Thomas Bowles · Saturday February 23, 2013
A serious incident marred the end to Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona. As the cars were coming to the checkered, leader Regan Smith was turned by Brad Keselowski and this multi-car melee ensued. In the aftermath, Larson’s car hit Keselowski’s, head-on then turned in a dangerous angle into the outside wall where the front half of his car was virtually destroyed. While the engine got stuck in the fence, several parts and pieces went through while one of Larson’s tires landed nine rows up. At this time, ESPN is reporting 17 people have been taken to area hospitals, with two of them with “major injuries.”
Here’s what I’ve learned from my reporting at the track; a Cup crew member, on condition of anonymity told me two fans are in critical condition and were transported by helicopter to the hospital. A Cup Series official, on condition of anonymity reported eight to ten had been transported but that number has since gone up, based on ESPN’s latest tweet. One fan on the ground, who had been standing and watching since the incident unfolded counted eight stretchers being used in the stands, from start to finish. However, several others told me they’d seen between four and five used.
“As soon as we can,” said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp at 5:30 PM, “We’ll have someone from NASCAR and the racetrack in here. But there’s no timetable on when that may happen.”
Mike Helton was interviewed earlier, on the ESPN broadcast and here’s what he had to say.
“There, obviously was some intrusion into the fence. They’re moving folks and taking some folks over to Halifax Medical Center. We’ll be able to update you later on, but all we know is everybody is working hard on what happened.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody they’re working on.”
Update at 6:15 pm: SPEED’s Wendy Venturini reports that 11 fans were admitted to Halifax Health Medical Center, a Level 2 Trauma Center located within borderline walking distance of Daytona International Speedway. Six of the 11 were admitted for trauma injuries. One fan is in critical condition at the present time. All 11 fans are considered to be in stable condition at the moment.
Update at 7:10pm Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood, III and NASCAR Senior Vice President for Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said that 28 fans were treated for injuries as a result of the crash on the final lap. 14 fans were taken to hospitals, while 14 more were treated at the Infield Care Center.
Repairs are ongoing to the catchfence as of now. They will be completed in time for tomorrow’s Daytona 500. The crossover gate that Kyle Larson hit will not be replaced for tomorrow. Instead, that will be replaced by straight fencing. No fans that will be sitting in the affected areas from today will be moved for tomorrow’s race.
SPEED’s Wendy Venturini is reporting that 12 fans were admitted to Halifax. Five were unrelated to the crash. Two fans, one a minor, are in critical condition. However, all fans there are in stable condition. Six more fans were taken to Halifax Health Port Orange, while one more was taken to Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, which is roughly eight miles from the track. No word of the condition of those fans.
Update 8:00pm: Tyler, the man who shot the video from the grandstands of the crash (since blocked on YouTube by NASCAR) was interviewed on SportsCenter via cell phone (He asked ESPN to withhold his last name before going on-air, which they agreed to). He stated that after the crash, he saw a fan take his shirt off and wrap it around the bleeding leg of a fellow fan. The tire that flew into the stands landed approximately ten feet from him, on top of another fan.
He went on to state that he never thought what occurred could happen, knowing the steps that NASCAR has taken in recent years in regards to safety. He also stated that “…it’ll be a long time before I go back to a NASCAR race and sit that close. Stuff like this is just not supposed to happen.”
Update 9:30pm: The AP’s Jenna Fryer is reporting that both patients at Halifax Health Medical Center that were in critical condition have been stabilized. The six fans taken to Halifax Health Medical Center-Port Orange are also in stable condition. Finally, the one fan that was transported to Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is in good condition.
Update 5:35am: NASCAR will hold a press conference at 9:30am at Daytona International Speedway. At that point, they will make another official statement. The statement will be carried live on SPEED (interrupting NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco) and on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Update 8:10am: Both of the fans that were in critical condition at Halifax Health Medical Center have been upgraded. Their injuries are not viewed as being life-threatening.
In regards to fence repairs, the repairs on the catchfence were completed around 2:00am this morning. The crossover gate that Kyle Larson struck is now “strict fencing,” as stated by Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood, III in last night’s press conference. There is still some dust on the track from last night that will likely be blown off before the race.
Update 10:00am: Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood, III announced that the track provided the means to reunite families back at their hotels around the Central Florida region. In addition, he stated that due to HIPPA laws, he cannot comment on patient conditions. Only the hospital that the patient is at (with permission of the patient and/or their family), or the patient and/or family themselves.
Update 1:20pm: According from Halifax Health, 11 of the 13 fans sent to either Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach or the smaller hospital in Port Orange have been released. Many of those fans are back at the track today.
Stay with us for the latest news on this story. Yahoo! Sports has just posted firsthand accounts of the incident from the grandstands.
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