Back in 2001, veteran drag racer and noted engine builder Jerry Yeoman survived one of the most horrifying drag racing crashes we’ve ever seen, captured in this spectacular footage filmed by Sean Melton of Urban Hillbilly Videos at what was then known as the Wichita International Raceway (now the Kansas International Raceway) in Kansas.
Yeoman, a Kansas native himself, was behind the wheel of his Steve Bruce Race Cars-built Pontiac Grand Am at the Wichita Summer Nationals and was lined up alongside Jim Wiens in the Pro Modified final round, when he took this death-defying ride clear out of the park when his naturally-aspirated machine took a hard left turn into and over the guardrail near the eighth-mile marker. The incredible impact sent the car into a series of violent, end-over-end barrel rolls — more than a dozen of them — before finally coming to rest upside down.
The initial impact was so harsh that it sent parts and pieces flying well out into the pit area, and one of the rear wheels can even be seen striking one of the overhead powerlines at a high rate of speed. Miraculously, Yeoman emerged with non-life threatening injuries and later, following his recovery, shook off the memories of the devasting crash, and stepped back into a race car. In fact, Yeoman still competes to this day, behind the wheel of a turbocharged 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Pro Modified machine.
While we’ve long contended that no good can come from the use of steel armco barriers, incidents like this one — which occurred prior to the widespread use of head and neck restraint devices that save lives in — begs the question of whether the presence of a solid concrete guardrail may have done more harm to Yeoman or not. That argument aside, however, all that matters is that this situation, as frightening as it was, spared the life of one heck of a racer.