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NASCAR to review safety in wake of Nationwide crash

| Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR officials said Sunday that no other injuries were reported following a last-lap accident during the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.

However, track president Joie Chitwood said there's a possibility that other spectators may have sustained injuries aside from the 28 treated at the trackside care center and off-sight medical centers.

According to a statement by Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, seven of 12 patients were admitted “due to injuries sustained in the car crash incident.” Five patients were released, and the remaining patients all have been stabilized and are being treated for injuries.

Additionally, six patients were taken to Halifax Health–Medical Center of Port Orange. All have been treated and released.

“We physically transported 14 customers from our property to medical facilities, and we saw 14 individuals at our first aid and care centers,” said Chitwood, who declined to comment on the condition of the spectators because of privacy laws. “Those individuals were released, but there may have been other individuals who self-admit (to area medical facilities).

“We helped all those who were released from medical care to get reunited with family and friends. We transported some fans back to their hotels in Orlando.”

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR'S vice president of racing operations, said the governing body for Sprint Cup and Nationwide is investigating how the catch fence was breached after a 12-car crash along the front stretch resulted in Kyle Larson's car catapulting into the catch fence near the start-finish line.

The 22-foot high catch fence was repaired in time for Sunday's Daytona 500. But the cross-over gate — along with a steel fence post, which may have played a role in shearing in half Larson's car — wasn't replaced, partly because it could not have been done before the start of the race.

“Our fans are first and foremost for us to have an exciting and safe experience at the track, so that's what we're going to continue to look at,” O'Donnell said. “Obviously, we want everybody to be safe at the event. Certainly, (we are) still thinking about those affected.”

Chitwood said track personnel met with NASCAR officials early Sunday morning to review the repairs to the catch fence where debris from Larson's wrecked car scattered into the lower and upper levels of the grandstand.

“We're confident with the repairs put in place,” O'Donnell said. “It will be an ongoing process with us for the racetrack. We have a research and development center in Concord, N.C., that specializes in looking at things like that.”

Chitwood said many of the safety measures at Daytona International Speedway were made, in part, because of a violent crash involving Carl Edwards at Talladega Superspeedway in 2009. He said no consideration was made in closing some areas of the front stretch where more than 100,000 spectators were seated.

“Following the 2009 incident, we brought in a structural engineering firm to view all of our safety fencing,” Chitwood said. “We actually took the recommendations they made and installed new fencing prior to the 2010 season. We felt like we've done everything as it relates to protocol and making sure we were prepared for (Saturday's) incident.”

O'Donnell said NASCAR also will review what happened to Larson's car. He said every piece will be examined, what came off and what didn't, and why.

“I think for the most part the car held up,” McDonnell said. “The tethers held up. Obviously, we can always learn. When a car gets up into the fence, that's something we have to take back and analyze everything we can. We'll do just that, and the process has started.

“The Gen-6 car was developed based on the Car of Tomorrow, which took safety first and foremost into account. Anything we learned was put into the Gen-6 car. We'll continue to evaluate that if we can.”

“As the cars are coming to the checkered flag, obviously people are not letting off the gas,” O'Donnell added. “Speed plays into this. We'll look at that, speeds versus maybe where they were under caution with somebody spinning.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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