The 80s were wild. And so is every major NASCAR race at Talladega – just ask some of the folks who have spent a few decades at the track. A few beers in and you’ll probably find someone saying to their friends “Hold my beer!”
But, perhaps you’ll hear someone tell the story of “that one year when the drunk fan stole the pace car.”
That Time The Pace Car Was Stolen At Talladega… pic.twitter.com/oIIwPxgyNw
— Fast Muscle Car (@Fast_MuscleCar) June 11, 2018
During the 1986 Winston 500, everyone in the stands – and all of those in the garage got the surprise of a lifetime when a drunk fan decided it would be a good idea to take a few laps in the official pace car.
“Security was lax at Talladega, to say the least, at that time,” Kyle Petty explained, recalling the story to NBC Sports. “And a fan wanders out, jumps in the pace car and decides he’s gonna run a few laps.”
Well, that fan was 20-year-old Darren Crowder from Birmingham, Alabama. Just before the race, he jumped on an opportunity he saw – and hopped into the unoccupied Pontiac Trans-Am pace car. (It looked almost identical to the one below.)
Greenlight Nascar – Pontiac GTA Hard Top 1987 Talladega 500 Pace Car 1:18 Red pic.twitter.com/pVFMUgvoUe
— NASCAR Collectors (@NASCARClektr) June 15, 2013
According to a 1986 article from the New York Times, the young spectator spotted the car as it was sitting in front of the main grandstand just before the start of the race.
Not but a minute after he started his joyride, squad cars and police motorbikes took off speeding after him – but they weren’t able to catch him on the 2.66-mile track.
After almost two full laps, security and safety personnel tried a new way of stopping his wild ride down the speedway and parked various vehicles in a perpendicular line across the track to prevent him from getting through.
He pulled over slowly and an angry mob of officials and personnel rushed him before he got arrested “rather sternly.”
The whole situation is insane – and it was probably the ride of a lifetime for young Darren Crowder. Like a few of the drivers have said – this is probably where the saying “Hold my beer” got started.
Check out the full clip below and let us know if you remember when this happened!