(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — A fiery last-lap crash at the Daytona International Speedway Saturday sent chunks of debris flying into the stands, injuring at least 28 spectators, who were seen being carried away from the stands on stretchers.
At least 14 of the injured were transported to hospitals and more than a dozen others were treated at the speedway, Daytona president Joie Chitwood III. All the drivers involved in the crash have been treated and released, Chitwood said.
ESPN reported that one of the spectators taken to the hospital was on the way to surgery with head trauma.
The 12-car crash happened moments before the end of the Nationwide race, and on the eve of the Daytona 500, one of NASCAR’s biggest events.
The crash was apparently triggered when driver Regan Smith’s car, which was being tailed by Brad Keselowski on his back bumper, spun to the right and shot up the track. Smith had been in the lead and said after the crash he had been trying to throw a “block.”
Rookie Kyle Larson’s car slammed into the wall that separates the track from the grandstands, causing his No. 32 car to go airborne and erupt in flames.
When a haze of smoke cleared and Larson’s car came to a stop, he jumped out uninjured.
His engine and one of his wheels were sitting in a walkway of the grandstand.
“I was getting pushed from behind,” Larson told ESPN. “Before I could react, it was too late.”
Tony Stewart pulled out the win, but in victory lane, what would have been a celebratory mood was tempered by concern for the injured fans.
“We’ve always known this is a dangerous sport,” Stewart said. “But it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it.”
Repairs are under way on the fence where the crash happened and are expected to be completed before the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Chitwood said.
He told reporters NASCAR does not anticipate having to move any of their fans for the Daytona 500 and expects all seats will be filled.
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