Daytona crash renews NASCAR safety talks

11:41 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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A massive crash at the Daytona International Speedway this weekend has prompted a new discussion about safety in auto racing.

That crash happened on the last lap of Saturday's race. Driver Kyle Larson's car smashed into the fence, sending chunks of metal and tire into the grandstands. In total, 28 fans were injured.

Now, NASCAR officials are promising a careful review of the crash.

Officials at East Tennessee's closest track, Bristol Motor Speedway, are waiting to hear what the review shows.

"We will evaluate things that we learn from the industry, from NASCAR, the sanctioning body, the engineers that maybe saw what happened in Daytona to compare that to our set up," said BMS General Manager and Executive Vice President Jerry Caldwell.

According to Caldwell, comparing safety at the two tracks isn't "apples and oranges."

Drivers can reach speeds of more than 200 mph on Daytona's 2.5 mile stretch, while on Bristol's half-mile track, speeds usually top out around half that.

However, BMS has many of the same safety features as larger speedways.

Caldwell says, it starts with a clear plan of action.

"We have five mini-hospitals... on our property right here inside our gates... that are equipped to respond to most any situation. We have helipads surrounding the property so that if we need to get individuals over to one of the local hospitals, we're able to do that," he said.

Caldwell also points to a large barrier between the track and the grandstand. Called a "safer wall," it is attached to a 21 ft. tall catch-fence that also provides a 7.5 ft over hang above the speedway.

"[Its] designed for a lot of the larger race tracks, the ones in Charlotte and Texas where the speeds are going to be a lot greater. We've just taken the same fencing and design and incorporated it here," he said. "It's going to be plenty to hold stuff in, in Bristol."

Two years ago, it survived a test.

"We did have a car over on the front stretch get up and ride along the wall, ride on the fence. The fence kept it in, and pushed it back down."

As NASCAR continues to investigate what happened at Daytona, Caldwell says BMS and other speedways around the country will have to wait and see if any new changes will be recommended.

"We are in a sport to compete with each other, but first and foremost is going to be the safety and security of those in attendance - the fans - and the competitors."

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