As cars pulled off the track following a wild race at Talladega Superspeedway, thick black smoke began rising from one section of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage area.
Drivers stared at the billowing smoke as they climbed from their cars, and crew members from several teams went running toward the smoke to see if they could assist.
As it turned out, the smoke was from a fire started when the gas man for Furniture Row Racing's No. 78 team inadvertently set off a spark while preparing the team's gas cans for transportation.
"We take the probes off the cans to haul the cans around," Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone said. "And in the process of doing that, the can exploded. Something initiated a spark, and the can exploded."
Garone said no one was injured – "We're lucky nobody got hurt," he said – but the team would need to find a different hauler to get its car back to Colorado.
Because haulers park in close proximity to one another in the Sprint Cup Series garage, the incident could have been much worse.
When the fire started, it engulfed the left side of the Furniture Row hauler's cab and spread to the neighboring Earnhardt Ganassi Racing hauler of Jamie McMurray. It then continued to the other side of the 78 hauler and threatened a Red Bull Racing truck.
One witness reported seeing flames higher than the trucks themselves.
"I was standing right there, and all of the sudden we looked over and you heard a whoosh," said Kat MacDonald, who handles nutrition and food for EGR. "All we saw was flames. So we all ran over and all we saw were all the gas cans. The gas man was in there, and the flames were literally up past the top of the trucks. Then, all of the sudden, we saw the flames over here on our truck. We started yelling, 'Fire!'
"But what was so scary was it went so fast. All of a sudden, we started seeing the flames on the other side of their hauler. That's when everybody over here started thinking, 'Something is going to blow up.' People started yelling, 'Get back! Get back!' and everybody started running that way."
A fire engine drove into the garage with sirens blaring about a minute after the fire began and quickly extinguished the flames.
Afterward, crew members from McMurray's team discovered the fire had burned some of their backpacks, which contained their street clothes and personal belongings such as cell phones and keys. They sifted through the remains of their possessions with stone faces and tried to see what they could salvage.
One crew member found his phone, but it was burnt to a crisp.
Furniture Row Racing has had bad luck with haulers. Last season, its hauler was involved in an accident on an icy highway and had to be replaced.
Garone said this hauler will be fixable eventually. The biggest damage was some of the hoses under the hood of the tractor.
Pictures of the fire's aftermath (Photos: Jeff Gluck / SBNation):