Trenton Moriarity, Tyler Tanner and Jeff Knight are involved in a fiery crash on Aug. 12, 2017, at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. (Horsepower Project/Michele Martin)

Trenton Moriarity, Tyler Tanner and Jeff Knight are involved in a fiery crash on Aug. 12, 2017, at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. (Horsepower Project/Michele Martin)

A crash, an explosion, a rescue at Evergreen Speedway (VIDEO)

A screeching of tires, a puff of smoke, and a brilliant flash of light that suddenly erupted into a fireball the size of a large house.

It was a spectacle worthy of the latest summer blockbuster action movie. But this was no special effect executed on some Hollywood back lot. This was Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, and this was real.

On Aug. 12 Evergreen Speedway laid witness to perhaps the most dramatic crash in the track’s 63-year history, a fiery inferno that involved the cars of Trenton Moriarity, Tyler Tanner and Jeff Knight and left all those in attendance gasping in disbelief.

That all three drivers walked away with just minor injuries is a testament to the safety technology in today’s auto-racing world.

And it’s a testament to the fraternity of drivers coming to one another’s aid.

The explosion

The horrifying moment came at the beginning of lap 28 of 75 of the Super Late Models main event last Saturday night.

Moriarity, Tanner and Knight, who have combined for seven of the 10 victories in the class this year, were battling for third place as they crossed the finish line on the front straight. That’s when disaster struck Moriarity’s car.

“I was going down the front straightaway and Tyler Tanner and Jeff Knight were behind me — Tyler was right on my behind,” Moriarity said. “Going down the straightaway my motor over-revved and the engine blew, two rods went through the motor and oil started spraying over the car. I spun into the turn-one wall and hit at angle on the right side where the fuel cell is. The impact blew the top fuel cover off, and the mix of fuel and oil created the big explosion. Jeff and Tyler had nowhere to go.”

Tanner, who was preparing to pass Moriarity, was trapped behind Moriarity and followed Moriarity into the turn-one wall.

“I was tucked pretty tight behind Trenton,” Tanner said. “Right about the end of the straightaway his engine blew up. I knew I was going to be in oil and I couldn’t steer or anything, so I knew I was going into the fence. When I hit the wall it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, you don’t get hurt from a wreck, the only danger is fire. After we hit the wall his fuel cell ignited, I was kind of wedged under his car and everything went bright.”

Knight, who was about two car lengths further back, got caught in the slick and also slammed into the wall.

“As I was crossing the finish line to take another lap my windshield was covered in oil, so I knew somebody ahead of me blew up their engine,” Knight said. “I tried to avoid, but I had no steering because the oil on the track is like driving on ice. I knew I was going to hit the wall, so I turned to try and go into the wall and try to save my car from maximum damage. I hit the wall with with my right-rear tire, that was the last thing I saw before I swerved into Tanner and made contact with his car. The next thing I knew I could feel the heat and the whole cabin was filled with flames.”

It was a gigantic fireball that reached higher than the height of the track wall and stretched halfway into turn two. And it left all three cars ablaze.

The rescue

This was the first time any of the three drivers had to deal with fire in a car crash.

The first to emerge from his car was Moriarity.

“When I got out of my car I was in shock,” Moriarity said. “I turned back and I see my car burning, then I look over to the right and I see Tyler’s car burning and Jeff’s car burning. I thought I was the only one on fire, I didn’t realize both their cars were on fire until then.”

The next to emerge was Tanner, who got out while his car was still engulfed in flames as he didn’t pull the pin to trigger the fire-suppression system inside the cockpit.

“My spotter kept telling me to pull my fire pin and get out,” Tanner said. “Even though there was a lot of fire, it didn’t hit me while I was sliding along the fence. When it came to a stop everything got hot and I kind of panicked, I never pulled the pin, I just got out as fast as I could. You can think you’re in control and have a handle on everything until you feel the heat.”

Knight did successfully pull his pin, dousing most of the flames in his car, but not all of them. But when Knight tried to get out of his car he became stuck.

That’s when Tanner came to his aid, grabbing Knight by the shoulders to help him escape.

“Once I was out, Jeff’s car was close to me, so I walked over there to see if he was all right,” Tanner said. “I think he was fine, most of the fire was out because he pulled his pin. He was trying to get out, but he was caught on something, so I helped him out. I looked back and saw everything on fire, Jeff told me he was OK, so I walked back to the pits.”

