Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stewart's Win Overshadowed By Crash, Fan Injuries

Larson (32) slams the fence
Tony Stewart won his seventh career NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway today, and no one cared.

Stewart’s victory was overshadowed by a savage, final-lap crash that saw rookie Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet severed at the firewall, sending suspension parts, a tire/wheel assembly and other debris over a 22-foot tall catch fence and into the frontstretch grandstands, injuring an estimated 15 spectators.

“It will be better when I hear news that all the drivers and the fans in the stands are OK,” said a shaken Stewart after Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300, looking toward a grandstand where EMTs and rescue personnel were attending to the injured.

Larson's engine lies entangled in the fence
Larson climbed from his demolished racer uninjured, and along with Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski, was evaluated and from the track’s Infield Care Center.

“I was getting pushed from behind,” said Larson of the crash. “By the time my spotter could say they were wrecking, I was already in it. I could see the ground (and) I had flames come into the cockpit, but luckily I was all right and could get out of the car quick.

“I took a couple of big hits there, and I saw my engine was gone,” he said. “I just hope everybody is alright.”

Eleven of the injured spectators were transported to Halifax Medical Center, a Level 2 Trauma Center located less than half a mile from the speedway. Four others were reportedly taken to another area hospital. No update on their conditions had been provided by NASCAR or Daytona International Speedway as of 5:45 PM ET, and reports that NASCAR President Mike Helton would peak to the media at 6 PM were dismissed by NASCAR's Senior Director of Competition Communication, Kerry Tharp.

An injured fan is removed from the speedway.
“We don’t have a timetable for anyone from NASCAR or the track (to update the situation),” said Tharp. “We are currently continuing to assess the situation, and are taking care of those involved. As soon as we can, we will have someone from NASCAR and track in here. But at this point, there is no timetable.”

NASCAR President Mike Helton confirmed to ESPN shortly after the incident that fans had been injured, saying, “Fortunately… there were plenty of emergency workers ready to go, and they jumped in on it pretty quickly. Right now, it’s just a function of trying to determine what damage is done.

A dozen drivers were involved in the final crash, including Larson, Regan Smith, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Travis Pastrana, Elliott Sadler, Brad Keselowski, Justin Allgaier, Joe Nemechek, Robert Richardson, Trevor Bayne, Mike Wallace and Alex Bowman.

Richard Petty Motorsports driver Michael Annett was injured in an earlier crash, and is currently being held for observation at Halifax Medical Center. He will be kept for observation after complaining of pain in his chest and sternum. A statement from the team said Annett underwent a CT scan and was treated for a bruised chest.

UPDATE: 6:40 pm ET-- NASCAR will make a statement at 7 PM ET from the Media Center at Daytona International Speedway.

UPDATE: 7 pm ET -- Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood confirmed that “14 people were transported off-property, with 14 others treated at our track Care Center.”

Chitwood declined to provide details on the condition of the injured fans, saying, “It is not appropriate for me to comment on that.” Sources at Halifax Medical Center say 12 fans were treated for a variety of traumatic and non-traumatic injuries, including at least five suffering from heat exhaustion. Two are reported in critical condition with traumatic injuries inflicted by debris from the crash, including one with what is being described as life-threatening head trauma. One minor is also among the injured, and both critically injured fans have reportedly been stabilized.

Chitwood promised a thorough review of the track’s facilities and safety protocol, saying, “We will review where the debris flew and what we need to do (about) that.” He said the fencing will be repaired, and that fans will be seated in the affected areas during tomorrow’s Daytona 500. “We expect to go racing tomorrow with no changes (in safety protocol),” he said.
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said the sanctioning body, “will conduct a thorough review (of the crash), learn what we can and see what we can apply in the future. We look at it after every incident. Our initial evaluation is still on going, and if there is something we can do to improve, we will certainly look at that. We will take the car (and look at it), and we will evaluate the fencing. We need to take the time to see if there is something we can do to improve.”
Chitwood stressed that tomorrow’s Daytona 500 will take place as scheduled, saying, “We are in the process of repairing the facility and we will be ready for racing tomorrow.”

Photos: Getty Images for NASCAR


  1. keep us posted DAVE alot of times there is no communication until the next day .Keep up the good work .

