A Tale of Two Legends Sitting Out at Charlotte

October 8, 2017

Seth and Sutton Sharp


On this date in 1989, the All Pro Auto Parts 500 was held at Charlotte, but the race took place without two legends that had originally planned to start the event.

While practicing for the race Tuesday at the track, A.J. Foyt was knocked unconscious after his car cut a tire and slammed the wall. After his car hit the outside wall, his car continued across the track before hitting the inside guardrail outside of the fourth-turn. It took safety workers about ten minutes to remove Foyt from his car before transporting him to the infield care center. After evaluating him in the care center, he was flown to Charlotte Memorial Hospital.

According to Foyt’s crew-chief Tex Powell, A.J. hit the right side of his head on the roll cage so hard that it left a five inch crack in his helmet. One day after the crash Powell told reporters that Foyt was highly unlikely to compete at Charlotte due to his condition.

On Thursday Foyt talked about his crash over the telephone to reporters. That morning he was upgraded to good condition and transferred from the intensive care unit at the hospital. “My neck and head are probably the biggest problems. My neck is all swollen and bruised on the right side.” Foyt continued “That is the first time I’ve ever had an accident where I didn’t remember what happened. I went into the third corner, I got a little bit loose and tried to correct it and the next thing I know I was in a helicopter on the way to the hospital.”

Oddly enough, Foyt said that before practice he told Powell that if he got hurt, where he left his watch, ring and money. Foyt laughed and said that it was the first time he had ever done such a thing. He was released from the hospital later that night and flew back to rest at his home in Houston.

Foyt wasn’t the only legend making headlines at Charlotte. After not competing in a Winston Cup event in over three years, David Pearson tested the famed No. 21 for the Wood Brothers at Charlotte. He offered to help the team set the car up, as their original driver Neil Bonnett was still dealing with a fractured sternum and was unable to compete.

After testing the car Pearson announced that he felt comfortable in the car and would drive the car in the race. The reunion between Pearson and the Wood Brothers came 10 years after they split after a disagreement during a race at Darlington.

The reunion was called off the following morning as Pearson woke up with severe neck and back pain and immediately called the team and told them that he would not be able to compete in the event for them.

“When I left there yesterday I had every intention of going back up there to drive their car.” Pearson said. “When I woke up this morning my back and neck were so sore, so I called and told them I wasn’t in any shape to run 500 miles. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or just run a few laps and get out of the car. If I was going to run, I was going to do it all.”

Pearson also officially announced his retirement after a reporter asked him about his future in racing. “If I can’t run at Charlotte without getting sore, I can’t run anywhere. It probably is the end of my driving career.”

Defending Busch Series champion Tommy Ellis, who drove the car the previous week at Martinsville, was named the driver of the No. 21 at Charlotte. Ellis finished 18th in the event.

Updated: May 16, 2018 — 10:35 pm

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