Things got more serious than usual at the NASCAR-sanctioned Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina over the weekend, where videos show a local police officer pulling a gun on a driver who hit another car under caution. Both drivers were suspended, and police said afterward they were investigating the incident.
Bowman Gray, a quarter-mile asphalt oval that’s been around since 1949, is kind of like American oval racing’s unscripted version of WWE. Aside from the racing itself, drivers fight with their cars instead of their fists, wrecks turn into demolition derbies, and some people get dragged around the race track at speed while holding onto another driver’s window opening.
On Saturday night, local station WGHP reports that Stadium Stock drivers Andy Spears and Blake Walker got into each other several times on track before a caution came out with both of their cars stopped near each other. Videos show Walker’s car sitting still as he gets out of it, while Spears spins his car in circles nearby. Spears’ car hits Walker’s, which is when videos show an officer on the track pulling a gun and pointing it toward Spears’ car.
The officer was from the local Winston-Salem Police Department, and local station WXII-TV reports that police said it’s protocol for officers to “assist drivers and race personnel off of the track after a wreck.” The Winston-Salem Journal reports that off-duty officers have worked at the track for decades.
A police statement quoted by WXII-TV said on Saturday, Spears “intentionally rammed” Walker’s car around the time the officer pulled the gun.
“The driver then spun his vehicle in a reckless manner around the disabled car placing the officers, the exiting drivers and race personnel in its path,” WGHP quoted the statement as saying. “Unsure of the driver’s intentions, Officer C.K. Robertson perceived this action as a deadly threat to all aforementioned parties.”
Spears told WGHP he turned the car around to pull up and have a talk with Walker, and that he had no intention of hitting Walker’s car—his steering was broken after all of the contact, he said, and he hadn’t seen Walker get out of the car before he tried to pull up. Spears also said he didn’t see the officer pull the gun, but found out about it later when people told him.
“With me not seeing the cop, if my car would have lunged forward or something just from me shutting it off, would he have shot me?” Spears asked in the video embedded from the Charlotte Observer.
Spears told WGHP that cops didn’t need to be at the track because handling incidents like this is “the track crew’s job.” Walker disagreed. From the story:
“I exited my car to get a little more personal with him and he proceeded to ram my car with me and officials and officers standing right beside it. The car hit me and one of the officers. He then spun around facing us and was about to give another go with us standing there,” Walker wrote in his message to FOX8, “It could’ve been real bad. The officer did what he was trained to do, in my opinion, to stop what he thought was a very dangerous situation.”
The police statement said “all parties” were escorted off of the track, and the Winston-Salem Journal reported Tuesday that Bowman Gray suspended Spears and Walker for a week. The Journal also reported that no criminal charges were filed, and that police administrators would use the investigation to determine if it was appropriate for the officer to pull the gun.
Walker told the Journal on Monday he agrees with his suspension from Bowman Gray, and that he wouldn’t press any charges against Spears for the incident.
“A lot of things get heated out there on the track,” Walker told the Journal. “It makes no sense to suspend [Spears], and not me. I was part of it just as much as he was.”