DAYTONA BEACH: A horrific crash at the end of the US stock car race which ended early Monday (Tuesday in Manila) morning at Daytona will be reviewed by speedway and sanctioning body officials.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and Daytona International Speedway were coming to grips with the multi-car wreck that took place at 2:41 Monday morning after rain delayed the start of the race by more than three hours.
Austin Dillon’s car went airborne and slammed into the retaining fence surrounding the speedway oval before flipping and skipping to a halt in the infield grass, its parts scattered across the track.
“I’m shocked Austin Dillon is even alive,” said runner-up Jimmie Johnson, a six-time NASCAR season champion. “It was just a frightening moment. I expected the worst.”
Dillon escaped without serious injury but debris went through the fence and struck spectators. One fan was hospitalized, treated and released, while a dozen others were examined at the track, eight declining treatment and four treated and released, again amazingly none with serious injuries.
Safety fears were a major topic Monday as NASCAR and speedway officials began their investigations.
“We’ll work closely with NASCAR,” Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood said. “We’re going to learn from it and see what else we can do to be better.”
One who knows the safety issues all too well was race-winner Dale Earn¬hardt Jnr, whose father was a NASCAR legend and seven-time series champion before being killed in a wreck at the end of the 2001 Day¬tona 500 on the very same track due to a skull fracture in a last-lap crash.
“That was terrifying to watch,” Earnhardt said of seeing the wreck behind him. “You think about a car getting that high in the catch fence, you wonder what might happened to the fans in the stands, start praying everybody is OK there.”
Dillon, whose car finished on its roof and was then struck by the car of Brad Keselowski, said he suffered a bruised forearm and tailbone.
He said NASCAR must look at reducing speeds.
“It’s not really acceptable, I don’t think,” Dillon said. “We’ve got to figure out something. I think our speeds are too high, I really do. I think everybody can get good racing with lower speeds and we can work on that and then figure out a way to keep cars on the ground.”
Johnson said the only way to safeguard fans from debris is to slow race speeds.
“Keep the cars on the ground, slow us down, would be the only way to do it, I would say, and even then, there are no guarantees,” Johnson said.
Contact between the cars of third-placed Denny Hamlin and fourth-placed Kevin Harvick set off the chain-reaction wreck at the finish behind Earnhardt.
“The catch fence kept his car inside the racetrack,” Hamlin said. “I am not sure what else we can really do about it. They are freak incidents that make that happen. You want to make the sport as safe as possible, but we’re going to make those mistakes.
“We’re running a decent speed. Do we want it to go in the air? No, but it’s just going to happen sometimes.”