It was a rocky day in 1986 at the Winston 500, when an overzealous NASCAR fan thought it was a good idea to boost a Pace Car on the track at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Driving a Pace Car around the track a few times is something most of us dream of doing, but this wasn’t the best way to go about it.
Darren Crowder, a 20-year-old spectator from Birmingham, Alabama had nerves of steal when he decided to take off in the Pontiac Trans Am on May 4th, 1986. According to Vice Sports, Darren left his house that morning to test drive a motorcycle he was thinking of buying. When he got caught up in race traffic, he decided to buy a ticket and attend the event instead. At some point, he found his way into the infield, passed by security, got to pit road, and jumped in the unlocked and running Pace Car.
The Pontiac Trans Am had been running and waiting for the start of the 500-mile event. Maybe it was the delay caused by a 10-minute long power outage that had Darren ready to start the race himself. Maybe he had planned it all along or maybe he was partying too hard (nothing new to Talladega), but he went for it.
Darren reached speeds over 100 miles per hour on the 3,000-foot backstretch, and police and track officials were not happy with the joyrider. Squad cars and motorcycles pursued the car until a vehicular barricade stopped Darren in the forth turn of the 2.66-mile oval track.
After the semi-dramatic and totally humorous pursuit, Darren Crowder was apprehended and taken away by the police. While the announcer in this video suggests that the crowd was applauding the officials, we have our suspicions it was the Pace Car bandit they were cheering on. We’re not sure what came of Darren, he was surely charged, but maybe he figured a little jail time was worth the glory of piloting a Pace Car, even if it was only for two laps!
Elizabeth is a hardcore horsepower enthusiast with unmatched intensity for making things faster and louder. She wakes up for power and performance and only sleeps to charge up for the next project that’s heading to the track. From autocross to drag racing, Elizabeth is there with you, so stay tuned for her unique perspective on horsepower news, builds, tech info, and installs — with her, it’ll never be boring!