Fans Injured at NASCAR Nationwide Race - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Fans Injured at NASCAR Nationwide Race

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fl -

At least 11 NASCAR fans were injured

Saturday when large chunks of debris, including a tire, sailed into

the grandstands when a car flew into the fence on a frightening

last-lap accident in the second-tier Nationwide Series race at

Daytona International Speedway.

The crash began as the field closed in on the finish line and

sent rookie Kyle Larson's car sailing into the fence that separates

the track from the seats.

Large chunks of Larson's car landed in the grandstands. The car

itself had its entire front end sheared off, with the burning

engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.

Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron said six people with serious

injuries were taken by ambulance to Halifax Health Medical Center

in Daytona Beach.

"Those six met the condition of trauma patients," Byron said,

adding one person was also taken to Halifax in Port Orange. That

injury was not serious.

Lindsay Rew, a spokeswoman for Florida Hospital Memorial Medical

Center, said its Daytona Beach hospital had one fan there who was

in good condition. She said they were expecting three more people

who were coming by ambulance, but she didn't yet know their

conditions.

Neither NASCAR nor Daytona International Speedway officials had

any immediate details on injuries in the accident in the race held

the day before the season-opening Daytona 500.

"There obviously was some intrusion into the fence and

fortunately with the way the event's equipped up, there were plenty

of emergency workers ready to go and they all jumped in on it

pretty quickly," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "Right now,

it's just a function of determining what all damage is done.

They're moving folks, as we've seen, to care centers and take some

folks over to Halifax Medical."

As emergency workers tended to injured fans and ambulance sirens

wailed in the background, a somber Tony Stewart skipped the

traditional post-race victory celebration.

Stewart, who won for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time

in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races, was in no mood to

celebrate.

"The important thing is what going on on the frontstretch right

now," said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. "We've always

known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But

it's hard. We assume that risk, but it's hard when the fans get

caught up in it.

"So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as

this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and

the fans that are in the stands right now because that was ... I

could see it all in my mirror, and it didn't look good from where I

was at."

The accident spread into the upper deck and emergency crews

treated fans on both levels. There were five stretchers that

appeared to be carrying fans out, and a helicopter flew overhead. A

forklift was used to pluck Larson's engine out of the fence, and

there appeared to be a tire in the stands.

Daytona President Joie Chitwood waited by steps as emergency

workers attended to those in the stands. Across the track, fans

pressed against a fence and used binoculars trying to watch.

Wrecked cars and busted parts were strewn across the garage.

"It's a violent wreck. Just seeing the carnage on the

racetrack, it's truly unbelievable," driver Justin Allgaier said.

It was a chaotic finish to a race that was stopped nearly 20

minutes five laps from the finish by a 13-car accident that sent

driver Michael Annett to a local hospital, where his Richard Petty

Motorsports team said he would be held overnight with bruising to

his chest.

The race resumed with three laps to go, and the final accident

occurred with Regan Smith leading as he headed out of the final

turn to the checkered flag. He admittedly tried to block Brad

Keselowski to preserve the win.

"I tried to throw a block, it's Daytona, you want to go for the

win here," Smith said. "I don't know how you can play it any

different other than concede second place, and I wasn't willing to

do that today. Our job is to put them in position to win, and it

was, and it didn't work out."

As the cars began wrecking all around Smith and Keselowski,

Stewart slid through for the win, but Larson plowed into Keselowski

and his car was sent airborne into the stands. When Larson's car

came to a stop, it was missing its entire front end. The

20-year-old, who made his Daytona debut this week, stood apparently

stunned, hands on his hips, several feet away from his car, before

finally making the mandatory trip to the care center.

He later said his first thought was with the fans.

"I hope all the fans are OK and all the drivers are all

right," Larson said. "I took a couple big hits there and saw my

engine was gone. Just hope everybody's all right."

He said he was along for the ride in the last-lap accident.

"I was getting pushed from behind, I felt like, and by the time

my spotter said lift or go low, it was too late," Larson said. "I

was in the wreck and then felt like it was slowing down and I

looked like I could see the ground. Had some flames come in the

cockpit, but luckily I was all right and could get out of the car

quick."

It appeared fans were lined right along the fence when Larson's

car sailed up and into it.

Keselowski watched a replay of the final accident, but said his

first thoughts were with the fans. As for the accident, he agreed

he tried to make a winning move and Smith tried to block.

"He felt like that's what he had to do, and that's his right.

The chaos comes with it," Keselowski said. "I made the move and

he blocked it, and the two of us got together and started the chain

events that caused that wreck. First and foremost, just want to

make sure everyone in the stands is OK and we're thinking about

them."

Keselowski said the incident could cast a pall on Sunday's

Daytona 500.

"I think until we know exactly the statuses of everyone

involved, it's hard to lock yourself into the 500," Keselowski

said. "Hopefully, we'll know soon and hopefully everyone's OK. And

if that's the case, we'll staring focusing on Sunday."