NASCAR Flashback: Stolen Pace Car Disrupts 1986 Talladega Race

Dec 16, 2019 1 min read

Hold my beer!

It is a gross understatement to say that a lot of crazy stuff happens at a NASCAR race (both on and off the track), but the pre-race shenanigans that took place at the 1986 Winston 500 might be the craziest ever. That's where a drunken 20-year-old, Darren Crowder, stole the pace car and took it for a joy ride around the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.

This all went down on May 4, 1986 when the drunken spectator happened upon the 1986 Pontiac Trans Am pace car as it was being prepped for the beginning of the race. During the live broadcast, the track reporter was sending the feed up to the booth where they were preparing for proper pre-race events when they suddenly cut to the bright red Pontiac racing around the track, and the announcers seemed to be getting quite a kick out of the situation. After all, the scene looked like it came right out of a Smokey and the Bandit script!

With the police in hot pursuit in a squad car and motorcycles, the joy ride was eventually ended when the track crew used safety vehicles to form a road block at one part of the track. Once caught, the driver was escorted him from the vehicle rather hastily, and then the pace car was finally able to be taken to the starting grid. Following his pace car antics, Crowder then got a free ride in a police car, where he undoubtedly spent the rest of the afternoon with raceday accommodations that were less than ideal.

You can watch the entire 1986 Winston 500 in the video above, but it's cued up to the point where the stolen pace car makes its cameo.

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