Articles, Blog

John Green’s Fiery Race Car Disaster

December 6, 2019

John: Good morning Hank, It’s Tuesday. So
on Friday, Rosianna and I left the magic and awesome of NerdCon: Stories to head up to
Princeton, Minnesota, where I raced cars on a dirt track against best-selling author and
all around awesome person Maggie Stiefvater. So Hank, an IndyCar driver I know once told
me that in racing the only thing more dangerous than being too aggressive is being too cautious.
Which is an observation that I think applies to more than just racing, and while I’m certainly
an uncommonly anxious person, I don’t think of myself as an overly cautious one. So I
was feeling kinda excited as we arrived at the Princeton Speedway. I mean at no point
did I actually think I could win the race but I did think I could, like, finish it without
being pulled out of a burning vehicle which as it turned out was overly optimistic. Took my first ever ride in a four-wheeler
to my race car which belonged to a 17-year-old, hence its number. My coach for the evening
was his dad, Alan. And special shoutout to Alan’s kids, my pit crew, ten year old Allison
and eight year old Aaron. My first lesson was getting in and out of the car, which as
you can see is ridiculously difficult. Hank, I need to linger on this shot for a moment
because I want you to understand how hard it is to get out of these cars even when they
are not on fire. Also, I want you to notice my excellent Eleanor and Park t-shirt, which
I got at So Alan’s an experienced race car driver and
an excellent coach. Alan: You don’t want to jump up on the throttle… John: He explained to me at least a dozen
times that coming out of the corner, I would feel an urge to over-correct the steering
and/or let off the throttle and that giving into that urge would be a significant mistake
and I was able to remember that advice for, like, five-and-a-half laps of actual racing.
Put on my smoking hot fire suit, my helmet, a pair of gloves, and then Maggie showed up
with her awesome car with its awesome license plate. And then after an impossibly beautiful
sunset came to Princeton, I belted myself in for our first of three scheduled races. Maggie jumped out to a lead, and she was faster
than me and also a much better driver, but my car turned really well in the dirt and
its power was exciting and intoxicating and I was just trying to keep up with her but
then I thought, “You know, maybe I could drive alongside of her and really make a race out
of this.” And then on the fifth lap coming out of turn four, I felt an urge to correct
the steering and yeah… The speedway staff got to me very quickly
and although I could feel the heat of the fire in my back and legs, they kept me calm
and pulled me out and I was fine, but I’m not going to lie, Hank, it was terrifying.
But then they fixed the problem with the car and for some reason, I decided to get back
in it. In fact, I won the second heat – more precisely, Maggie let me win – and I got a
trophy and everything and then we raced for a third time and Maggie dominated me so thoroughly
that the regular pro-drivers at the speedway asked to take her on and she beat them as
well! So Maggie won the race, but I caught fire
and didn’t get hurt, which felt very much like, you know, some kind of winning. And
late that night as I tried to sleep, I kept playing the race back in my mind: me doing
precisely the thing I’d been told not to, the heat of the flames against my back, my
panicked hands as I tried to unbuckle the belts, the smoky relief of being pulled from
the car. There are of course smart risks. The proper line to run through life is somewhere
between extreme caution and extreme aggression, but this wasn’t one of them. That said, Hank, I have to confess that I
am proud to have lost to Maggie, but not to myself. But in the end, Hank, I think I’m
going to use this occasion to announce my retirement from race car driving. I’m headed
back to the grandstands where I belong. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.


  • Reply Gavin Cooley October 15, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    John- I have an idea for a book. I have no clue where to start. Maybe you could discreetly provide a solution for my dilemma in a video? Thanks

  • Reply Pearl Alex October 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    We're glad you're Okay Mr.Green

  • Reply Spencer Geller October 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Question: why'd the car catch fire? Did he hit the fence??

  • Reply Spencer Geller October 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Question: why'd the car catch fire? Did he hit the fence??

  • Reply Sarah Oman October 16, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I still can't get over the fact that John Green basically came to my hometown while I was in Wisconsin at college.

  • Reply Sarah Oman October 16, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I still can't get over the fact that John Green basically came to my hometown while I was in Wisconsin at college.

  • Reply FlamEffect October 16, 2015 at 2:04 am

    lucky!!!! I so want to race. I have done the demo derby enough, its time to make a bunch of circles with out wanting to crash. ha

  • Reply Samuel Ross October 16, 2015 at 3:43 am

    lol Don't feel bad, John. Her Evo X is AWD, and turbo. You got a rwd v8, and on a dirt track I don't fell that you stood a chance. Excellent race, and congrats on not dying! 😉

  • Reply Jason Crawford October 16, 2015 at 5:07 am

    Damn John you got some balls man I'd never get into a racecar and if I did I damn sure wouldn't be caught driving it on a track, just got done watching hanks video on how not to be a fartbag I think everyone needs to see it, and finally if/when you finish writing your book can you send me a signed free copy if I give you an adress to send it to

  • Reply Jason Crawford October 16, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Based on your videos your very articulate and I'd be interested in seeing your writing style I hope it's better than Harry Potter j.k. Rowling completely contradicts herself by saying basilisk venom is one of the only things that can kill a horcrux Harry was bitten by a basilisk in the chamber of secrets

  • Reply Dippy Pants October 16, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Leaf a like, hisssssssss

  • Reply Ownage Productions October 16, 2015 at 11:40 am

    As a car guy, I can't help but see a severe lack of sportsmanship here. A rear wheel drive v8 dirt track car vs. an all wheel drive Mitsubishi Evo? Of course she beat out the pros.. She had the biggest crutch I've ever seen. Not a fair race, not cool.

  • Reply Wokanshutaiduo Snape October 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    This is amazing :')

  • Reply FWNIIGHTMARE October 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I'm from Princeton….how did I not know you here!?!

  • Reply Becky Savoie October 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Didn't like…Maggie's engine fall apart or something at some point? I thought I saw her mention that on Facebook…

  • Reply Sadikshya Bhattarai October 16, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    "I am proud to have lost to Maggie but not to myself."

  • Reply TubaBuddha October 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    GO! Speed Racer
    GO! Speed Racer,
    GO! Speed Racer,

  • Reply Jake Ramirez October 16, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    It's amazing how good you are at storytelling.

  • Reply IdaStaysUpLate October 17, 2015 at 12:05 am

    2:33 Sounds like a description of a moment in one of his books

  • Reply Mindy Bayko October 17, 2015 at 1:38 am

    Thanks for getting back in and showing us how to get back on the proverbial horse, and thanks for showing us females in racing. <3

  • Reply Emily Paterson October 17, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I met Maggie once she is one of those people that just oozes baddassery, like she's just so cool.

  • Reply Pablo Sáez October 17, 2015 at 6:15 am

    one of your best videos.

  • Reply CH.3 TV October 17, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Whoa! John Green was in my hometown!

  • Reply Fatman in Paradise October 17, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Happy you weren't hurt John.

  • Reply TripleDaddy October 17, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    You drove a race car on a dirt track, set it on fire, put it into the wall and then got back in the car and kept racing.

    Bad Ass.

  • Reply chricket October 18, 2015 at 1:46 am

    "Maggie showed up with the awesome car"

    Because it had a door

  • Reply Johnathan Taylor October 18, 2015 at 2:36 am

    I love those modifieds, I race smaller versions called sprints

  • Reply littlesocialjen October 18, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Great job John! You may caught the car on fire and hit the wall a little, but the car was still in good shape to drive and that is a really good thing!!! Trust me, those guys are really serious about their cars. If you had really wrecked that car ……. well, just be really, really happy you didn't 🙂

  • Reply 9088fd October 18, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Thought the title was John Fieri Race Car Disaster

  • Reply Aditi Chandak October 18, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    And there's John Green driving a GREEN car! No surprises there.

