Lawsuits coming after Daytona accident?

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When you go to a race as a fan, the last thing you should expect or fear is accident debris entering the grandstands.

That’s why some of those injured in last Saturday’s accident in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway could be exploring legal action.

An Orlando-based lawyer for fans injured, Matt Morgan, told the AP he hopes to reach a settlement with NASCAR to avoid any lawsuits.

A NASCAR spokesman said he was not aware of any lawsuits, while a Daytona spokesman said they would not comment on pending litigation.

There are several aspects of what led to this accident. The Nationwide cars have lesser horsepower than the Sprint Cup Series, and while the Sprint Cup’s new Generation 6 car ran primarily in single file formation throughout the Daytona 500, the Nationwide cars ran more in a huge pack. That meant a greater likelihood of a “big one” accident.

Additionally, the accident itself was triggered by contact between leader Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski behind him. When Keselowski pulled out to pass as the field headed into the tri-oval, Smith moved to defend but came too far over on top of him. That triggered the chaos and the speed of cars behind them helped send Kyle Larson’s car airborne and into the catch fencing.

Keselowski was also involved in NASCAR’s last two car-into-fence moments, each with Carl Edwards. Going for the win at Talladega in April 2009, Keselowski and Edwards collided with Edwards’ car spiraling airborne and careening off the fencing, in front of the grandstands. Edwards retaliated on Keselowski in a Sprint Cup race at Atlanta in 2010.

The litigation may pass, but the discussion about both the catch fencing and the style of racing that has caused these accidents has only just begun. For more, see “IndyCar champions seek fence changes.”

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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