NASCAR: Drunk Guy Once Stole the Pace Car at Talladega in 1986

by Emily Morgan

NASCAR in the 80s was anything but boring— especially at Talladega. If you have any doubts about this, ask anybody that’s been to the track, and we’re sure they’ve got a few good stories.

One story that comes to mind is when an overly excited (and intoxicated) fan got a little too rowdy and stole the pace car. 

During the 1986 Winston 500, everyone in the stands got an unexpected show when a drunk fan took a few laps.

“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.”

Alabama Native Goes On Ride Of His Life At Talladega

In one of NASCAR’s most bizarre moments, Darren Crowder, an Alabama native, found his way (probably after saying the famous line ‘hold my beer’) into the Pontiac Trans Am prior to the race.

Someone had left the car unattended near the front grandstand. Crowder, who was 20-years-old at the time, pulled onto the track and took off. 

NASCAR only noticed something was wrong when Crowder passed a worker who knew he was not the official pace car driver. 

Crowder then proceeded to lead police cars and motorcycles on a high-speed chase around the 2.66-mile track.

He managed “more than 100 miles per hour on the 3,000-foot backstretch,” according to The New York Times. He was only stopped after “safety and maintenance trucks formed a blockade across the track” at Turn 4. 

But he wasn’t even close to making his exit. 

Crowder began impersonating a high schooler picking up his younger brother for afternoon carpool when approached by the workers. 

[Crowder and the officials] started playing a deal of lock the doors, unlock the doors. They apparently had another set of keys. They would unlock the doors with the key, and he would lock them back. Lock, unlock. Lock, unlock. Finally they managed to grab the door handle before he could lock it back one time.

Some 125,000 strong onlookers cheered for shirtless and hammered-drunk Crowder as he ended his ride of a lifetime.