Knight originally thought it was one of the track’s safety crew who helped him out of the car, not one of his fellow drivers.

“I’m a big guy, so it’s hard to get in and out of the car anyway,” Knight said. “Tyler came over — and I didn’t know it was him until later that night —and pulled me by the shoulders and helped me get out.

“It was selfless,” Knight added. “When I was out of my car and surveyed the situation I saw Tyler’s car was empty and Trenton’s car was empty. I think we all would have done the same for each other.”

The aftermath

Somehow, after all the fiery carnage, all three drivers emerged without major injury.

Knight was the only one of the three who immediately went to the hospital, where he spent a couple hours being treated for what were determined to be second-degree burns on the back of his neck.

“I’m well,” Knight said. “I just have some burns healing on my neck. But for the most part, considering the magnitude of the fire and the crash, I’m a winner. I feel very blessed.”

Tanner felt OK initially, but after returning home to Auburn that night he decided to check in to the emergency room. There Tanner, who had the visor of his helmet up at the time of the crash because of visibility issues, was diagnosed with first- and second-degree burns on his face, as well as a small second-degree burn on his hand.

“A few burns, but I’ve already started to heal a little bit,” Tanner said.

Moriarity, who also had his visor open, also did not initially seek treatment, though he was scheduled to get his face checked out on Friday.

“I have a few burns and stuff, but all the safety equipment did its job,” Moriarity said. “My hands and body weren’t burned.”

While the drivers miraculously escaped major damage, the cars unfortunately did not do the same. Tanner was involved in a near-identical crash during a race at Evergreen in May, except without the fire. His team had the resources to rebuild the car once, but not a second time, meaning it’s likely his 2017 season is over. Moriarity’s and Knight’s cars also sustained major damage, but both are hopeful they can get their cars back running by September.

But most importantly, all three drivers were able to walk away.

“I want to give a big shoutout to the fire and emergency staff at the track,” Moriarity said. “And obviously to Tanner getting out of his car and helping Jeff get out of his car. It was a heroic effort on his part.”

Said Knight: “It’s a testimony to the advancement in technology in racing that all three of us walked away with minor injuries.”

All of which brought a relieving conclusion to one of the scariest moments in Evergreen Speedway history.

Talk to us

More in Sports

The Everett Elite Flag Football 14-under team practices Sunday morning at Harbour Pointe Middle School in Mukilteo, Washington on January 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Community roundup: Jackson grad takes 1st, sets record at cross country meet

Plus, locals earn NWAC weekly honors and Daniel Arias joins NFL practice squad.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Tuesday, Oct. 3

Prep roundup for Tuesday, Oct. 3: (Not for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Arlington players react to forcing another turnover during the game against Stanwood on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Associated Press high school football poll for Week 6

Arlington and Monroe both move up in Class 3A.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (97) during the second quarter Monday. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Grading the Seahawks in their 24-3 victory over the Giants

Seattle’s defense shows up big as the Seahawks head into their bye on a three-game winning streak.

Monroe junior receiver Aaron Clifton checks for defenders while taking a long reception to the house against Mountlake Terrace on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep football power rankings after Week 5

Here are our top 8 local teams after all the action from Thursday and Friday.

Silvertips name leadership group, but no captain yet

Everett lists Ty Gibson, Kaden Hammell, Ben Hemmerling and Austin Roest as alternate captains, but will wait to assign the “C”.

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for Sept. 25-30

The Athlete of the Week nominees for Sept. 25-30. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Monday, Oct. 2

Prep roundup for Monday, Oct. 2: (Not for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Monroe’s Mason Davis (1) celebrates with Trent Bublitz (11) after Bublitz’s touchdown reception against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Edmonds School District Stadium in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader poll: Make your picks for Week 6 prep football games

Do you think you can beat the experts in our weekly high… Continue reading

Who’s that frog? A local high school tennis player, that’s who

Arlington tennis player Robbie Balderas worked as AquaSox mascot Webbly this season, and the busy junior also runs a landscaping business.

Mountlake Terrace’s Zaveon Jones is pulled to the ground by a diving Nicholas Mouser of Monroe on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Swarming Monroe defense keys win over Terrace in Wesco 3A South showdown

The Bearcats slow down the Hawks’ potent ground game, and quarterback Blake Springer tosses three TDs in a 35-10 victory.