Winternationals Memorable Moment No. 3: Up, Up, and Away (1989)

Fresh off a remarkable 1988 season in which his bright yellow Super Shops/Pennzoil Nuclear Banana Top Fueler had become the first to run in the four-second zone, Eddie Hill’s career continued to rise at the 1989 season opener, but not so much in a great way.

During Friday qualifying, the front wings on Hill’s dragster slipped into an upright position as he approached the finish line, lifting the front end. As air got under the nose, lifting it even higher, the rear wing tripped the clocks at 5.210, 236.15, then the dragster did a backward somersault, rolled right side up, and struck nose first, deploying the parachutes and slowing as it tumbled down the track. Except for the roll cage and driver’s compartment, the car was destroyed, but Hill suffered only bruised knees.

“It happened so suddenly, it was out of my hands,” said Hill, who had plenty of crashes in a long career in asphalt and boat drag racing. “Once I started crashing, I covered up my pretty parts [face] with my hands and closed my eyes. I tried to ball up like I learned in boat racing; you know, whatever sticks out goes in the water. My sore knees were self-inflicted when I jerked up to get into the ball position and hit the control panel. It wasn’t any problem getting out of the car. I was gonna sit there, and then I saw the fuel tank on fire and got right out.”
Amazingly, Hill returned in a car borrowed from Darrell Gwynn to qualify for the event and stage an amazing comeback, making the field at the eleventh hour. Ironically, his effort paired him against Gwynn in round one, but Hill discovered a four-inch crack in his last engine block that morning that left him unable to race but with the admiration of the Pomona fans.