Fans injured by debris in horror NASCAR crash at Daytona International Speedway
Last Updated: 24/02/13 11:51am
At least 28 fans were injured in a horrific crash at the end of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
The car driven by rookie Kyle Larson was thrown into the air and flew into the protective fence, but his burning engine wedged through a gap and chunks of debris were thrown into the stands, landing midway up the spectator section closest to the track.
Shannon Speedway President Joe Chitwood said 14 fans were treated on site for minor injuries and a further 14 were taken to local hospitals, including two who were in critical condition but later upgraded to stable.
Chitwood said: "First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans.
"We've always known, since racing started, that this is a dangerous sport. We assume that risk but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it."
"Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately. We are in the process of repairing the facility and we will be ready to go racing on Sunday (for the Daytona 500)."
The victory eventually went to Tony Stewart, who was winning at the famous circuit for the 19th time, but he was in understandably sombre mood in Victory Lane afterwards.
"The important thing is what is going on on the front-stretch right now," he said. "We've always known, since racing started, that this is a dangerous sport. We assume that risk but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it.
"As much as I want to celebrate right now, and as much as this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now - I could see it all in my mirror and it didn't look good from where I was at."
The race was also stopped for 20 minutes five laps from the finish by a 13-car accident that left driver Michael Annett in hospital with bruising to his chest.
Worse followed when race leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski making a move on him, triggering a chain reaction that led to Larson hitting the cars in front of him and smashing into the fence.
Smith said: "I tried to throw a block. It's Daytona and you want to go for the win. I don't know how you can play it any different other than concede second place and I wasn't willing to do that today.
Larson, who stood dumbstruck by the side of the track as the fans were treated, added: "I hope they are all okay and the drivers are all right. I took a couple of big hits there and saw my engine was gone. I just hope everybody's alright."