DAYTONA BEACH – More than two dozen people, including a child, were injured at Daytona International Speedway Saturday when a 12-car accident sent wreckage past a safety fence and into the grandstand.
The child was in critical but stable condition late Saturday, and an adult suffered life-threatening injuries, authorities said. Both were at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
Fourteen people were taken from raceway by ambulance, and 14 were treated at the track, speedway officials said.
Terry Huckaby of Tennessee said his brother Eddie Huckaby, 53, of Texas was hurt when a piece of metal about 3 feet long tore a gash from his hip to his knee. He was recovering late Saturday and lamenting that he would have to watch Sunday’s Daytona 500 on TV from his hospital bed.
“When the car hit, debris went everywhere,” Terry Huckaby, 61, said. “It was like a war zone there.”
The accident happened about 4 p.m. on the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300, which serves as a prelude to the biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500.As drivers jockeyed for position, several cars collided and Kyle Larson’s car broke apart. Others spun out of control.
“We saw a tire and debris go into the crowd,” said race fan Bryan Gifford of Orlando, who had seats along the front stretch. “There was chaos everywhere.”
Larson’s engine caught fire and ended up in front of fans along a crossover gate in the front stretch. The car tore through the catch fence designed to protect fans, hurling debris as high as 45 rows up, where it hit a spectator. Other car parts also flew into the stands.
“I know I took a couple of big hits there and saw my engine was gone,” Larson said.
Tony Stewart raced through to win.
“We’ve always known since racing was started this is a dangerous sport,” he said. “But it’s hard. We assume that risk. It’s hard when the fans get caught up in it.
The president of Daytona International Speedway, Joie Chitwood, said the rescue process went smoothly.
“First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans,” Chitwood said. “Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols, and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately.”
The last lap was reminiscent of a crash at Daytona in 2000. Geoffrey Bodine’s truck slammed into the wall near the finish line, sending it cartwheeling down the track in flames. The flying debris injured nine fans and two drivers.
NASCAR officials said Saturday’s damage to the stands will be repaired in time for the running of the 55th Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon.
“We’re very confident that we’ll be ready,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president for racing operations. “As with any of these incidents, we’ll conduct a thorough review and work closely with the tracks as we do with all our events, learn what we can and see what we can apply in the future.”
Watch video of the crash taken by a fan in the stands at the Daytona Speedway