More than two dozen fans injured at Daytona NASCAR race
Here are some headlines from the Daytona 500; “…Race ends in violent crash.” “…Wreck filled Daytona 500.” Surely these are the headlines from this weekend at Daytona in which fans left the grandstand on stretchers after a 75 pound tire ended up in a seat and a smoking hot engine went through the retaining fence and ended up on the fan side of the wall. Wrong. These two headlines are taken from Torque News reports of the 2012 and 2011 Daytona 500 weekends.
Crashes at NASCAR events and other motorsports events are not new. Since the dawn of racing fans have been among those hurt when cars leave the track in the air, on fire, or in pieces. What set this incident apart is that the fencing that is constructed to protect the fans was up to the currently accepted standards for safety. Most of those standards were set after a 2009 race in which fans were hurt at Talladega. Fans of the sport know that it was that incident that also introduced “restrictor plates” which limited top speeds on certain NASCAR tracks.
The incident this weekend was at a Nationwide Series race, not the actual Daytona 500. On the final lap of the race Kyle Larson’s number 32 car was involved in an accident that sent his car up onto the wall. It straddled the wall at about 200 mph. While it was in that position the front part of the car separated from the main chassis and the engine went over the wall. As Larson’s car and others hit the wall the fence was hit with a powerful spray of debris that went directly into the crowd. A complete tire also entered the seating area.
Following the incident Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International. Speedway President said in a news conference “…following the incident…We transported 14 people off property and treated 14 people at our on-track car center.” Joie was quick to point out that the fence would be repaired and the 55th Daytona 500 would run as planned. It did. News reports the following day showed people in the same seats who had been injured and returned to the big race.
Injuries at sporting events are not limited to NASCAR, or even motorsports. In the late 1990s Ulf Samuelsson of the New York Rangers drove another player hard into the glass above the boards at a hockey game. The glass separated from the frame and the heavy pane went into the stands. Behind the glass in the first row was the Great One’s (Wayne Gretzky’s) wife Janet Jones. She was left bloody and unconscious by the impact. This is not unique. In fact before every Bruins game the highlight reel shows power-forward Milan Lucic checking a player literally through the glass which shatters into tiny pieces described by the announcer, former Bruin Andy Brickley, as “sharp spiky shards.”
Luckily, there were no deaths at this event, and hopefully further improvements will make future races even safer.
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