Sunday's 55th running of the Daytona 500, stock car racing's biggest event, will go ahead as scheduled despite 28 fans being injured in a violent crash at the end of Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
A section of debris fencing near the start/finish line was torn down in the last-lap crash, and a wheel flew over the fencing, resulting in at least 14 fans requiring hospital treatment, with two of them reportedly suffering critical injuries. The remaining 14 were treated at on-site medical facilities.
In a news conference on Saturday evening, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said that Sunday's opening round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup would be unaffected by the incident, and that fans would continue to be seated in the areas where injuries were sustained.
"The fencing will be repaired to our safety protocols; we'll go racing tomorrow," said Chitwood. "We review our property after every event, including Thursday's Duels, Friday's Truck race and today's Nationwide race. "We'll review where the debris flew and what we need to do about that. The only change we will make is that we will not have time to put in a crossover gate. That will be strict fencing tomorrow."
The injuries were caused when Kyle Larson's car was sent flying into the catch fencing. Its front-end was torn off in the impact, and the engine and a front wheel pierced the fence at a point where there is a crossover gate, which is there to allow grandstand spectators access to the pitlane before racing begins. The gate is bolted securely before racing.
NASCAR's senior vice president Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body of stock car racing would carry out its own investigation into the crash.
"We'll conduct a thorough review and work with our tracks to see what we can do in the future," said O'Donnell. "We look at this after every major incident, but our initial evaluation is still ongoing at this time. We'll evaluate the tethers and the fencing, and see what we can learn from where [crossover] gates are. Safety of our fans is first and foremost."
As darkness fell, track workers were continuing the repair process on the frontstretch fencing.