Sunday, February 24, 2013

Update from Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR
Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood spoke at a press conference Sunday morning regarding the accident on the last lap of Saturday's Nationwide race. Kyle Larson's car rammed into the catchfence, depositing the front of his car into the grandstands and injuring at least 28 fans, 14 of whom were transported to local hospitals.

Reports from several other sources indicate that all those injured have either been released or their conditions upgraded. At this point there are no reports of any of the injuries continuing to be life-threatening. "The Speedway isn't able to speak about those injuries without direct permission from the patients because of privacy laws," said Chitwood. They're only able to speak about the transport of those people from the track premises.

He informed the press that on Saturday night they dispatched the Speedway's guest services team to Halifax Medical Center, where most of the injured fans were transported. The team assisted those fans who were released in being reunited with family members, personal belongings and vehicles.

"At 8 a.m. (ET) we met with NASCAR, reviewed the repairs made overnight," said Chitwood. It was determined that the Speedway and NASCAR are ready to go racing. They were not able to put the crossover gate back in because of time constraints. Larson's engine hit the gate, landing directly in front of the sign warning spectators not to stop or stand next to the 22-foot tall fence.

When asked whether he knew if the tire that landed in the grandstands went over the fence or through the hole created by the crash, Chitwood referred questions about the accident details to NASCAR. He did confirm they transported people from both the lower and upper levels of that grandstand to medical facilities.

He related that following the 2009 incident in which Carl Edwards ripped through the catchfence, Daytona International Speedway brought in a structural engineering firm to evaluate the fence and implemented their recommendations. New fencing was installed at that point.

Chitwood indicated that for those injured fans who wanted to return to the track for the Daytona 500, "We're going to make sure they have good accommodations."

Finally, a reporter from the New York Times, a publication not normally represented in the media center, asked why not move the fans from that section. Chitwood replied that with the protocols in place, they did not believe moving the fans was necessary. He said, "Incidents do happen, but those are the exception, if you look at our 55 year track record..."

While Chitwood didn't explicitly say as much, it's a fact that there are risks inherent in being at the race track and while they cannot completely eliminate that risk, the track and NASCAR will do everything that can be done to mitigate that risk.

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