NASCAR Notes: The NNS at Daytona
WITH ALL DUE RESPECTS TO THE INJURED, THERE WERE SOME POSITIVE ASPECTS TO THAT HORRIBLE WRECK.
By Dave Grayson
We all watched in horror as a multi car crash, on the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, unfolded. We saw Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet become airborne and hit the catch fence. We saw debris, including a tire with wheel and suspension parts attached to it, fly into the grandstands.
Later in the evening came the grim news regarding the injured fans: a total of 28 hurt by the flying debris. 14 were transported to a nearby hospital with two patients reported to be in critical condition requiring surgery. The remaining 14 were treated for their injuries at speedway medical centers. Later, the next day, we heard the good news that all patients in the hospital had been stabilized.
Believe it or not, despite the severity of the accident and the sustained injuries, there were some positive aspects to this very intense situation.
Let’s begin by pinpointing the quick response of the speedway’s medical emergency staff. Following a quick arrival to the scene, they expedited triage procedures by quickly assessing which victims needed to be escorted to the speedway’s medical facilities and which ones needed to be transported to the hospital right away.
There was also some very positive responses from the fans themselves to come to the aid of their fellow spectators including reports of fans removing their shirts and using them as a pressure bandage on those who were cut and bleeding.
Thank goodness for the NASCAR mandated safety equipment in their cars. Kyle Larson will testify to that. When his car came to a rest, the entire front of his Chevrolet was missing. It was both amazing and gratifying to see Larson calmly exit his car uninjured. Afterwards, during a live television interview, he quickly said he was fine and expressed his concerns for the spectators in the grandstand. This young man is both an extraordinary talent and a class act. He has a very bright future in NASCAR.
This accident occured following a final lap blocking move by race leader Regan Smith. Under no circumstances should anyone point the finger of blame at this driver. He was simply doing his job. Any driver with a chance to win at Daytona would have made the same move. Smith, also a class act, manned up after the race and said the wreck was his fault and then immediately expressed his concern for the welfare of the fans.
The aftermath of this accident completely overshadowed the fact that Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona. In victory lane, Stewart and his team elected to keep the environment subdued out of respect to the injured fans. It was a very classy thing to do.
On Sunday morning, prior to the Daytona 500, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced that literally every NASCAR team in the garage area approached officials and asked them to please convey their heartfelt best wishes to the patients in the hospital. To a true blue NASCAR fan lying in a hospital room those messages had to be huge. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The members of these teams are well known for having big hearts.
As some of the injured fans were treated and released, officials from the Daytona Speedway were on hand at the hospital to insure they had transportation to their hotels and motels and made sure they had some sort of accommodations that would allow them to watch the Daytona 500.
In a very extraordinary move, speedway officials also said they would be willing to relocate any fan with seats on the frontstretch that might be uncomfortable with their seat location.
While the focal point was certainly aimed at the injured fans, the fact of the matter is: the show had to go on. Speedway maintenance teams worked until 2 am in the morning repairing the damaged fence and did an outstanding job. The command to start engines for the Daytona 500 was delivered on time per the schedule.
The most significant positive aspect to this situation is very likely the one that’s yet to come. NASCAR is well known for instant responses to any and all safety issues. It’s likely that they will engage the immense talent and intelligence available at their Research and Development Center, an organization that has designed many safety innovations in the past. The final result will be a fence that will be safer for both the drivers and the fans.
To the fans still in the hospital, be rest assured that the entire NASCAR Nation is sending you good thoughts and prayers for your speedy recovery.