  2. Carl Krott6:27 PM

    Very frightening crash today and you are right that it overshadowed Tony' amazing drive from the back. Unfortunately after a great week of positive press about NASCAR and the Daytona 500 with Danika winning the pole, those not in the know about our sport will focus on this. NASCAR does so much to try and make this sport as safe as they can for both the competitors and the fans but sometimes crazing things happen that happen not matter what you do to try and prevent it. I am convinced that NASCAR will continue to work with the tracks to make the sport even safer.

  3. Anonymous6:37 PM


  4. Anonymous6:39 PM

    So sorry to see this happen. Am praying for all the injured that it is not serious and that the LORD will wrap his arms around the injured and assure them that He is with them.

  5. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Not a Stewart fan but his post race interview was nothing but class. Great job smoke.

    Ray in NC

  6. Dave, thanks as always for providing quality coverage. I think NASCAR and all the media are handling the situation tastefully, and with the best interests of the fans.

  7. Prayers for all injured. Good article Dave!

  8. Another round of thanks, Dave. Searching all over tv and the net for info. The new wesite is NO help. They sure messed up a good thing over there.

  9. Well said Carl, I couldn't agree more.

  10. It appears everyone at the hospital is stable with no life-threatening injuries.

    I've seen crashes where spectators got hurt - notably up close at Thompson in 2001 in October. I'm baffled that the nose of Larson's car stopped in the fencing; that's what made it as savage as it was; if he'd bounced off like usually happens it would not have been nearly as grave.

  11. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Dave your a hockey fan so why don`t Nascar put up plexiglass or something similar around the most frequent accident zones at the race tracks. you would only have to go up 10 to 15 rows high. it would probably be a little expensive at first to set up but at the end of the day they would be protecting there most valuable asset us the fans! Sincerely Todd Eldridge Cornwall Ontario Canada

  12. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Tony Stewart was a class act after winning the Nationwide race. It was a difficult spot to be put in and he handled it like the champion that he is, NASCAR Nation should be proud.

  13. I called the NASCAR chanel yesterday on Sirius Sat #90 and offered my solution, it's an "easy" fix, innexpensive and would improve the safety of the fans greatly. The first thing I was asked was if I has an engeneering degree ??? I was like " What ??? Are you kidding me ?? No one needs to be an engineer to fix this, I mean come on!!!

    It is apparent that the problem was the opening in the fence, that opening is to let track staff, safety workers and fans on to and out of the track, that's the part of the fence that obviouysly "failed" and let the bigger pieces through that got in to the stands....My solution takes care of that problem, it's not a safety concern and still lets everyone through when it is required.

    Well...I was basicly cut off...I was so pissed.....

    Here is the "easy" fix.

    At every opening, buid a cage, make it 6 feet long ( 3 feet on eash side of the door), make it 6 feet deep( Approx numbers and should be at NASCAR and Track to determine, but you get the point) and as high as the catch fence already installed but closed off at the top. To enter the cage, a door would have to be installed, that door would be installed on the oposite side from where the cars drive by, make that opening as wide as the side of the cage by using a double door system.
    All metirials used to buid the cage would be of the same as what is used on the original catch fence, the big upright posts, the metal wires and the heavy gauge chain link.

    This would create a "catch" zone for any debry that would potentially go through the first door if a car would ever crash there ever again, it would still be usable by safety workers with a minimum of interferance, it would not block the view from the fans anymore than the original fence in place now and would improve safety by at least 100%

    Anyway....I am just a nobody I guess....LOL...Seems that some people are not open to easy and inexpensive solutions.....

    What do you all think ? and please, how would you try to fix the problem, I am just currious, there has to be some other great ideas.

    Thanks all !

    1. Glad to hear that all injured in this crash are doing well.

      They were definitely wrong to blow you off like that. I like your idea, the crossover gate is certainly a weak point. This was rare hit that I have never heard of before. I don't think that Nascar needs to make a rash decision, however, I would find a way to eliminate the crossover gate completely. If the car had traveled 10 feet farther, we would not be having this conversation, and many injuries would have never happened.

  14. It is a common in these type of racing zones but after the incident there should be taken much more steps to overcome the future incidents which may happen otherwise. There should be taken a major steps in the fences to raise their height to deal with these incidents. Generally these may be taken as that the players are at a risk of less accidents than those at the fences, because the speed of the cars are so fast that it is just a blink of a second to happen all these accidents.