NASCAR chaos injures 28 fans

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NASCAR Start

The Nationwide NASCAR race at Daytona ended with 28 fans injured and many asking questions about the fencing used at the circuit. In frightening moment on the final lap, Kyle Larson’s car was sent airborne as a result of  a blocking move made by Regan Smith who was trying to defend the lead. Smith said:

“My fault,” Smith, who finished 14th, told NASCAR.com. “I threw a block. I’ll take the blame for it. But when you see the checkered flag at Daytona, you’re going to block, and you’re going to do everything you can to be the first car back to the stripe. It just didn’t work out today. Just hoping everything is OK, everyone who was in the wreck and all the fans.”

Debris flew into the crowd injuring several fans and a complete tire was hurled into the crowd causing serious injuries. NASCAR was slow to make an official announcement as they wanted to be sure they had the details correct in such dour circumstances. Joie Chitwood, president of the Daytona International Speedway, made a statement that the Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday, would go ahead as planned and that repairs were being made to the fencing:

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans,” Chitwood said. “Following the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately.”

No form of motorsport is immune to potential injury or death to spectators. Several days ago a woman was killed while attending a Scottish rally and Formula One has had its share of fan injuries and deaths as well. One doesn’t have to look very far back to recall the injuries and tragedy in F1 for fans and safety workers. I can recall the death of a marshall at Australia very vividly as Jacques Villeneuve’s car crashed into the barrier sending debris everywhere. It was a bad year in 2001 as there were two deaths of corner workers in F1. As Reuters, Simon Evans, points out, NASCAR has a history of hurting fans as well:

It is rare that spectators get hurt in American racing, but it has happened before. As recently as 2009, Carl Edwards’ car slammed into the catch fencing at Talladega and injured nine fans. Three were killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, a decade earlier in the IndyCar Series, and three others were killed in 1998 in Michigan during CART’s U.S. 500.

Certainly safety personnel know there is risk being that close to the action but it’s a different issue when fans sitting in seats are potential targets for flying debris. In the end, there is very little that can stop that kind of energy during an impact and some have argued for GeoGrubb fencing…

as well as wheel tethers such as the ones they use in F1. If you’ve watched F1 for very long, you know there have been cases of an errant wheel even with the tethers securely fastened such is the violence of a crash. It is a difficult task to get the fans close to the action and yet guarantee their safety.  what do you think NASCAR could do to make the racing safer?

 

 

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