Palmer goes for the wrecks (Throwback Thursday)

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our “Throwback Thursday” series. This article is from our Jan. 12, 2002 files.

NASCAR Winston Cup racing is one of the most popular and fastest growing sports in North America. Fans are loyal to their favorite drivers and their sponsors.

Some sports fans, however, argue that driving a racecar is not a sport and the “fans” only attend the races to see the wrecks.

0128-spt-throwbackSteve Palmer from Palmer and Son Body Shop is not a big NASCAR fan, but he does attend the races at the Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway every year for the wrecks.

Steve attends the races along with his brothers Greg and Jeff as part of the select few who are specially trained to work the wrecks at these two tracks.

Steve said they attend races at each track twice a year and work all the races held during the weekend, including Busch Series races, ARCA races and IROC events.

Steve said he has been working the races since 1999 with his brother Gregg. His other brother, Jeff Palmer from Palmer’s Body Shop, has also attended many of the races.

When they go to the track they are assigned a designated area to work if a crash occurs in the area. They are specially trained and everybody has a responsibility.

“Everybody has a specific job to do,” Steve said.

The workers do not get paid for their hard work, but the Talladega and Atlanta events do pick up the tab for the crew’s room and board during the weekend.

The workers also get to work with the latest equipment.

“There is a new truck at every race,” Steve said. “It is a demo unit and then the race they will sell it. It will be worth more because it was used at a race.”

The main reason the Palmers said they go, however, is the adrenaline rush they get from watching some of the best drivers in the world maneuver within inches of each other at close to 200 mph.

“I go for the thrill,” Steve said.

Races can be exciting and while Palmers are there to work Steve said they would rather sit back, relax and enjoy a race in which nobody gets hurt.

Last year, the Palmers did just that at the Talladega 500 in April when the NASCAR race was completed without a wreck.

That wan not the case when they returned to the 2.66-mile oval with 33-degree banking in October 2001 for the EA Sports 500.

A huge wreck late in the race left all but three cars with damage and at the end of the day the garage area looked more like a junkyard than a NASCAR garage.

The Palmers had a scary moment in Atlanta one year when a fireball came their way after a wreck.

Steve said a car hit a wall they had been standing on a few moments earlier during a Busch Series race. When the car lost control they retreated to give it plenty of room. When the car hit the retaining wall the fuselage exploded and a fireball engulfed the car just 10 feet away from them.

Luckily, nobody was seriously injured and the Palmers returned to Andalusia to run their body shops.

This year the Palmers plan on returning to Talladega and Atlanta for the NASCAR events and are also considering going to Daytona for the Race Week.