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Daytona crash injures fans as Tony Stewart wins Nationwide race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At least 12 NASCAR fans were injured Saturday when large chunks of debris, including a tire, sailed into the grandstands when a car flew into the fence at Daytona International Speedway on a frightening last-lap accident in the second-tier Nationwide Series race.
Large chunks of Larson’s car landed in the grandstands. The car itself had its entire front end sheared off, with the burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.
Lindsay Rew, a spokeswoman for Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, said its Daytona Beach hospital had one fan there who was in good condition. She said they were expecting three more people who were coming by ambulance, but she didn’t yet know their conditions.
NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway officials were scheduled to discuss the accident at 7 p.m. EST on Saturday night.
“There obviously was some intrusion into the fence and fortunately with the way the event’s equipped up, there were plenty of emergency workers ready to go and they all jumped in on it pretty quickly,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said after the accident. “Right now, it’s just a function of determining what all damage is done. They’re moving folks, as we’ve seen, to care centers and take some folks over to Halifax Medical.”
As emergency workers tended to injured fans and ambulance sirens wailed in the background, a somber Tony Stewart skipped the traditional post-race victory celebration.
“The important thing is what going on on the frontstretch right now,” said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. “We’ve always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it’s hard. We assume that risk, but it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it.
“So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as this is a big deal to us, I’m more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now because that was … I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn’t look good from where I was at.”
The accident spread into the upper deck and emergency crews treated fans on both levels. There were five stretchers that appeared to be carrying fans out, and a helicopter flew overhead. A forklift was used to pluck Larson’s engine out of the fence, and there appeared to be a tire in the stands.
Daytona President Joie Chitwood waited by steps as emergency workers attended to those in the stands. Across the track, fans pressed against a fence and used binoculars trying to watch. Wrecked cars and busted parts were strewn across the garage.
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