Major crash at Daytona sparks fan safety concerns

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) —  Fan safety at tracks across the country is a topic of discussion after more than 30 people were injured and more than a dozen taken to the hospital following a wreck at a NASCAR Nationwide race in Daytona on Saturday.

“It’s definitely going to spur the safety aspect,” said Matt Teasley, an avid racing fan who was watching the Daytona 500 at Home Team Grill in the Fan on Sunday.

Aimee Turner, Director of Communications at Richmond International Raceway (RIR), said safety if a major concern at the track.

“But it’s always a learning process and it always helps us find new ways to be safer here at our facilities,” Turner said.

Turner said fans can get close to the track at RIR, but cannot stay there for long. In fact, security officers are posted around the track to make sure fans get moving and don’t linger by the fence.  Turner said fans are kept moving for their own safety.

The style of over-hanging fence, which is known as a “catch-fence” was installed years ago at RIR when Indy car racing came to Richmond.

Initial reports from Daytona suggest that the “catch-fencing” around the track there functioned up to snuff, despite the injuries.

During a race at Richmond cars go significantly slower than at Daytona since RIR is a much shorter track.  Richmond is only three-quarters of a mile, while Daytona International Speedway is two-and-a-half miles.

The most memorable moment in recent history at RIR where wheels left the track was in a race in 2005 when Martin Truex Jr.’s car went up on two wheels, riding along fence, and skidding around a turn.

Still, fans like Matt Teasley like to see RIR and NASCAR thinking hard on how their fences protect fans.

“Not to say that those people [who were hurt at Daytona] deserved any of it, but it’s worth while to learn from this event.  If we can take that kind of step to make the catch fencing safer,” Teasley said.

NASCAR is investigating the wreck at Daytona.  Turner said RIR will implement any new safety measures as soon as NASCAR determines what those will be.

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