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That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time · Amy Henderson · Monday July 3, 2006
It was one of those things you'd have to see to believe. NASCAR's history has included some wild and crazy stories, many probably actually wilder and crazier than this one…but this incident was just too much. Race car drivers have enough to worry about without having to deal with…giant fruit? But a couple of years back at Chicagoland Speedway, giant fruit brought qualifying to a screeching halt.
The fruit in question belonged to race sponsor Tropicana. It was an inflatable orange, over ten feet in diameter, and apparently it was disgruntled in its current occupation as a promotional gimmick.
Modified driver Todd Szegedy was busy attempting to make his second Busch Series start when the fruit decided that it had enough. The big orange broke free from its tether like an angry bull and, aided by the wind, made for the nearest exit. Clearly, this fruit was going places in a hurry.
The orange made a hasty exit from its promotional prison and headed for the nearest highway. Unfortunately for both Szegedy and the orange, the nearest highway was Chicagoland's backstretch. It's hard to tell who was more shocked: Szegedy, who came barreling off of turn two to be confronted by the huge fruit, or the orange, whose escape route was suddenly blocked by the catchfence.
Fortunately for both the driver and the fruit on the lam, Szegedy was able to avoid a collision, and there would be no fresh squeezed orange juice on the track to pose a sticky hazard for the drivers. After its few minutes of glory, the escaped orange was recaptured and returned to its owners. No word on whether it got a better job or a pay raise. If there was a silver lining to this whole thing, Szegedy did get another chance to qualify, and made the most of it, roling off twelfth that Saturday for the Tropicana Twister 300.
It isn't always the big stories that make NASCAR's history great. True, this was a big orange, and will probably get bigger every time Szegedy recounts the story. It didn't change the outcome of the race, and it barely changed qualifying. Nobody's career was instantly altered (except, possibly, the orange's), nobody was hurt, and nobody won a championship because of the event. But it still makes for a great story. Great stories? Oh yeah, that's history!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I thought of the exact same thing when they threw the caution at Daytona for that beach ball on the track! It was nothing compared to the Big Orange at Chicago!
That’s one I’ll never forget! There’s the camera showing Szegedy’s car when a giant orange rolls past in the opposite direction. While I was thinking “What did I just see there?” the camera stopped for a second and then zoomed back up the track. It looked like the camera guy had the same thought I did.
Just have to love the little quirky things that come alone in life. Too bad Tropicana isn’t a sponsor of those races at Chicagoland anymore. :/
I was at the track when that happened. The wind was gusting as an afternoon t-storm was moving in. The delay for the orange cleanup almost caused a qualifying rainout. The wet stuff hit about a minute after the last Busch car made it’s run. It was funny watching the Safety Truck trying to ram the orange to stop it. And the orange definitely makes the Daytona beachball look puny.
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.