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:
SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.
McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.
Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.
Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.
Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.
“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.
“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”
Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.