  • Reply 3TTriple October 18, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    The people are like: John Green almost burned to death. Thumps up.

  • Reply Jainaba Turner October 18, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    how does he turn everything into a metaphor

  • Reply pdannysan13 October 19, 2015 at 4:40 am

    Hi John,
    I am getting close to choosing my medical speciality and I am considering going into radiation oncology. But I get nervous that I won't be able to take the emotional drain on the long run. I know you were a chaplain at a pediatric oncology hospital and I want to know how did you handle seeing the diseases ? I mean, I fear that if I stick there long enough I will lose my sense of humor and outlook on life. I don't know if I fear change itself or fear turning into someone sad. How did you remain a funny person after your work there ? How did you take up making videos after your time spent there ?

  • Reply orchidcolors October 19, 2015 at 5:40 am

    Oh my goodness. I am SO glad you are okay, John! Also, yes!, escaping a burning car without injury is a massive win!

  • Reply Raghuraman Rangarajan October 19, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Lost to Maggie but not to myself 🙂 powerful and inspiring. thank you!

  • Reply Tabetha Vandeventer October 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Oh my gosh I'm so mad I didn't know!!! I only live 15 min from there!!!!!! ?????

  • Reply Harshith Suryaprakash October 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    when is fifa 16 wimbly womblys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????????????????

  • Reply Ampz14 October 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Wow. Your car caught fire and you still got back into it.
    There's no doubt in my mind that was a win. Epic Win!

  • Reply jobriq5 October 20, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    0:55 I never realized these cars didn't have doors…

  • Reply SchemeHunterTV October 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    I've now started a youtube blog and a thousand view/subcribers seems like impossible
    ..take a look at my videos Feedback would be great 🙂

  • Reply nlpnt October 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Aw, I thought you were going to race the Volt!

  • Reply votekyle3000 October 20, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    So proud!

  • Reply Travis Richey October 20, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I love your videos, John. You make me feel inadequate as a human being, but you also fill me full of awesome. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Wiraqocha Kuntur October 21, 2015 at 3:56 am

    … so you are gonna sponsor HER and help her dad make HER a better/nicer racing car, RIGHT???

  • Reply Jack Sim October 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Let it be known that the 45 minute video "Seconds From Disaster – Cable Car Collision Full Documentary" was in the related videos section. That is all

  • Reply Travis Runkel October 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Noooo! I hadn't watched the vlogbrothers latley so I missed this one. I'm only 30 min away in St. Cloud and totally would've gone 🙁

  • Reply Altmetalpunk October 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    still looks like it was a lot of fun.

  • Reply SafeHavenForSailors October 21, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    I'm definitely an adult now, but i also definitely screeched like a little fan-girl when I heard you say Maggie's name.

  • Reply Adam the Alien October 22, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Looks like one of those wonderfully terrifying, "Glad I did it but please never again" experiences.

  • Reply Olivia Blue October 26, 2015 at 4:30 am

    It sounds twisted, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching you catch on fire that night. Thanks for bringing your wonderful (still breathing, thank god) self to Princeton!

  • Reply Daphne Tran October 26, 2015 at 11:58 pm


  • Reply James Munn October 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    And just why did the car catch on fire??!! You didn't crash or run over something big. I guess that is just what happens when you drive a 17 year old's car at a dirt track. You are lucky the fire suit did not have holes in it.

  • Reply Bobducks Playz October 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I are Finn

  • Reply Nairn Brown October 28, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    John your life amazes me.

  • Reply Quinn Henson October 31, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    I feel like this story would be interesting from the Yeti's perspective!

  • Reply Guy B November 1, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    All about the electric cars mate!

