NASCAR Track Safety Under Scrutiny
DAYTONA, FL / CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Crews worked overnight to repair a 54 by 22 foot wide hole in a catch fence in preparation for Sunday's Daytona 500. The day before, during a second tier race, the fence stopped a car's engine from flying into the stands. But a tire and metal debris flew over the fence and injured 33 fans.
Driver Mike Wallace was at the back of the pack coming toward the checkered flag. He tells WCCB News, "As I slowed down and worked my way through it, I mean, it looked like a war zone. Parts. Pieces, little fires going on, everything. So it was probably the biggest crash I'd ever seen."
Wallace says NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord will scrutinize what happened. He says, "They're gonna study why did the car come apart to the degree that it did? Why did it rip the motor and front snout off the car, as we call it, and why did it let those pieces go?"
"I think it'll make everyone automatically review their safety standards and see if their catch fences are high enough and the over hang does over hang enough onto the track," says Charlotte sports talk radio host Brett Jensen. He says the catch fence worked. "The fence itself did its job. But it wasn't high enough," says the WFNZ 610 host.
Each race track is different and so are their safety measures. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, a rep tells us fan safety is always a priority. They'll see what NASCAR investigations tell them and what could potentially apply at Charlotte.
Fans, meantime, won't stay away. One man says, "There'd be more risk of getting hurt in a traffic accident on the way to the race than getting harmed at the race track." Another describes Saturday's wreck as, "Horrifying, just flat out horrifying. Scary, you know. But you know what, it's racing. It's just racing."
Daytona has a grandstand re-model in the works. Saturday's injuries could prompt a new design that might include sturdier fences or stands further away from the on-track action.