With a full moon shining high above Daytona International Speedway, one of the most bizarre scenes in recent memory took place.
As the field bunched up for the final 20-lap segment of the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited, smoke began billowing from one of the cars. No, not one of the racecars, it was the pace car.
Pace car driver Brett Bodine pulled off the track as the trunk of the Chevrolet SS caught fire. Luckily, safety crews were quick on the scene to extinguish the fire.
We’ve seen a pace car stolen at Talladega Superspeedway in 1986, and Juan Pablo Montoya hit a jet dryer in the 2012 Daytona 500, but this was a new one.
“When you think you’ve seen it all, and then you see that. It’s just never-ending,” said runner-up Brad Keselowski. “We’ve seen wires, we’ve seen jet dryers, I don’t even know what to expect for the Daytona 500. It seems we always find the weirdest stuff for the 500. I just hope nobody was hurt, it didn’t look like they were, but that was an interesting one there.
“I couldn’t exactly tell what happened,” he said. “I just saw the whole back half of the car was on fire. I thought it was a racecar. Someone said it was the pace car and I couldn’t help but start laughing.”
Third-place finisher Kyle Busch was catching up to the field when the incident occurred, so did not see it all unfold.
“I saw the aftermath where two guys were getting out of the pace car,” he said. “It seemed like they were running for their lives, afraid of a little fire. Maybe they need fire suits now.”
Come to find out, it was a battery pack used to power external lights that ignited the fire.