The blow over is one of drag racing’s most violent and spectacular sights. While front engine sling shots have been power wheelie-ing themselves over backward for ages (see the King and Marshall caster wheel), the “blow over” as we know it seems to have been birthed with the advent of the “modern” rear engine dragster. As you’ll see in the videos below, we have one of Paul Longnecker launching an early RED skyward in the 1970s and then the air takes the reins and sends it spiraling back to Earth.
Our understanding is that the term “blow over” came into drag racing from the world of hydroplane racing where boats would suffer a similar fate if air were to get under their hull at a high rate of speed. Looking back into the history of the sport, the term seems to have entered the popular lexicon in the 1980s and supplanted the more commonly used (to that point) “over-backward” terminology used to describe situations mentioned above when a car would literally power itself into that situation. The “heyday” of the blow over era was from the late 1980s into the middle 1990s where they happened with the most frequency. While still a risk, it is a pretty rare situation to see an old fashioned blow over these days in a dragster. Full bodied cars (especially those with immensely powerful turbo engines) seem most prone to becoming bad airplanes these days.
In this collection of videos you will see Don Garlits’ famous 1986 Englishtown blow over that saw him land on his wheels and drive back through the cloud of smoke before bringing the car to a stop in the middle of the course to the delight and deafening roar of the fans. We also included an infamous incident from a 2011 race at South Georgia Motorsports Park where a small tire Mustang gets air under the nose at the top end of the track and as with the dragsters, that cushion of air under the car lifts it until there is absolutely no hope of saving it and the driver is along for the ride.
In all of these accidents the driver was ultimately OK. Some are funny, such as the Clay Millican blow over from 2005 in Milan, Michigan. I was at that race as an announcer and it was the first (and last) time they ran a Dukes of Hazzard paint job on the car, complete with the 01. It sure as hell acted like the General Lee out there on the track. Some are horrendous in their violence, like the 1990 Don Prudhomme incident in Sanair. It was the worst crash of his career or damned close to it. The only positive in that video is that I find it to be the greatest couple minutes of television drag racing commentary ever. Steve Evans, Don Garlits, and Brock Yates call the wreck and it is riveting.
We now live in an age where racers make enough horsepower and have enough traction to send anything from top dragster entries to X275 Mustangs into low Earth orbit. It is the best of times, but it can also be the worst of times.
Press play on the videos below to see a cross section of some of drag racing’s most wild and spectacular blow overs ever!