Tony Stewart drove his #33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to victory in the NASCAR nationwide DriveforCOPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday afternoon, but almost nobody noticed.
Almost everyone was watching the flying wreckage of the #32 Turner-Scott Motorsports Camaro of Kyle Larson as it crashed into the catch fencing at Turn Four, sending flaming debris into the grandstands.
Some fans were injured and taken to the onsite care center and a local hospital, but no further information was forthcoming immediately after the wreck.
Most of the race was a typical pack-racing battle, as pairs of cars pushed one another to the front, only to drop back when the pushing car needed some fresh air for the engine, letting another pair take over.
The first serious multi-car wreck happened in the final five laps as Austin Dillon and Michael Annett came together touching off an 11-car pileup. As is usual in NASCAR crashes, no one was hurt despite the extreme forces involved—the cars are built like tanks, while the steel-and-foam SAFER barriers absorb a lot of the impact when cars hit the wall.
The race restarted with two laps left. Tony Stewart in the #33 immediately took the lead, pushed by Penske Racing’s Sam Hornish. This pair couldn’t get more than a couple of lengths ahead of the pack, and after almost a lap, Hornish had to drop back to cool his engine. Stewart, without a partner, dropped to fifth whole Brad Keselowski in the #22 Penske Ford pushed #7 Regan Smith in the JR Motorsports Chevrolet into the lead.
Hornish got back behind Stewart with just under a lap to go and shoved the #33 car through traffic to challenge Smith for the lead on the outside. Coming out of Turn Four, Smith moved high to block Keselowski, who was trying to slingshot past to take the lead. The two cars touched, turning Smith sideways, and setting off a chain of collisions in the following pack.
Larson’s #32 Camaro, several places back, was hit from behind, sending it into the car ahead. The nose of Larson’s car dug in, the tail rose, and the car lifted off, spinning into the catch fencing four feet in the air, above the SAFER barrier. The fencing stopped the car, but some parts, including the engine and a front wheel, went through the fence and into the crowd.
Two huge holes were ripped in the catch fencing, and a steel standard was bent by the force of a 3600-lb. racecar hitting at 180 mph. The strength of the safety barrier was sufficient to keep most of the wreckage out of the stands. Had the fence been even slightly less strong, fatalities almost certainly would have occurred.
More information will be published here as it released by NASCAR officials.
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- The flaming wreckage of Kyle Larson’s #32 Clorox Chevrolet slides past Regan Smith’s damaged #7 Clean Coal Chevrolet after the wreck at the finish of the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
- Kyle Larson surveys the remnants of his #32 Clorox Chevrolet following the multi-car pile-up at the finish of the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)