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Wrecks and driver injuries are almost givens in stock car racing. However, they've become less frequent due to safety improvements to the car and protective devices at the tracks, like Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers, more commonly known as SAFER barriers.
Sometimes fans and the media take for granted just how dangerous the sport can be. Then we see an incident like the pit road fire on Lap 109 of last night's ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Xfinity Race at Richmond International Raceway, which sent three pit crew men to a nearby hospital.
The blaze occurred during a routine pit stop when Brendan Gaughan’s pit crew was fueling the No. 62 car. A spark triggered a brief but large fire that was quickly extinguished by the Richmond International Raceway fire crew. Three injured pit crew members were transported to the hospital -- two from the No. 62 team and one from Eric McClure’s No. 24 team in the adjacent pit stall.
Clifford "Doc" Turner, the gas runner for the No. 24 team was evaluated for inhaling the fire extinguisher chemicals, and released last night. The No. 62 gas man, Josh Wittman, was released today after overnight observation. Anthony O’Brien, rear tire changer for the No. 62 team, is in good condition but remains in the hospital for further evaluation, according to the team.
"It was an emotional night for this entire South Point team and I here at Richmond," said Gaughan. "When I saw the flame and that none of the guys were near my car, I tried to get away as fast as I could. That race car only had more fuel in it that could potentially ignite and I didn't want that to happen. Don't tell me these guys aren't professional athletes. They are the toughest, most athletic guys I have seen."
Race weekend continues tomorrow after rain postponed the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. The Toyota Owners 400 is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. The grandstands will open at 10 a.m. and FOX will broadcast the race.