Sunday's Daytona 500 will go on as scheduled after at least 28 race fans were injured during a horrifying crash that occurred in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway.
The 12-car accident happened on the frontstretch during the last lap of Saturday's 300-mile race at Daytona. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, hit Regan Smith from behind and spun him into the wall on the tri-oval, which triggered the big wreck. Rookie Kyle Larson flipped around and sailed into the catchfence before coming back down on the track. Flying debris from both Larson's car and the fence struck dozens of spectators in the grandstands.
Track president Joie Chitwood and NASCAR senior vice president of race operations Steve O'Donnell held a press conference several hours after the event had concluded and was won by Tony Stewart. Chitwood revealed that 14 injured fans were transported to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center as well as other hospitals in the Daytona Beach area. Fourteen others were treated at the racetrack's infield medical care center.
Chitwood did not reveal the conditions of those injured, but at least seven of them were seriously hurt and two more were listed in critical condition.
"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," Chitwood said.
Chitwood then noted, "We are in the process of repairing the facility and will be ready to go racing tomorrow."
Larson's car tore a gaping hole in the catchfence, with the engine and one of the tires sheared off his vehicle and lodged in the fencing.
Chitwood said that track workers will not have enough time to repair the cross-over gate, which is located in the affected area on the frontstretch, for tomorrow's Daytona 500. A strip-fence will take its place. Chitwood also stated that the grandstand seats located in the area where the injuries occurred will be available for 500-mile race.
"We don't anticipate moving any of our fans," Chitwood said. "We had our safety protocols in place. Our security (officers) maintained a buffer that separates the fans from the fencing area. And with the fence being repaired tonight to our safety protocols, we expect to go racing tomorrow with no changes."
NASCAR plans to investigate the accident and continue to work on its safety initiatives for both the competitors and the fans in attendance for races.
"As with any of these incidents, we will conduct a thorough review and work closely with the tracks as we do for all of our events," O'Donnell said. "We'll learn what we can and apply it for the future."