  • Reply AnythingAnnMarie November 2, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    on the podcast, John always talks about how scared he is of dying and so am I and I wouLD NOT HAVE GOTTEN BACK IN THAT CAR after it caught on FIRE damn

  • Reply JB November 4, 2015 at 3:09 am

    I cannot believe I missed this! 🙁

  • Reply srh November 5, 2015 at 12:26 am

    read The Art of Racing In the Rain

  • Reply Kneedragon1962 November 13, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Glad to see John OK. As a motorcycle road racer & ex gokart racer, I'm drawn to speculate about what happened there, because I could see fire break out on that car about the time it first got lateral from the wrong side. It is true that John shouldn't have got all messed up and crossed up the wrong way, but the car should not have burst into flames because of that… I would speculate that when John went the other way, the fuel sloshed in the tank and then overflowed, down onto an exhaust collector. But, with a properly build and maintained fuel system, that simply shouldn't happen. You would not have got me back in that car a second time…

  • Reply Frank Reading November 15, 2015 at 10:59 am

    As a nerdfighter and petrolhead, it was a pleasure to see John Green racing 🙂

  • Reply Vanillasushi November 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    2:14 wasnt that the one in Just Dance gaming

  • Reply Phefonyawena November 18, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Why did it catch fire?

  • Reply Jeff Schmeier November 27, 2015 at 6:46 am

    I know this is all for fun and everything, but I find this race really unfair. Because John is in a proper race car and Maggie in a street car.  Race cars are very hard to drive fast without any proper training. So John had a WAY bigger learning curve. Plus, I'm sure Maggie's car had traction control, power steering, anti-lock brakes; all those nice things that keep you from crashing. As long as she keeps pointing it in the right direction, she would've won. 😉

  • Reply Ellie Salsman December 2, 2015 at 4:56 am


  • Reply Jamie M. December 2, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I could listen to john green talk for forever

  • Reply Sarah Henckel December 30, 2015 at 1:34 am

    This is so nice to see! Stiefvater was my first favorite author and now I have a multitude of favorites, and John and Maggie are still ranked at the very top! So great to see a video with both of them.

  • Reply Shuwei Cai January 24, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    I think it's because the Evo is AWD while the rest of the cars are RWD so the Evo was able to turn faster than the other cars

  • Reply Bill Grose February 2, 2016 at 4:54 am

    Am I right in thinking that's an SK Modified?

  • Reply Gabriel Sterr April 16, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Well, Maggies car blew up later down the road because she can drive, but not wrench. I call it a tie.

  • Reply warmowed May 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Considering maggie had a modern awd turbo rally car it wasn't much of a fair race to begin with

  • Reply Endra Baskara May 18, 2016 at 6:29 am

    I thought this was a clickbait but then fire

  • Reply James Twaites May 26, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Good try John, you won't escape racecar driving that easily. May 29th is right around the corner.

  • Reply Ellie Hauver June 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I was there, and I seem to recall him being forced out of his car more than once.

  • Reply cbjgirl23 July 31, 2016 at 3:50 am

    I got a wheezy waiter commerical 🙂

  • Reply にゃあエイリアンMeowAlien September 17, 2016 at 12:50 am

    one of my dreams is to try racing in a circuit at least once ,I envy you John

  • Reply Keaton Akridge October 16, 2016 at 4:52 am

    at least u didnt wrevk the car i did im 12 they let me race because my skills my car didnt catch on fire but hit the wall going 60

  • Reply Jeremy Garst November 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    0:37 small correction John: what you rode in was not your first 4-wheeler, but rather your first Mule. A four wheeler can refer to any four-wheeled vehicle or a particular kind of all terrain vehicle (ATV) which is not what you rode. I know you've ridden in a car before, so the first definition falls through and I must conclude: you rode a Mule.

  • Reply MattTheThief December 19, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Are the indie cars rear wheel drive? That Evo was beautiful and Maggie ran the races so well.
    Was the Evo boosted? Couldn't hear the spooling if it was. 😀
    Any car guy nerdfighters? 😀

  • Reply Stanislav Kucher May 15, 2017 at 6:12 pm


  • Reply KingBlue August 23, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Florida Man gets into fiery car crash uses, opportunity to plug merchandise.

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