Daytona 500 On; Fence Safety Questioned After Wreck

12:47 PM, Feb 24, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Daytona Speedway Chief Defends Fence Safety

Video: Daytona Crash Witness; "Happened So Fast"

Kyle Larson (32) goes up into the fence during a scary last-lap crash in Saturday's Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jeff Gluck and Nate Ryan, USA TODAY Sports

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said the track is ready to move forward with today's Daytona 500 despite a crash that injured at least 28 fans in the grandstands at the end of Saturday's Nationwide Series race.

MORE: Scary crash mars Nationwide race

Daytona worked through the night to repair the catchfence, replacing the section of the destroyed fencing. The area formerly had a crossover gate -- an area in the mesh fencing that can peel back -- which appeared to play a key role in splitting Kyle Larson's car. Now, only has straight fencing because there wasn't time to rebuild the gate, according to Chitwood.

MORE: Catchfences at center of controversy again

NASCAR vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell said Larson's Chevrolet would be taken to its R&D Center in Concord, N.C., for a thorough evaluation by outside experts. Though tires flew over the fence into the grandstands, O'Donnell said "for the most part, the car held up; the tethers (on tires) held up.

"We'll look at every piece, what came off, what didn't," he said. "What held. We'll review the film of where it hit and every aspect of that car will be looked at."

O'Donnell said it was too early to determine what role the crossover gate played in the accident.

"It's way too soon to make that kind of a statement without really studying exactly what happened and apply what we can from there," he said.

There remained crossover gates within roughly 30 feet of either side of the impact area. Chitwood said no consideration was given to removing those gates.

Chitwood said he was unable to provide any medical updates on any of the patients who were transported to local hospitals, though a Halifax Health spokesman said none of the seven patients taken there were in critical condition. Two had arrived there in critical condition, including one who suffered life-threatening injuries. Both were upgraded this morning.

FANS: Two upgraded from critical condition

Several fans have been released and some will attend today's race, Chitwood said. He said if a fan is "not comfortable where they are seating, we make every accommodation we can" to find more acceptable seats.

Debris from the crash showered the lower rows of the front grandstand. Two tires went into the stands -- including one in the upper deck -- and the motor from Larson's car went through the fence.

Chitwood said the track had not thought about moving seats back from the fence, citing Daytona's safety record with more than 100,000 seats on the frontstretch.

"I think we've got very good safety protocols," he said. "I think we've done a great job being prepared for our racing events. Incidents do happen and I think those are the exception. I think we're prepared today."

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