DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Neither NASCAR nor Daytona International Speedway has a lot of answers following the horrific crash at the conclusion of Saturday's Nationwide Series race that sent shards of metal and two tires flying into the stands injuring at least 28 fans.
The prevailing sentiment offered from NASCAR's vice president of operations Steve O'Donnell and track president Joie Chitwood was they don't have a lot of answers, they're going to look into the situation and they'll do whatever they can to create an even safer environment in the future.
Track officials worked into the early morning Sunday to repair the hole ripped in the catchfence following the 12-car accident on the final lap of the Race4COPD 300. Work was completed at 2 a.m. ET. Chitwood and O'Donnell met at 8 a.m. Sunday morning to review the repairs, are confident they are satisfactory and the 55th running of the Daytona 500 will start on time, at 1:30 p.m.
Asked if the speedway would consider moving fans further away from the track for Sunday's race, Chitwood said no.
"We have over 100,000 seats on the frontstretch, I think we've got very good safety protocol," Chitwood said. "We had a structural engineering firm come in to look at our fencing, and based on their recommendations we installed a new fence.
"Incidents do happen, and I think that those are the exception, though. If you look at our 55 years of business, we have a pretty good safety record."
Of the at least 28 fans injured, 18 were taken to area hospitals. Seven were admitted to Halifax Health, including two in critical condition. As of Sunday afternoon, five of those had been released from Halifax Health. The remaining patients "have all been stabilized." Six patients taken to Halifax Health of Port Orange have all be treated and released.
While it appears on video one of the tires flew over the 22-foot fence, Chitwood said they have not yet determined how it ended up nine rows into the stands. He did confirm that several fans were injured in the second level.
"I think we sit down and review everything in terms of what happened," Chitwood said. "I think NASCAR from a competition perspective will continue to address that, and we'd be happy, too."
When posed with the question about the future of racing at Daytona, where speeds reach 200 m.p.h., O'Donnell said the future of NASCAR's most famous track is not in doubt.
"We're very confident that we'll be racing here," he said. "Obviously, like I said, it's something we look at after every race. Unfortunately incidents take place at other tracks as well that we review. Daytona is a place we will be at."
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