DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Both Daytona International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway will undergo reinforcements to the crossover gate fencing in response to a February accident in the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opening race at Daytona.
In the midst of a multi-car accident near the end of the event, a car driven by rookie Kyle Larson impacted a crossover gate located in the frontstretch fencing and parts of the car penetrated the fencing with debris scattering into the grandstands. Fourteen fans were treated at the track and 14 more were transported to local hospitals with injuries reportedly ranging from a broken bone to cuts and scrapes.
Both track presidents joined NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell for Wednesday's progress announcement.
They revealed that two structural engineering firms were hired to review data from the car and the scene of the accident. The engineering firms -- experts at track design with more than 175 years of combined experience -- agreed on recommendations to reinforce all the current crossover gates.
A crossover gate opens before and after the race to allow fans and officials to move across the track between the infield and the grandstands. There are eight at Daytona and seven at Talladega.
"These changes include the installations of cable to create a redundant system to enhance continuity to the gate area," Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood explained. "The additional cables are the same size as the existing cables both at Daytona and Talladega as well as installing supplemental tethering between the gate frame and post."
The work is already completed on the 2.67-mile Talladega track -- NASCAR's largest venue -- where the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series race next week.
Chitwood did confirm that the engineers did not see a need to change the other fencing -- which has stabilizing cables -- saying all indications are that it was doing the "appropriate job."
No seating sections will be moved and both track presidents said they had not received any request from a fan to get a different seat assignment for upcoming races. Chitwood said the track is still in touch with the fans injured in February.
"NASCAR and the tracks where we race always want to ensure the fans have a safe and enjoyable experience, and we believe we do everything we can to make the sport as safe as possible for our fans and again, believe our history speaks to that fact," O'Donnell said.
He also provided insight into the investigation from NASCAR's perspective, which included a strong focus on Larson's No. 32 Toyota by using photographs and video of the accident plus the Incident Data Recorder (IDR) files.
"The information we provided included the 32-car's impact speed, its acceleration, the impact angle, the impact time (duration) and change in vehicle speed during the incident," O'Donnell said of the review conducted at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
"So even as we wrap up this specific investigation as it relates to Daytona, our work will continue.
"This was phase one to get ready for Talladega and Daytona. We're looking closely at all tracks where NASCAR races."
But, O'Donnell cautioned, each race track has its own unique characteristics in terms of banking and car speeds so there may not be a uniform need to change every track. That research and consultation is part of the ongoing work.
And, he added, that while NASCAR is still examining the structural integrity of the cars, he did not foresee changes to the engine restrictor plates next week at Talladega.
"Obviously we'll see with practices, see where we land, but we're confident with the safety measures in place for this event," O'Donell said.
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