In 1993, Terry Lingner, a producer at ESPN, had the bright idea for a made-for-TV racing series featuring a host of retired motorsports greats. At the same time, Jaguar was pulling out of IMSA, but its team, Tom Wakinshaw Racing, still had a year left in its contract to race in the US. Put the two together at the 5/8ths oval at Indianapolis Raceway Park, add in a $100,000 prize, and you get a demolition derby unlike anything ever seen before or since.
Marshall Pruett over at Racer , the series in question. It featured countless over-50 driving greats from a number of series—Parnelli Jones, Brian Redman, Johhny Rutherford, Bobby Allison, and even Paul Newman among many others—and a fleet of 12 Jaguar XJ220Cs. It didn't go well.
Quickly, the series came to be known as Crash Masters. It wasn't that the drivers had lost their talents in retirements; rather, the XJ220s just weren't set up well. Tony Dowe, head of Tom Wakinshaw Racing's US operations at the time explains why to Pruett:
"We had no budget to change springs or roll bars. They had a viscous differential which around off banking, when they lifted off, would uncouple, which is why they quite often backed into the wall. Oh, yeah. And we had to use the standard Bridgestone tires that came on, which actually weren’t that bad, although we had to pump the pressures up a bit, and we never put roll cages in the bloody things, but decent seat belts and so on, and it really was a dog’s dinner, to say the least. After the first week, I had every guy on the team hand their notice in."
Fast Masters was an amazing farce from the start. In the second lap of the first race, CART driver Jim McElreath took out NASCAR's Dick Trickle, destroying victory lane in the process. That was just a preview of what was to come.
Throughout the series' six rounds, every single XJ220 was crashed. The Tom Wakinshaw guys took to driving them to the body shop because they were sick of loading them onto trailers.
And this isn't even scratching the surface. Check out and the podcast below for the inside story of one of the strangest race series in history.