DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- At least 28 fans were treated for injuries Saturday after a massive crash at Daytona International Speedway showered the frontstretch grandstand with debris.
The wreck occurred on the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener. Wheels and suspension parts were thrown through and over a safety fence as Kyle Larson's car went airborne.
Fourteen of the injured were taken from the track for examination and treatment and another 14 were treated on site, said Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president. He and Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, addressed the accident about three hours after Tony Stewart won the race.
"We're in the process of repairing the facility and will be ready to go racing tomorrow," Chitwood said. The 55th Daytona 500 is scheduled for noon Sunday.
Chitwood would not comment on the severity of injuries, deferring to Halifax Health Medical Center, where some of the victims were seen.
The Associated Press reported that at least 30 people were hurt and two of them arrived at Halifax in critical condition, one of them with life-threatening injuries. Both were later listed as stable.
Stewart won after Regan Smith's block on Brad Keselowski turned Smith's car into the wall several hundred yards short of the finish line, setting off a 12-car chain reaction.
"We've always known since racing was started this is a dangerous sport," a subdued Stewart said long before details of the injuries were announced.
"We assume that risk. It's hard when the fans get caught up in it."
The accident was comparable to many that happen in races on the biggest and fastest tracks at which NASCAR competes.
Half a lap after pushing Smith to the lead, Keselowski made his move for the victory, darting toward the outside lane. As Smith went to the outside to block, Keselowski hit his car awkwardly, turning it right and into the outside wall while Keselowski spun. Stewart turned left, out of the way of the 12-car tangle that clogged the track.
Larson, a 20-year-old prospect making his Nationwide debut, spun across Keselowski's car. Larson's car lifted off the ground slightly and then was launched into the fence by Justin Allgaier, the next driver through.
The car ripped apart, and by the time it stopped in the grass between the track and pit road nothing remained ahead of the firewall. The smoldering engine was wedged in the fence.
"Some of the things we have in place, tethers, that sort of thing, held up, did their job," O'Donnell said.
"But certainly when you look at this incident, there are some things we can learn and evaluate. We'll take the car, we'll do that. We'll evaluate the fencing and see if there's anything we can learn from where gates are."
Sam Hornish Jr. finished second, rookie Alex Bowman third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Parker Kligerman fifth.
Smith said that presented the same circumstances -- leading with a couple of hundred yards to go with a Daytona victory on the line -- he wouldn't drive any differently.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," he told ESPN. "Brad's a good friend, he pushed me to the front. We were both wanting the race, that's all."
Said Keselowski: "I kind of had the run and the move to win the race, and Regan obviously tried to block it and that's understandable. He wants to win too, and at the end it just caused chaos."
Larson hit a gate in the fence used to allow people to cross the track when it is not in use. The gate won't be replaced before Sunday, Chitwood said, but the area affected Saturday will be open to ticket-holders Sunday.
The design of racetrack fences came under scrutiny in October 2011 when two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon was killed when his car was launched into a pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A two-lap dash to the finish Saturday was set up by a 13-car, mid-pack crash that sent Michael Annett to Halifax. He was kept for observation after complaining of pain in his chest.
Matt Kenseth, the reigning Daytona 500 champion from Cambridge, Wis., led 11 laps but lost his drafting partner when the engine in teammate Kyle Busch's car erupted. He finished 16th.
Several fans injured by debris of Nationwide crashAt least 28 fans were treated for injuries Saturday after a massive crash at Daytona International Speedway showered the frontstretch grandstand with debris.
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