Twenty-eight fans were injured, one very seriously, when pieces of Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet pierced the Turn Four catch fencing and flew into the crowd during a violent multi-car wreck at Daytona International Speedway Saturday afternoon.
Fourteen injured fans were treated on-site; seven more were sent to the Halifax Medical Center on the Speedway grounds, and six went to Halifax Health Center in Port Orange. All of these were in stable condition as of 7 p.m., according to NASCAR.com.
One spectator was struck in the head by debris, resulting in an injury described as “life-threatening.” This patient was taken to Florida Hospital Memorial Center; no further information is currently available.
The accident occurred during the final seconds of the 120-lap NASCAR Nationwide DriveforCOPD 300. Race leader Regan Smith tried to block Brad Keselowski from passing exiting the final corner; the two drivers touched, spinning Smith and setting off a chain reaction among thre pack of cars charging up from behind.
Kyle Larson’s car hit a car ahead, sending Larson’s car spinning backwards into the catch fencing well above the three-foot tall SAFER barrier. The fence atop the wall stopped most of the car, but the engine, front wheels, and some assorted mechanical pieces pierced the fence and entered the grandstands.
The fencing will be repaired in time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500, which starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood and NASCAR Senior Vice President for Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell talked to the media about the incident Saturday evening.
“First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans,’’ Chitwood said according to NASCAR.com. “Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols, and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately.
“We were able to transport the individuals that needed care off property. We dealt with the other people on property. The team right now is preparing and will be ready for tomorrow.’’
Chitwood said that track and series officials planned to seat fans in the affected grandstand sections for the Daytona 500.
“We don’t anticipate moving any of our fans,’’ Chitwood said. “We had our safety protocols in place. Our security maintained a buffer that separates the fans from the fencing area. With the fencing being prepared tonight to our safety protocols, we expect to go racing tomorrow with no changes.’’
This is not the first time parts of a crashed car have broken through the catch fencing. In 2009, at Talladega Superspeedway, Carl Edwards’ car flipped and flew into the catch fencing; pieces of the car injured seven fans, including 17-year-old Blake Bobbitt, whose jaw was smashed so badly it took ten surgeries to repair her face.
These incidents show one thing that fans all know—or should know: racing is a dangerous sport, for everyone on or near the track.
When Daytona or NASCAR officials say they have no plans to move fans back from the track, they are not being foolish, but realistic. Most fans would rather get as close as possible to the action and endure the risk than to be pushed farther back and separated by more layers of wall and fence.
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