The man ran down 23 students at Fengning No. 1 Middle School in northern China's Hebei province on Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday, citing local police.
Xinhua said the man, identified as 48-year-old Yin Tiejun, later lit a bottle of diesel in an attempt to set his car on fire.
Police put out the fire and found the gas tank and firecrackers in the trunk of the car, but Xinhua said Yin told police in an interrogation later that the materials were not meant for an attack.
Yin has been detained on charges of endangering public safety, Xinhua said.
Xinhua described Yin as having been upset for years that a court did not sentence to death all four assailants involved in the murder of his daughter three years ago. The report did not give further details of the murder but said the children hurt in Monday's car crash were not tied to the case.
Xinhua said the man did not act under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Students were hospitalized with injuries that included skull fractures and crushed feet, Xinhua said.
The local Fengning county government confirmed the incident in a written statement and said Yin was driving a Geely sedan.
Citing eyewitnesses, the Beijing-based state-run Jinghua Times said the accident occurred when students were leaving school for noon break and that the car accelerated and knocked down students, many of whom were on bikes.
On Dec. 14, a Chinese man took a kitchen knife and went on a stabbing spree that left 23 students wounded in an elementary school in Henan province.
China has seen more than a half-dozen school attacks in less than three years, though the death tolls have been mostly in single digits, largely because knives have been the most-used weapon. China largely prohibits private ownership of guns.
Several of the attacks have been sparked by grudges, which some experts say shows that the violence stems from simmering and widespread frustration over the growing wealth gap, corruption and too few legal channels for people who have grievances.