NASCAR dodged a major bullet last Saturday in its Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Despite the multicar accident on the last lap that sent substantial debris into the grandstands, including Kyle Larson’s engine, the 28 fans injured have all survived. The two fans who were in critical condition were upgraded to stable.
After the accident, there’s been renewed discussion about the safety of catch fencing at race tracks.
IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay each chimed in on the situation. They’ve seen the effects of these type accidents first-hand, as they had to deal with the loss of Dan Wheldon at IndyCar’s 2011 season finale in Las Vegas when Wheldon’s car struck a post on the inside of the catch fencing.
“it’s time @Indycar @nascar other sanctioning bodies & promoters work on an alternative to catch fencing. There has to be a better solution,” Franchitti tweeted Saturday. “@indycar @nascar give the engineers and scientists a budget and they’ll find a fix. they did it with the safer barrier…”
Meanwhile, the defending IndyCar champion told USA Today Sports that, up-front costs aside, something can be done to improve this safety aspect.
“The fence acts as a cheese grater, and the car is the cheese,” Hunter-Reay said. “When it gets airborne, the fence tears it up into pieces. It’s an industry-wide problem, and one we can fix quickly. It would be revolutionary for the sport, and it’s at the forefront of what we’ve been talking about for five years.”
There were two instances in IndyCar where fans were killed from debris going over the fence in the late 1990s. A CART-sanctioned race at Michigan International Speedway in 1998 saw three deaths after a tire that came loose from Adrian Fernandez’s car went over the wall. In an Indy Racing League event the following year at Charlotte, three spectators were also killed when more debris went into the stands. Wheel tethers were later added to the cars.