Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - NASCAR plans to thoroughly examine Kyle
Larson's car and the catch fence in its investigation of last week's multi-car
crash at Daytona International Speedway, which injured at least 28 race fans
in the grandstands.
During a press conference on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, NASCAR
senior vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell provided details of
the sanctioning body's ongoing investigation of the incident.
The accident, involving 12 cars, occurred on the frontstretch during the final
lap of the 300-mile Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Rookie Kyle Larson
flipped around and sailed into the fence before coming back down on the track.
Flying debris from Larson's car and the fence struck dozens of spectators. Two
people remain hospitalized in a Daytona Beach, Fla. hospital.
The front end of Larson's No. 32 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
fence, which is 22 feet high, and landed in the upper deck of the grandstands.
Neither Larson nor any other driver involved in the incident was injured.
"Based on what happened in Daytona, we met immediately with the folks at
Daytona International Speedway and have had multiple meetings this week,"
O'Donnell said in his opening remarks. "It's truly been a collaborative effort
with the goal of doing two things - looking at what happened in this incident,
and more importantly, the go forward plan of what we can learn and what we
want to implement as we go forward."
Even though the parts from Larson's car have been secured by NASCAR, O'Donnell
said that, unlike other incidents, the car remained at the racetrack for
personnel at Daytona and experts they have brought in to examine it during
their investigation. The vehicle is in the process of being sent to the NASCAR
Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
When the car arrives there, O'Donnell said NASCAR will first focus on its
impact on the fence and learn how the parts were extracted.
"We'll go through each part of the car," he said. "We want to look at how
everything held up that was in the car, the cockpit, the tethers. There's been
talk if the tethers broke away or not. They did not. When you look at the car,
the part that the car was tethered to sheared the car. That's something we
have to look at in advance. We've tethered a number of different things and
added things to the safety aspects of the car, but what do we need to do in
addition to that when we look at this accident specifically."
NASCAR plans to interview members from Larson's team at Turner Scott
Motorsports. Since his car was immediately impounded after the incident, the
team has not had a chance to examine it. NASCAR wants to find out how the car
was constructed and fabricated.
The next step will be the reconstruction of the car. NASCAR will look at all
video cameras used during the final lap of the race to help them in this
O'Donnell said another aspect of NASCAR's investigation will be examining the
fencing. NASCAR plans to use outside experts, including Dr. Dean Sicking, who
is the director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and professor at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Sicking has worked with NASCAR on many of its
safety initiatives in the past.
NASCAR also has a partnership with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the
Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier came together. Engineering
experts on fencing will help in the investigation as well.
"We'll use the best and brightest, and we'll enlist those folks going
forward," O'Donnell said. "We think it will validate our findings and find a
peer review we can go to.
"Concurrently with all this, Daytona International Speedway is looking at the
fencing, bringing in their experts. They're also in the process of bringing in
an outside firm to analyze what was in place and look to what we may need to
do going forward."
O'Donnell did not give a timetable of when the investigation will be
completed. He did mention that the first phase of the probe will look at the
restrictor-plate racetracks (Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway). NASCAR will
continue its use of restrictor plates on the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series
cars for the unforeseeable future. Both series will race at Talladega the
first weekend in May.
The next phase will focus on all other racetracks on the current series
O'Donnell also gave an update on Michael Annett's accident in the Nationwide
race at Daytona, which occurred shortly before the last-lap crash. He said
NASCAR is currently examining his car.
Annett suffered a fracture and dislocation of his sternum during the wreck. He
underwent surgery and was released from the hospital in North Carolina earlier
this week. Aric Almirola is driving his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
in the 200-mile race at Phoenix.
"I think we're in a better position than ever to work with Michael, talk about
what happened, what he experienced, and the recovery phase, make sure we're in
tandem," O'Donnell said. "We'll certainly learn from that. We've learned from
every incident we've had. It's never something we want to go through. I think
each time we've learned something new to apply to the racecar or the driver
The Sports Network