Imagine being in the middle of a heated race at one of the world's most famous race tracks, abruptly losing braking power—then having your car mysteriously explode right in front of you. That's exactly what happened to Derrick Cope last weekend, when his race car exploded in a smoky blast during a NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. The scene looked more like something out of a war zone than anything normally seen at the upstate New York race track.
Cope was rolling his No. 70 Chevrolet race car through the "bus lane" during the NASCAR Xfinity race at Watkins Glen on Saturday when, without notice, the front end of his car blew sky high. Even more unusually, no flames followed the massive blast. Though it was originally unclear what caused the big boom, NASCAR officials later determined the explosion was caused by a tire that was damaged after the car's brake system overheated, Motor Trend reports.
“I lost the brake pedal going into Turn 1, and I knew something happened to a piston or whatever so I just went easy down there and got off the end down there and started coming to a stop, and the whole thing just blew the hood off," Cope said to NBC Sports Network. "And I don’t know really what it was. It looked like the shocks were all intact and the tires were up, so I don’t know really what exploded.”
From the video, it appears the explosion occurred on the front left side of the car, but the resulting damage could be seen all across the front end. Terrifying, to say the least.