Crashes in Nascar are about as common as lightning bugs on a summer night. That’s bound to happen when a pack of cars starts bumping and grinding at 200 mph. Rubbing is racing, the saying goes. But even by that measure, three drivers put on one hell of a show in the closing laps of the Go Bowling 400 in Kansas City, Kansas.
The fiery crash occurred when something snapped in Joey Logano’s car (No. 22), causing him to swerve into Danica Patrick (No. 10) before Aric Almirola (No. 43) went sailing into them. Almirola fractured a vertebra in the collision and spent the night in the hospital. Photographer Sean Gardner captured the pandemonium as Almirola’s car took to the air and erupted in flames. “At first all I saw was smoke, but then I could see they were wrecking,” he says. “It happened so fast, in maybe five to 10 seconds.”
Driver Trevor Bayne, an eight-year Nascar veteran, called it “the hardest hit I’ve ever seen in my life.” But Gardner wasn’t fazed. He’s photographed hundreds of races and many, many crashes in the seven years he’s been covering Nascar for Getty. “I’ve seen cars on fire,” he says. “I’ve seen cars flip.” For him, it’s just another night at the races.