Race fans hurt as car hits fence at Daytona
BY JENNA FRYER Associated Press
Sunday, February 24, 2013
2/24/13 at 6:45 AM
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - At least 30 fans were injured Saturday during a NASCAR race when a car flew into the fence at Daytona International Speedway, hurling a tire and large pieces of debris into the stands.
The accident happened on the last lap of the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the eve of Sunday's Daytona 500, which officials said would go on as scheduled.
The crash began as the field approached the checkered flag and leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski to preserve the win. That triggered a chain reaction, and rookie Kyle Larson hit the cars in front of him and went airborne into the fence.
The front end was sheared off Larson's car, and his burning engine was wedged through a hole in the fence. Chunks of debris were thrown into the stands, including a tire that landed midway up the spectator section closest to the track.
The 20-year-old Larson stood in shock several yards away from his car as fans in the stands waived frantically for help. Smoke from the burning engine briefly clouded the area, and emergency vehicles descended on the scene.
"It was freaky. When I looked to my right, the accident happened," said Rick Harpster of Orange Park, Fla., who had a bird's-eye view of the wreck. "I looked over and I saw a tire fly straight over the fence into the stands, but after that I didn't see anything else. That was the worst thing I have seen, seeing that tire fly into the stands. I knew it was going to be severe."
Speedway President Joie Chitwood said 14 fans were treated on site, and 14 others were taken to hospitals. Chitwood didn't give any updates on their conditions. Local officials said 19 fans were taken to neighboring hospitals, including two who arrived in critical condition.
Tony Stewart skipped the post-race celebration.
"The important thing is what is going on on the frontstretch right now," said Stewart. "We've always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. ... But it's hard when the fans get caught up in it."
It was a chaotic finish to a race that was stopped for nearly 20 minutes five laps from the finish by a 13-car accident that sent driver Michael Annett to a hospital, where his Richard Petty Motorsports team said he would be held overnight with bruising to his chest.
Original Print Headline: Race fans hurt as car hits fence
Kyle Larson (32) goes airborne before catching the fencing in a wreck that included Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) among others during the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. JOHN MOORE / Associated Press