Rising from near-tragedy in February when dozens of parts of a demolished race car – including a tire – flew into the stands, injuring more than two dozen spectators, Daytona International Speedway will be a much safer place for this weekend’s return of racing.
Just in time for Friday’s Nationwide Series race, the same racing circuit in which a terrible wreck occurred back in February when Kyle Larson’s car was all but obliterated, track officials have reinforced and reconfigured the crossover gate and grandstand fencing protecting fans from race track debris, according to a story in the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.
Significant safety improvements were made to both Daytona and sister track Talladega Superspeedway – the only two tracks on the NASCAR circuit that require restrictor plates to control horsepower on both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars.
Following a study by a structural engineering firm, numerous improvements and upgrades were implemented, including more cables to keep the crossover gates in place, as well as additional tethers surrounding the crossover gate and support posts.
“I felt before that it was safe place,” track president Joie Chitwood III said. “We’ve been around 55 years and, yes, things happen.
“But we’ve done a really good job of giving fans a safe and fun environment. You never stop doing that.”
All eight crossover gates – which allow fans access to the track during pre-race activities and for pit tours when cars are not on the track – have been either replaced or strengthened.
Here’s a video replay of February’s near-tragedy:
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.