occurred at Daytona. These were drivers also wanting victory at one of the greatest tracks of all time. Let’s take a moment and remember those drivers as well.
Habe Haberling – Feb. 21, 1961
During practice for the 250 mile Sportsman Modified race, Haberling lost control of his car in the NASCAR Sportsman Modified Series, spun sideways and rolled over several times. He did not survive the crash.
Donald MacTavish – Feb. 22, 1969
On Lap 9 of his Grand National Series DIS debut, MacTavish collided with another car and hit the outside wall where a metal guardrail sheared the front end of his car off. He was fully exposed when hit by another car, killing him instantly.
Talmadge “Tab” Prince -Feb. 19, 1970
During the second 125 qualifying race for the 500, his engine gave way sending his car into a slide. When another car spun after hitting the oil, it was sent head-on into Prince’s driver side door. Prince was killed instantly.
Raymond “Friday” Hassler – Feb. 17, 1972
On lap 19 of the first 125 lap qualifying race for the Daytona 500, another car cut a tire and Hassler was collected in the crash. He died of his injuries.
Don Williams – May 21, 1989
Williams was racing in the Sportsman 300, February 17, 1979, a Late Model Sportsman Division when there was a fiery crash ahead of him. Williams tried to avoid the crash but was collected sending him hard into the wall. He suffered head and chest injuries which put him into a semi-comatose condition where he lingered for the next 10 years.
Benny Richard “Ricky” Knotts – Feb. 14, 1980
Knotts was racing in the first 125 qualifying race when he lost control of his car and crashed into the outside wall. His car then collided with another car sending Knotts across the infield where the passenger side of his car slammed into the concrete wall. His seat mount had broken, killing him instantly.
Bruce Jacobi -Feb. 4, 1987
On Feb. 17, 1983, Jacobi came to DIS Speedweeks with no ride for the Daytona 500 but he was confident that once there he would find one, which he did, with a smaller independent team. During the first 125 qualifying race, he lost control of the car coming out of Turn 2. When his car hit the infield grass it began flipping wildly causing massive head injuries. Jacobi would be in a semi-comatose state until his eventual death four years later.
Francis Affleck – Feb. 7, 1985
Affleck was originally from Montreal Canada but moved to Charlotte in 1977 to further his joy of racing late models. It was during a practice run for the ARCA 200 race that his car got loose between Turns 1 and 2, sending the car airborne and barrel rolling seven-eight times. There was a problem with the window safety net and Affleck was partially ejected from the car and pinned underneath. He did not survive his injuries. Affleck was the first ARCA driver to be killed at DIS. Because of what happened with the window netting, NASCAR changed the construction of the nets for the ARCA and NASCAR Series cars so that the drivers would be held inside the car safely.
Joe Young – Feb. 13, 1987
Racing in the NASCAR Dash Series, Young was collected in a multi-car crash and hit almost head- on by another car tearing his car apart. He sustained multiple injuries and passed away as a result.
Slick Johnson- Feb. 14, 1990
During the ARCA Series season opener, Young was involved in a multi-car incident taking several hard separate hits causing a crushed chest and basal skull fracture. He died three days after the accident from his injuries.
Joe Booher – Feb. 12, 1993
Driving in the NASCAR Dash Series season opener at DIS, Booher was running mid-pack when he accidentally clipped another car losing control of his own car and hit the wall. His car was hit in the right front by another car; that driver was critically injured as well. Booher passed away at the hospital from head and internal injuries.
Neil Bonnett- Feb. 11, 1994
During the first practice session for the Daytona 500, witnesses said that Bonnett lost control of his car in Turn 4, swerved down toward the apron and back up the track crashing almost head-on into the outside wall. Bonnett did not survive the injuries sustained in the crash.
Rodney Orr – Feb. 14, 1994
Only three days after the tragic loss of Neil Bonnett, DIS would suffer another tragedy. Rodney Orr was practicing for the second 125 qualifying race when he spun into Turn 2 sending his car airborne hitting the outside wall and catch fence with the roof of the car, killing him instantly. It was later determined that the car was uncontrollable after a mounting stud broke.
With each fatality, NASCAR would be able to understand what happened, what went wrong and what should be changed for the safety of the drivers and the fans. NASCAR has done a fantastic job of keeping up to date with the latest safety measures. Dale Earnhardt was the last NASCAR fatality, and hopefully, that status will never change.