Retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. has survived a plane crash at in Tennessee.
The Carter County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Earnhardt Jr.’s plane crashed on Thursday at Elizabethon Municipal Airport.
Photos circulated from the scene, which show the plane burning before it was extinguished. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the Cessna Citation 680 had “rolled off the end of a runway”.
According to Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, Earnhardt Jr. was transported to Johnson City Medical Center with “minor injuries.”
Earnhardt’s wife Amy and their daughter Isla also escaped serious injury, along with the plane’s pilot, one other passenger, and a family dog.
The former racer’s sister Kelley tweeted: “I can confirm Dale, Amy & Isla along with his two pilots were involved in a crash in Bristol TN this afternoon. Everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We have no further information at this time. Thank you for your understanding.”
The crash occurred around 3:38pm ET (5:38am AEST). Video footage from the scene showed the plane came to rest near a road. By the time fire trucks arrived, the rear section of the plane had burnt before it was almost fully engulfed in flames.
It was later reported by WCYB News 5 that Earnhardt Jr. had left Johnson City Medical Center via police escort three hours after the crash.
44-year-old Earnhardt Jr. retired from NASCAR competition in 2017, and transitioned into commentary for NBC.
Earnhardt Jr. won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award 15 times, and recorded 26 wins across his career, including the prestigious Daytona 500 twice.
Several drivers expressed their relief following news the plane’s occupants were safe.
Drivers rolled out for the first day of school in 2020, and David Reynolds topped the class with the fastest time in Practice 1 at the Superloop Adelaide 500.
Reynolds, who was 15th at Tuesday’s BP Ultimate SuperTest, set a rapid pace early in the 45-minute session on the Adelaide streets, which was effectively ended early following a late-session collision between Lee Holdsworth and Garry Jacobson.
Reynolds fired his #9 Penrite Racing ZB Commodore to the top within the opening 10 minutes, with the 2017 Bathurst winner’s 1:20.6864s flyer marginally ahead of Shane van Gisbergen.
Two-time Adelaide 500 winner van Gisbergen was just 0.0098s down in the #97 Red Bull Holden ZB Commodore, with Will Davison – who topped Tuesday’s pre-season test – another 0.0049s back in the #23 Milwaukee Racing Mustang.
Chaz Mostert crowned his maiden outing with Walkinshaw Andretti United with fourth, 0.1412s down, ahead of Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang) who was handed bad sportsmanship flag for kerb overuse at Turn 2.
Kerb overuse was just one storyline from the first session of the season, with drivers pushing hard on fresh rubber as the field looked to create a form guide of sorts in the first of two practice sessions for the weekend.
Notably, Rick Kelly gave his team a scare when he scraped his brand new #15 Castrol Mustang on the Turn 8 concrete, while Fabian Coulthard suffered major front locking at Turn 9 in the #12 Shell V-Power Racing Mustang.
However, the most dramatic moment was saved until last when Jacobson – who had just left the pit lane – closed on Holdsworth, who was coming around the outside at Turn 3.
Both cars cycled down to Turn 4 and came to a halt before the red flag was triggered.
“I came through Turns 1-2-3 fully committed, I saw Jacobson up the road and just assumed he would get out of the way,” Holdsworth told the broadcast.
“I went to go left, he went left, so then I went right and he went right. It’s one of those things but it’s a bit annoying at this stage of the weekend.”
Jacobson added: “When you’re in the wrong, you’re in the wrong. I’ll wear it.
“I was going too slow. I had a green set of tyres on, I was doing brake temp, and when I was going to Turn 3 I thought I’d stay to the right.
“It was a clumsy error on my behalf, and I’m sorry to Tickford and their boys. When it’s your fault, it’s your fault.”
Series champion Scott McLaughlin (#17 Shell V-Power Racing Mustang) was sixth, 0.28s down, ahead of teammate Coulthard, Nick Percat (#8 BJR ZB Commodore) and Jamie Whincup (#88 Red Bull Holden ZB Commodore), with Anton De Pasquale rounding out the top 10 in the sister Penrite Racing entry.
The field returns for Practice 2 at 2:35pm AEDT on Friday ahead of Practice 3 at 6:30pm.
Daniel Ricciardo gave his new-look Renault a tentative thumbs-up as testing began ahead of the looming F1 season.
The 30-year-old Australian experienced the team’s RS20 challenger car for the first time as he banked 56 laps in the afternoon session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with more to come later on Thursday.
Teammate Esteban Ocon had covered 62 laps in the morning session before Ricciardo, sporting a special purple testing helmet that paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, took over testing duties and ended seventh fastest overall, with a best lap time of one minute 17.873 seconds.
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“It’s great to be driving again and I felt quite comfortable in the car from the get-go, which was cool,” Ricciardo told the official Renault website.
“Esteban obviously warmed the car up nicely this morning, and I felt I was more or less straight back into it and in a rhythm when it was my turn in the afternoon.
“There are improvements on the car and we’ve obviously changed it a lot visually, which is quite clear when you look at the front nose.
“The improvements are there, and ultimately that’s what we’re targeting. It’s too early to make any comparisons, but our reliability was pretty strong, and I would say it’s promising.
“You can’t ask for too much more from day one, so I’m happy with that.”
The RS20 cut a svelte figure on track as Renault showed off an awesome all-black model. It was as much Batmobile as F1 car.
But unfortunately for fans of the special testing livery, which replaced Renault’s usual yellow design, the new black colour scheme is likely only temporary for the six days of testing before the season proper starts next month.
Renault had previously only revealed renders of its 2020 car at a season launch where team boss Cyril Abiteboul insisted he didn’t feel the need to present a “fake car”.
The car that was unveiled at testing immediately caught the eye — both in terms of its livery and the significantly slimmed-down nose, which Ricciardo referenced — and Ocon was happy with what he experienced on day one behind the wheel.
“The car is well born. At the moment it feels very decent, so it’s a good start and a good solid baseline,” he told Sky Sports.
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton lapped fastest as Mercedes dominated the first day in Spain while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel called in sick. Hamilton did 94 laps on the soft C2 compound tyres in a sunny afternoon session, running untroubled after teammate Valtteri Bottas completed 79 laps in the morning.
The Brit’s fastest time of 1:16.976 compared to the best of 1:18.161 set by Vettel on the first day of testing last year.
Hamilton, who is hoping to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles this year, was 0.337 of a second quicker than Bottas.
Racing Point’s Mexican Sergio Perez was the best of the rest, with his team’s new car drawing attention for the similarities to last year’s Mercedes.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth and did the most laps, 168, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz doing 161 on a day without any red flags to halt the action and all 10 teams getting in plenty of mileage.
The 2020 rules are little changed from last year but one difference was a new decree barring teams from hiding their cars behind screens in the garages, giving fans in the stands a better view.
Testing continues this week and again from February 26-28, with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix kickstarting the season in Melbourne on March 15.