Flashback Friday: Mike Harmon’s Devastating 2002 Bristol Crash
There are a few moments in your life when you see something so completely miraculous ...
There are a few moments in your life when you see something so completely miraculous that you can’t help but remember it in vivid detail for years. Mike Harmon provided one of those moments for me fifteen years ago, and the video still chills me to the core every time I see it.
Harmon was taking a few practice laps at Bristol Motor Speedway in preparation for the race that weekend when he came out of turn 2 a little hot and shot up the track into the wall. This happens literally all the time at Bristol, so at first it looked like your run of the mill crash.
However, it turns out Harmon actually hit the gate that opens to allow access to the infield of the history facility. The gate wasn’t properly secured and opened when Harmon hit it, sending his #44 head on into the end of the retaining wall. At the speeds he was traveling, this basically turned the wall into a can opener, peeling the car in half.
As the mangled wreckage slid down the steep Bristol banking, Johnny Sauter rounded turn 2 and had no time to react to Harmon’s car in the middle of the track, impacting the car. Luckily, Sauter hit the half that Harmon wasn’t strapped into and simply spun the car around. After a tense couple of moments, Harmon unbuckled his seat belts and stepped out of the wreckage onto the track. He would walk away uninjured, surviving a crash that by all accounts was one of the worst in the sport’s history.
The gate that Harmon hit was also responsible for another similar incident involving Michael Waltrip about a decade earlier. It was modified following Waltrip’s crash, but those changes proved brutally inefficient when Harmon’s car shot up the track and kicked the gate open in 2002.