Daytona Beach – Prior to the start of the Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway track president Joie Chitwood III and Steve O’Donnell NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations provided an update on those injured and the repairs to the track’s fencing that took place overnight.
Later in the day, the nearby Halifax Health Medical Center issued an update.
We were making sure those released were getting proper care.
Said Chitwood, “I just want to reiterate how important our fans are to us. We had our guest services team dispatched to Halifax (Health and Medical Center) and other medical institutions last night. We helped all of those released to get reunited to family and friends, personal items, cars. We transported some of our fans back to Orlando. Throughout the night, we were making sure those released were getting proper care.
“From an operations perspective, at 8 a.m., we met with NASCAR. We reviewed all the repairs made last evening. We worked late into the evening and are prepared to go racing today.”
The crossover gate was replaced with fencing in the interest of time.
Responding to repeated inquiries about the number of injured, names and conditions of the individuals and other medical info, he said privacy concerns precluded the track from releasing that information. He once again confirmed that 14 fans were taken to (three) nearby medical facilities and 14 others were treated by the speedway’s medical facility.
Reports that as many as 33 had been injured, Chitwood indicated that, if true, it would mean the additional individuals checked themselves into medical facilities.
The catch fencing on the front stretch is 22 feet high.
According to the speedway executive, the track’s fencing was replaced or strengthened prior to the 2010 season due to the accident at Talladega involving Carl Edwards.
If affected fans returned today and asked for different seats, they were accommodated. As heard on a television interview, a female fan indicated she was treated for a broken leg but assured reporters should would be at Sunday’s race.
Said O’Donnell, “For the most part, the car held up, but obviously we can always learn. When a car get up into the fence, that’s something we have to take back, analyze everything we can. We’ll do just that and the process has started.”
Regarding the wheel tethers, O’Donnell indicated the tethers did hold up but a piece got away when it hit the fence. “The tethers came about from an incident where we learned with a tire going and escaping from the cars. Now, we’ve got to take another look and say, ‘Hey, is that the best practice or is there more that we can do.’”
Chitwood and O’Donnell reminded the media that the track has been in business for 55 years, and nothing of this magnitude has ever happened.
Continuing review was promised and further updates can be expected as adjustments are made.
In the statement issued by Halifax Health, the facility received 12 patients and seven were admitted. As of now, five have been released and those remaining have been stabilized and being treated for their injuries. Additionally, six patients were taken to a sister facility in nearby Port Orange. These patients have all been treated and released.