#7- Russel Phillips Fatal Crash At The 1995 Nascar Sportsman Series Event In Charlotte.
Russel Phillips death was a definitive turning point for NASCAR to really debate about roll cage design practice, construction methods, and inspection techniques to improve the safety of the sport. During the Winston 100 in 1995, Russel Phillips’s Oldsmobile stock car suffered a collision that saw his car smash into a retaining wall roof first. Phillips’s body and head were seperated at the torso and neck and rescuers rushing to the scene realized the futility of any rescue attempt at that point.
The Sportsman series itself was a chance for younger inexperienced drivers to gain experience and hopefully jump into the Winston Cup Series given enough wins. But with inexperience came fatal crashes.
Russel Phillips was running in 10th place when on lap 17 his Oldsmobile was hit by Steven Howard who steered high to avoid a two-car spinout. Howard’s car forced Phillips car onto its right side then smashed its roof first into a retaining wall.
Up until that point, the weakest area of a Nascar car was its roof. Cars weren’t required to run an “Earnhardt Bar” which is a roof-support bar running down the middle of the windshield to prevent a fatal roof collapse. The roof of the car impacts a caution light sitting atop a wall and basically slices the whole top of the car away. A reporter at the scene vividly recalls his head rolling with his helmet down pitlane.
In 1996 after Dale Earnhardt crashed at Talladega, the aforementioned Earnhardt Bar is required on all cars since. Charlotte Motor Speedway also withdrew from the Sportsman Division in 1996 citing Phillips death as the last straw.
Next: #6 Dale Earnhardt's Crash At Talladega in 1996