Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Nationwide Series [Print without images]

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Updated: February 24, 10:00 AM ET
Fans injured during scary wreck

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A horrific multicar crash moments before the end of the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway injured at least 28 fans after Kyle Larson's car flew into the frontstretch catch fencing, shearing off its front half and leaving large pieces of the vehicle inside the fencing.

Speedway president Joie Chitwood said 14 of the injured spectators were transported off-property for medical attention and 14 were treated on site.

Seven were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center, two of which were in critical condition, hospital representative Byron Cogdell told ESPN. One adult suffered life-threatening head trauma but was later stabilized, while a 14-year-old was also in critical but stable condition.

At least one tire from Larson's car flew into the seating area at Daytona. Police officers and NASCAR safety officials quickly ran to the location where part of the car went through the fencing, destroying one section of the catch fence.

One of the injured taken to Halifax Health near the track was Eddie Huckaby, 53, of Krum, Texas. He suffered a severe laceration from the hip to the knee on his left leg.

His brother, Terry, of Hendersonville, Tenn., controlled the bleeding by turning his belt into a makeshift tourniquet.

"Stuff was flying everywhere,'' Terry Huckaby told ESPN. "It was like you was in a war zone or something. Tires were flying by and smoke and everything else."

Terry said his brother is stable but has to stay in the hospital for at least 48 hours.

"I know there's a lot of people hurt out there, and I'm just rooting for them," he said. "I know my brother is going to be fine. The other people I don't know. I'm praying for them and hoping they'll be OK, too."

Larson climbed out of what was left of his car. He was not hurt.

"I hope all the fans are OK," Larson said. "I took a couple of big hits and saw my engine was gone."

The engine from Larson's car was sitting on the front walkway of the grandstand, along with one of the wheels.

Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson (32) and Regan Smith (7) were among those involved in a scary crash at the end of the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona.

"I was getting pushed from behind," Larson said. "Before I could react, it was too late. Flames came in the cockpit, but I was able to get out of the car quick."

Twelve cars were involved in the crash as the leaders headed for the finish line. Tony Stewart won the race, and Sam Hornish Jr. finished second.

Stewart, who won for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races, was in no mood to celebrate, skipping the traditional post-race victory celebration.

"The important thing is what's going on on the frontstretch right now," said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. "We've always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it's hard. We assume that risk, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it.

"So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now because that was ... I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn't look good from where I was at."

Driver Michael Annett was transported to a local hospital after his car slammed head on into the SAFER barrier. Annett was treated for bruising on his chest and underwent a CT scan. He will be kept overnight for observation.

Regan Smith was leading and had Brad Keselowski right on his back bumper. But Smith's car suddenly spun to the right and shot up the track, triggering the huge crash.

"I tried to throw a block," Smith said. "I knew Brad was going to make a move. It's Daytona. You have to go for it. We were coming to the checkered flag. You want to win. I don't know how you can play it any differently, other than conceding to second place, and I wasn't going to do that."

The race had restarted with two laps to go after a 13-car accident caused it to be red-flagged.

"We've always known this is a dangerous sport, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it," Stewart said in Victory Lane. "As much as we want to celebrate, I'm more concerned about the fans and the drivers right now. We want to put on a good show, but not at the risk to fans. There's no easy solution on these types of track." Keselowski took a deep breath as he left the infield care center.

"After watching the replay, my reaction is the same as everyone else and that's hoping everyone in the grandstands is OK," Keselowski said. "I felt I was in position to win it and made what I thought was the winning move. Regan moved to block it, and that's his right."

NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said NASCAR will conduct a complete investigation of the incident to determine if safety changes are needed.

"We look at these things after every incident to learn how we can apply changes in the future," O'Donnell said. "If we can improve upon it, we will put those improvements in place as soon as we can. But we need to take the time to really study it. The safety of our fans is first and foremost."

The catch fencing and the SAFER barrier were being repaired Saturday night in preparation for Sunday's Daytona 500. The area of the fence that was damaged included a walk-through gate, but it won't be replaced in the initial fence repairs.

Chitwood said no seating changes will take place Sunday.

"We don't anticipate moving any of our fans," Chitwood said. "All of our safety protocols are in place. We are going racing tomorrow with no changes."

NASCAR president Mike Helton said an incident like this shows safety is ever-evolving.

"The biggest thing we know is we don't know everything we need to know," Helton said. "We have things happen we've never seen before. We're always made aware of the fact that we don't know everything."

Information from ESPN NASCAR writer David Newton, espnW contributor Brant James and The Associated Press was used in this report.