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The Winston 100 at Charlotte was the 15th Sportsman Division race for Russell Phillips, whose best finish was 8th and just won his first pole position. The crash occurred on lap 17 of the 67-lap event. Phillips (#57) was in 10th place and approaching the exit of Turn 4 when a two-car spin occurred in front of him. He and Steven Howard (#99), who had been in front of Phillips, took evasive action directly into each others' paths. Howard's car forced Phillips' car onto its right side, then smashed it roof-first into the retaining wall. The resulting impact caused Phillips' roof to be ground away, killing Phillips instantly. When the vehicle came back down onto the track on its wheels, there was a massive "gaping hole" where the roof was supposed to be.
Phillips was decapitated by a caution light and savagely dismembered by the catchfence itself, in what a photographer on-scene described, "as gruesome a wreck as I can ever recall". In video footage taken at the scene of the accident, the first rescuer is initially shown running to the car, then immediately turning away upon seeing that there was no chance of resuscitation. The crash caused a 35-minute cleanup, a task carried out with surgical gloves. Russell's window net and right hand were reportedly found in the catchfence where the caution light had been.
Phillips' death resulted in a serious debate about roll cage design practices, construction methods and inspection techniques applied to all divisions of NASCAR. In 1996, the "Earnhardt bar", a roof-support bar running down the middle of the windshield designed to prevent fatal roof collapse in roof-first accidents, was made mandatory on all NASCAR vehicles after Dale Earnhardt was seriously injured in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway in the DieHard 500, in which his car took a similar roof-first impact. Following 3 deaths in 7 years, Charlotte Motor Speedway refused to host any further Limited Sportsman events, citing Phillips' death as "the last straw". The division quietly folded at the end of the year.
NASCAR Limited Sportsman
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Charlotte Motor Speedway
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