A scintillating run for pole-sitter Mark Martin ended abruptly and violently against the pit road wall.
Martin had dominated Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 early, leading 54 of the first 64 laps, but that was before a wreck ahead of him in Turn 4 sent his No. 55 Toyota spinning off the track at an unlikely angle.
Martin's car missed the outside pit road wall and the barrels protecting it and slid rapidly toward Kasey Kahne's pit stall, just beyond an opening to the garage. Nicking the wall before the opening, Martin's car turned and slammed into the unprotected end of the wall near Kahne's pit.
The impact, centered behind the driver's-side door, broke Martin's oil cooler, which ignited moments later. Martin escaped without serious injury. Luckily, so did members of Kahne's crew behind the wall, though Kahne said after the race that one of his crewmen had been hurt slightly by a tire.
"That was a pretty freak angle that I got at that," Martin said after escaping from his battered car. "I'm not sure what you could do. It could have been really bad if I would have got in that hole a little deeper, where it caught me in the door instead of in the crush area back there.
"I was hoping that I was going to miss the pit wall completely and not tear the car up, but then I saw (from) the angle I was going that I was going to hit the end of pit wall. . . . It's unfortunate. I fought it with everything I had, but with where I came from and the speed that I came from and the confines of pit road, I couldn't miss it."
Race runner-up Brad Keselowski was watching a replay during his post-race press conference and gasped when he saw the wreck.
"Could have been a lot worse than it was," Keselowski said. "Over the course of time, we always get complacent and think that we've hit all the buttons on the safety side. Then you see something like that. It shows you why you have to never quit working at making these cars and tracks safer, because that could have been a lot worse, whether it was for Mark or for the crew members or anybody.
"So it's just one of those moments where you realize you might think that you have safety covered in this sport, but you never do."