DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - At least 30 NASCAR fans were injured Saturday when a car sailed into the fence at Daytona International Speedway, and large chunks of debris - including a tire - flew into the grandstands. No fatalities were reported from the accident on the last lap of the Nationwide Series race.
The crash began as the field closed in on the finish line, and rookie Kyle Larson's car came upon the wreck and went airborne into the fence that separates the track from the seats.
Large chunks of Larson's car landed in the grandstands, and one of his tires appeared to fly over the fence and land midway up the lower section. The car itself had its entire front end sheared off, with the burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.
Speedway President Joie Chitwood said 14 fans were treated on site, and 14 others were taken to hospitals. Chitwood didn't give any updates on their conditions.
The number of those transported given by Chitwood was slightly lower than that given by local officials.
Halifax Health spokesman Byron Cogdell said 12 people were transported to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach and six others were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center of Port Orange. All were in stable condition, Cogdell said.
Lindsay Rew, a spokeswoman for Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, said its Daytona Beach hospital had one fan there who was in good condition. She said three others they had been expecting were diverted to another hospital.
No fatalities were reported at either hospital. Cogdell said two people taken to the Halifax in Daytona Beach arrived in critical condition, and one of those had life-threatening injuries, both were upgraded to stable condition.
The accident happened the day before the Sprint Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 - NASCAR's version of the Super Bowl. Daytona workers could be seen repairing the large section of fence where Larson hit, as well as the wall that was damaged in the accident.
"First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," Chitwood said. "Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols, and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately.
"We're in the process of repairing the facility and will be ready to go racing tomorrow."
As emergency workers tended to injured fans and ambulance sirens wailed in the background, a somber Tony Stewart skipped the traditional post-race victory celebration.
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.
"The important thing is what 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.