2013 Memories: Another ‘Big One’ at Daytona

12/31/2013 9:36 PM

01/02/2014 10:21 PM

Multi-car crashes are fairly common at NASCAR races at Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala., where restrictor-plates are used to limit speeds and in turn keep cars bunched up and in large packs.

So another “Big One” erupting on the final lap of the Nationwide Series opener Feb. 23 at Daytona wasn’t a surprise.

Typically, when accidents like this happen, a hush falls over the media center and press box as we await word that all participants have checked out OK. Such was the case in this incident but as word filtered in that the drivers involved were unhurt, it became obvious through social media and watching TV replays that debris from the accident made its way into the frontstretch grandstands, striking several race fans.

Photos started appearing on Twitter of a car tire in the stands. Ambulances with sirens and lights on could be seen making their way behind the frontstretch grandstands.

Finally, speedway president Joie Chitwood III confirmed the news – 28 fans had been treated for injuries, 14 at the track’s care center and 14 at local hospitals. Some fans were hurt seriously but thankfully everyone survived.

In the hours after the wrecks were cleared, the scene on the frontstretch was surreal. Participants in the pre-race show for the Daytona 500, scheduled for the next day, were practicing on the grass infield as speedway workers busily removed car debris from the stands and repaired the damaged fence.

The race must go on.

Jim Utter

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