Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Daytona International Speedway president
Joie Chitwood confirmed on Sunday morning that repairs to the racetrack's
catchfence have been completed and the Daytona 500 is scheduled to start on
Chitwood gave an update on the repair efforts following a horrifying crash
that occurred on the frontstretch during the final lap of Saturday's 300-mile
Nationwide Series race, injuring at least 28 spectators in the grandstands.
Chitwood once again noted that 14 race fans who were injured had to be
transported to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center as well as other hospitals
in the Daytona Beach area. Fourteen others were treated at the racetrack's
infield medical care center for minor injuries.
Chitwood was not able to give medical updates on any of the victims. Two
spectators were critically injured and several others were seriously hurt.
Most of those treated at area hospitals were released later that night.
"I just want to reiterated how important our fans are to us, and we will
continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers," Chitwood said during a
press conference. "We had our guest services team dispatched over to Halifax
and other medical institutions last night. We helped all of those who were
released from medical care to get reunited with family and friends."
Track personnel completed their work on the fence in the early morning hours.
Repairs immediately began after the crash occurred.
"From an operations perspective, we met with NASCAR at 8 a.m. (ET) and
reviewed all of the repairs that we made last night," Chitwood said. "We
worked late into the evening and are prepared to go racing today. From the
fencing that we repaired, we did not put the gate back in. We just have a
straight fence there, and that was based on the timing of being ready to run
the Daytona 500 today."
The last-lap accident, involving 12 cars, happened when Brad Keselowski hit
Regan Smith from behind and spun him into the wall on the tri-oval, which
triggered the wreck. Rookie Kyle Larson flipped around and sailed into the
catchfence before coming back down on the track. Flying debris from both
Larson's car and the fence struck dozens of fans in the grandstands.
The front end of Larson's Chevrolet was ripped apart after it tore a gaping
hole in the catchfence. The engine and one of the tires sheared off of his car
and lodged in the fencing. Another tire from his vehicle flew over the
catchfence, which is 22 feet high, and landed in the upper deck of the
"I think for the most part the (Nationwide) car held up and the tethers held
up, but we can always learn when a car gets up into the fence," NASCAR senior
vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell said on Sunday. "That's
something we got to take back and analyze everything that we can."
NASCAR has already begun its investigation of the incident. The sanctioning
body continues to work on its safety initiatives for both the competitors and
the fans in attendance at races.
"We've worked closely together with the racetrack, and we're confident with
the repairs that were put in place," O'Donnell said. "It will be an on-going
process for us with the racetrack. We've got a (research and development)
center in Concord, North Carolina that specializes in looking at things like
this. We'll bring in the best and brightest and anything that we can learn
will be put in place."
With no immediate threat of rain in the area, the Daytona 500 is scheduled to
start shortly after 1 p.m. ET. According to the National Weather Service,
there is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms here during the
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