The ARCA Menards Series headed to Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday afternoon for the General Tire 200. The NASCAR race started cleanly but ended with multiple crashes. One, in particular, sent driver Derrick Lancaster to the hospital for further evaluation.
The incident occurred with five of the 76 laps remaining. Corey Heim, the ultimate winner of the race, collided with the side of Lancaster’s No. 29 and sent him into the wall. The violent collision sparked a massive fireball and immediately brought out the red flag. Lancaster’s car continued moving down the track until it reached the infield grass and spun to a stop with smoke billowing.
Emergency personnel rushed to the vehicle and began fighting to put out the blaze. Lancaster was able to undo his window netting and climb from the vehicle. The emergency crews successfully extinguished the fire, but the flames destroyed the stock car.
Emergency personnel transported Lancaster to the hospital
Following the fiery crash, the Fox Sports 1 broadcast showed the 48-year-old lying on the ground next to the No. 29. The broadcast also showed him walking with some support from NASCAR’s American Medical Response Safety Team. The group ultimately helped him onto a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance.
Motorsport.com’s Jim Utter reported that the veteran driver went to the University of Alabama Birmingham Burn Unit, citing a social media post by Lancaster’s wife. NASCAR Communications simply reported that Lancaster went to the hospital for further evaluation. Lancaster’s wife Elizabeth later posted on social media that he will be on a ventilator for at least the next 48 hours and that he suffered second- and third-degree burns to both of his arms, his neck, and his face.
When the incident occurred, fans began asking questions about the fire suppression systems in the ARCA Menards Series. According to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, “ARCA cars are required to have a fire extinguisher in the cockpit that can be activated by the driver — the push/pull nozzle to activate it must be within reach of the driver. And then there is a thermally activated fire extinguisher in the fuel cell area.”
Lancaster drives for a self-owned team in the Arca Menards Series. Saturday’s race was only his seventh in the series. Lancaster has posted two top-10 finishes during his part-time career. He finished sixth during a 2014 race at Talladega and sixth during 2021’s trip to Daytona International Speedway.
A previous crash created doubts about Lancaster’s racing future
In August 2020, Lancaster crashed during a short-track Late Model Stock race at Kingsport Speedway. According to the TimesNews, his No. 25 clipped another car and slammed head-first into the Turn 4 wall. The car burst into flames as the medical crews raced to pull Lancaster out of the vehicle. The veteran driver walked back to his hauler through the pits, but an ambulance later took him to Holston Valley Medical Center.
“MRI results confirmed a hairline fracture at the base of his skull. Also known as a Hangmans fracture, or Atlanto occipital joint fracture, or hairline basilar skull fracture,” Lancaster’s wife Elizabeth wrote on Facebook after the wreck. “Direct from the mouth of the neurosurgeon, this is the same injury that Dale Earnhardt succumbed to, the only difference is it severed Earnhardt’s spinal cord. He is a very lucky man.
“Derrick will not require surgery but will be in a neck brace for 3 months, at all times, and absolutely no driving for 3 months. The worst words Derrick heard today was that he should never race again. … Those words nearly killed him. But he knows he is very lucky to be alive.”
Lancaster ultimately received clearance in November 2020 to return to the race car. This news surprised the driver considering that his doctor previously said that he would never race again. Instead, Lancaster was able to head to Daytona in January to take part in the first ARCA Menards race of the season.