Race Weekend Central

6 Months Later, Jordan Anderson Reflects on Fiery Talladega Crash, Recovery

NASCAR Xfinity Series team owner Jordan Anderson walked around the Atlanta Motor Speedway garage on a brisk Saturday afternoon on March 18 adorning a winter coat, jeans and his usual smiling face.

Underneath those long sleeves, however, remained a scarred reminder of the dangers of racing and one of the most physically painful moments of his entire life.

Six months earlier, Anderson was racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. It was his fifth truck start of the year, and the underdog fan favorite was running fourth with only two laps to go in stage one. He had one of the best handling trucks of his career and appeared to have a legitimate chance of winning his first career race.

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Then his No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado literally — and spontaneously — combusted.

“I saw the fire in the floorboard and didn’t think anything of it,” Anderson told Frontstretch from his Jordan Anderson Racing hauler at Atlanta. “Then I could start to feel it. Then it was like, ‘Man, it’s getting hot. It’s getting real hot. I’ve got to get out of here.’

“I’ve run over 100 Truck races and never had anything like that. … It didn’t seem real. It was happening, but in my head, I almost blocked it out. Then came the real moment of, ‘The fire is so hot, it’s going to force me out this truck.'”

Like something out of a Hollywood action movie, Anderson, who was pumped up on adrenaline and blinded by the dark smoke now enveloping his cockpit, realized his truck was heading toward the inside safer barrier. With the idea that he could potentially be pinned inside of the burning vehicle by the wall and the unbearable heat of the fire surrounding him, he decided to make a lifesaving, yet dangerous, move.

As his racing truck was still speeding toward the wall, he climbed out.

Jordan Anderson's scary Talladega crash

NASCAR reports that Jordan Anderson is awake and alert after this scary crash at Talladega.

Posted by NASCAR on FOX on Saturday, October 1, 2022

As his truck came to stop, the racing world watched for minutes as he laid on the ground and was quickly attended to by NASCAR medical personnel. The 31-year-old had third-degree burns on his neck and arm.

Anderson had sustained many injuries in his past doing other extreme sports including, but not limited to, losing his front teeth and breaking several bones.

But this level of pain was something else. It was the worst in his life.

“I’ve usually got a pretty good pain tolerance,” Anderson said. “My front six teeth are fake. I’ve broken my kneecap, a rotator cuff, broke my wrist, fingers, toes, arm. You name them. I’ve got probably 14-15 bones broken just growing up.

“But I’ve never felt or experienced anything like that. I’ve never gotten burned to that extent. The amount of pain was just nuts.”

Around 30 minutes later, Anderson was on a helicopter heading to a Birmingham hospital for treatment.

Over the next 24 hours, the team owner received an outpouring of support from the NASCAR community with offers of help in any way one could. One came from Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., a survivor of a fiery racing crash himself.

“Dale Jr. heard about what was going on and offered his plane up, and we all hopped in the plane and flew back to Statesville,” Anderson said. “So that was just so kind of him to offer it out there because we were going to drive home that night.”

But his burns were only the beginning of his worries. On Monday, Anderson began having severe headaches. He checked into the hospital again to run some tests.

“I got a concussion,” Anderson recalled. “That was one thing I really didn’t talk about. That Monday [I was] on the couch watching TV trying to relax a little bit, looked at my phone. Then at around 10 o’clock I felt like my head was going to explode and went back to the emergency room that night.

“We did a bunch of tests, and that’s when we found out I had a pretty serious concussion. … The concussion stuff was frustrating. I probably had some over the years, but that one there was one that took me a couple weeks to get back to where I was fully functional.”

It was the beginning of a journey of recovery that still is not over. It began months of painful burn recovery that included processes of literally having to peel his own burnt skin off of his neck and arm.

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However, despite the painful — and disgusting — recovery process, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of progress. For that, he has his family and a dry sense of humor to thank.

“[My wife] was an all-star in that whole process,” Anderson said. “Because I was not wanting to do any of it, and she’s like, ‘All right. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what the doctor said we’re doing today. … She follows through. She’s very scheduled and on time.”

“There’s a picture somewhere I sent to my dad of trying to pull skin off, using scissors to pull it off, and just stuff like that,” Anderson recalled with a chuckle. “I try to find some humor in it somewhere to just kind of deal with everything going on.”

Nowadays, Anderson still owns his JAR team, which now fields two full-time Xfinity drivers in Parker Retzlaff and Jeb Burton. Both have put up respectable results thus far, including a top-five finish for Retzlaff at Daytona International Speedway in February.

However, despite being an up-and-coming successful race team owner, Anderson, as most racecar drivers do, can’t help but often feel the itch to get back on the track. Even after what happened.

Although that day may not be very soon.

“The itch is still there for me to run,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s like, ‘When are you going to get back in the truck or the car?’

“But I’ve kind of had to take my desires and kind of put them on hold and grow this team. This is something that’s bigger than where I thought it was going to go.”

As for where he would like to one day make his return, he does have one place in mind.

“If we have some time this year to go through that truck, it would be really cool to take it back to Talladega this year,” Anderson said with his usual smile. “I wouldn’t write that one off the potential things to do.”

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

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