Texas Motor Speedway has been billing itself as a "Wild Asphalt Circus" for months, and NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick found that out the hard way on Sunday afternoon.
Just two hours before the green flag of the AAA Texas 500, a skydiver damaged Harvick's No. 29 car as it sat on pit road. The parachutist, carrying a Texas flag with a weighted sandbag, flew dangerously close to the car and landed safely – but the weight holding the flag down slammed into the side of Harvick's car.
Witnesses on pit road said they heard a big "WHAP!" sound, and the skydiver then posed for pictures next to the car after he landed. Those who saw the incident also said the weight easily could have struck several fans.
NASCAR officials quickly gathered around the car to get a closer look, and team owner Richard Childress was told the team could repair the damage. The car was pushed back to the garage and fixed in less than 30 minutes.
"Fortunately (the skydiver) didn't get hurt," crew chief Gil Martin said. "It's a little bit of cosmetic damage we had to repair, but it'll be alright. It's not going to hurt how it'll drive."
Martin said repairs were necessary because the damage was significant enough to affect the aerodynamic handling. Seams had opened up in the door area, and the car "would have had air leaks right there," Martin said.
The crew chief said the whole incident was "handled as well as it could have been handled." NASCAR will allow Harvick to keep his 23rd-place starting spot, and the team will not have to go through inspection again.
It's been an unusually disappointing year for Harvick and his team, as the driver is three races away from his first winless season since 2009. He made the Chase again after finishing third the last two years but sits 11th in points.
"This just caps it off right here," Martin said. "Maybe something good will come out of this."
Looking over the dented car, Martin managed a smile.
"We got a lot of good publicity right here, so the sponsors all like it," he said.
Weight from a skydiver damaged Harvick's car. Look at this dent. twitter.com/jeff_gluck/sta…— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 4, 2012