Daytona, NASCAR officials pleased with process
February 24, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood addressed the media prior to the start of Sunday’s Daytona 500 and said track workers have repaired the grandstand fencing damaged during a 12-car accident during Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event. Everything is in place to run NASCAR’s season-opener Sunday.
A Halifax Medical Center spokesman told NASCAR.com Saturday night that seven fans were admitted there with trauma-related injuries -- as well as six others at related facility Halifax Health Medical Center in Port Orange. All six patients at Halifax Health were treated and released by Sunday afternoon; five of the seven at Halifax Medical Center were also released by Sunday afternoon.
One additional person was transported to Florida Hospital Memorial Center, but the facility still would not disclose a condition Sunday.
Fourteen fans were transported from the track to local hospitals and 14 were treated on site at the speedway for injuries suffered when debris and a tire careened into the front-stretch grandstands as cars wrecked on the final lap of Saturday’s race.
Many of them have been released and were planning to attend Sunday’s Daytona 500.
"Incidents do happen and I think those are the exception."
-- Joie Chitwood, Daytona International Speedway president
“Some of the patients who were released late last night and early this morning will be coming back to attend the event and we’re going to make sure they’ve good accommodations to enjoy the event,’’ Chitwood said. “That was key for some of the guests that were released, they wanted to make sure they could come back to the race today.’’
Chitwood said he was confident in the integrity of the repairs to the track. A fence was installed where there had been a walkover gate. It was the point of impact for the motor and front axle that was knocked out of Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet during the accident.
And he reiterated that in 2010 the track put up completely new fencing -- including 22-feet fences on the frontstretch -- as a reaction to a 2009 accident when Carl Edwards' car pierced the fencing at sister track, Talladega Superspeedway.
Chitwood said if fans felt “uncomfortable” with their seats for Sunday’s race, track officials would make every effort to seat them elsewhere.
“Incidents do happen and I think those are the exception,’’ Chitwood said. “If you look at our 55 years in the business, we have a pretty good safety track record. I think we’re prepared today. We met with NASCAR this morning to review everything we did last night, to actually inspect what we repaired.’’
NASCAR Senior Vice President for Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell also spoke with reporters before the Daytona 500 and said he was pleased with the work of track medics and workers.
“Our reaction that you saw from our medical and safety personnel was very good,’’ O’Donnell said. “I think we can always learn. We’ll review that. But very happy with how that response took place for the fans.’’
And O’Donnell promised that NASCAR and the speedway will conduct a more thorough review of the situation.
“We work together on every step of the way,” O’Donnell said. “We’ll bring in some outside experts, particularly through our research and development center. That’s been how we got to the SAFER barrier. We’ll look at fencing as well. It will be a group of experts.”
Until then, Chitwood said every effort has been made to reassure fans about the safety of the facility.
“NASCAR is going to give them a great race,’’ Chitwood said. “We’re going to give them a great experience.”
Also Sunday, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that driver Michael Annett had been released from Halifax Medical Center, where he had been transported after complaining of chest and sternum pain following Saturday's crash. Annett, who underwent a CT scan, was scheduled to travel home to North Carolina on Sunday and be evaluated later in the week in regard to his participation in next Saturday's event at Phoenix International Raceway.
We apologize. We are having technical issues with our comment sections and fan community and it is temporarily unavailable. We are actively working on these issues and hope to have it up and running soon. We are also working on enhancements to provide a better forum for our fans. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience.