Local News

Easley 'Embarrassed,' But Not Injured In Speedway Crash

Posted May 9, 2003 6:44 a.m. EDT
Updated January 6, 2009 3:49 p.m. EST

— Gov. Mike Easley was not injured Friday after he was involved in a car crash at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord.

Cari Boyce, Easley's spokeswoman, said Easley was driving the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson when he spun out and hit the inside retaining wall on Turn 2 around 11:45 a.m.

Easley had been practicing on the track for about a half hour when the wreck occurred. Easley, who was not injured in the accident, was going about 120 miles per hour when he hit the wall.

Officials say Easley hit the speedway's "soft" walls, which are Styrofoam blocks covered in a black plastic-light casing.

"I am fine. They strapped me in good and tight here and the Hendrick car is a good car," Easley said, describing himself as "a little embarrassed" but otherwise unhurt.

Easley was wearing the HANS device, a head-and-neck restraint system mandated by NASCAR in October 2001. After the wreck, Easley stood by the car joking with his staff and track officials and even autographed the crumpled car before it was towed away. Officials say the crash totaled the $80,000 car.

Track spokesman Jerry Gappens said Easley was examined by the speedway's medical staff and was fine.

"Just a bruised ego right now," Gappens said. "He's a good sport about things, so he's fine. He's a good race car driver, he talked about the car pushing and it was tight, so he's got some of the racing lingo down."

Easley left the track with a bruised ego and a souvenir -- the hood pin from the mangled car.

"They offered to give me the hood, but I didn't know where I would put it," he said.

Easley was riding in the racecar to promote an effort to keep The Winston all-star race at the speedway and as part of a fund-raising effort. He said sponsors were going to donate money to

Communities In Schools

, an anti-dropout program, for each completed lap.

"We couldn't fund that in the budget this year, so I was going to raise money that way," Easley told WRAL.

Easley said this was his second time in a racecar. Easley drove two laps in a No. 48 Chevrolet behind the pace cars for two parade laps before last October's Winston Cup race at Charlotte.

"It's a real thrill. I love it to death. It's one of the few times that you can get up to 160-170 miles per hour and be in a safe circumstance," Easley told WRAL.

Easley returned to the racetrack Friday afternoon in Terry Labonte's No. 5 car to raise more money.

"My commitment to education should not be questioned," said Easley. "I will do whatever it takes to keep children in school."

Easley said he plans to drive again prior to next weekend's Winston All-Star race.