Antron Brown, drag racing's reigning top-fuel champion, walked away from a fiery crash Sunday during the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.
Brown's 300-mph dragster had just reached the finish line ahead of David Grubnic in the second round of final eliminations when the 8,000-horsepower engine on Brown's car exploded.
The blast sent the car, which had burst into flames, sharply to the left into Grubnic's lane and it turned upside down as hundreds of pieces flew off the dragster at Auto Club Raceway.
Brown's car then drifted down the rest of the drag strip because of its forward momentum, with the car finally stopping in the safey sand trap at the end of the track.
A shaken Brown, 36, then got out and gingerly walked away as Grubnic and safety workers made sure he was unharmed.
Brown drives for the Don Schumacher Racing team, which now outfits its dragsters with plastic canopies that cover the drivers' heads, and it appeared the canopy helped protect Brown as he slid down the track in flames.
In winning the National Hot Rod Assn.'s top-fuel title last year, Brown became the first African American to claim a major U.S. motor racing championship.