SBD/February 26, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR, Daytona Int'l Speedway To Handle Crash Investigation Internally

NASCAR and DIS say there is "no timetable" for completing the investigation
An investigation into the crash that injured 28 fans during Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Daytona Int'l Speedway “will be conducted by the track and NASCAR, and not by any outside agency,” according to a front-page piece by Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. NASCAR and DIS officials yesterday said that they would “dedicate significant time and resources into investigating what could be done to prevent a repeat of the crash and determine if any safety improvements are needed to protect fans.” The Speedway and NASCAR said that they have “no timetable for completing the investigation," but added that “no government agency would be called in nor would they be required to file reports with any public agency.” ISC VP & Deputy General Counsel Brett Scharback said that the race was “a private event and would be handled internally like any business handles its affairs” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26). NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said the track will not implement a "short-term fix” in terms of improving track safety. O’Donnell: “We’re going to make sure that anything and everything we can learn will do that. If we can find some things immediately, obviously we’ll put those in play.” He noted NASCAR “has a long history and a great track record as it comes to safety." O'Donnell: "Without our fans, we don’t have a sport. We know that, so we’re going to get this right.” NASCAR has “been in contact with some of the upcoming tracks” on the schedule, and they have been "in contact with Daytona just talking about what we’ve learned so far” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/25).

NEVER 100% SAFE: NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson gave “credit” to DIS for having the most-recent catch-fence system in place, but there are “still advancements to be made.” Johnson: “The way that fence did its job and the fact they put the poles closer together prevented something really catastrophic from happening.” ESPN’s Dale Jarrett noted DIS in '10 was "proactive” in installing new catch fences, but "there’s nothing that’s ever going to make it 100 percent safe” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 2/25). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "You can’t make it completely safe for drivers, even when they try. You probably can’t make it completely safe for fans. Fans want to be as close as possible.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said NASCAR “seems to do better all the time” in terms of improving safety and making "improvements year after year” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/25). Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said, "I’m impressed with the job NASCAR has done over the years in making it safe for the drivers” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/25). Meanwhile, DIS President Joie Chitwood III said that he “watched the first 30 laps of the Daytona 500 from the section of the grandstands that was sprayed by debris." Chitwood: “I felt it was the appropriate thing to do. I run this track, and I'm comfortable sitting in any seat at the track. I wanted fans to see me sitting there with them. I am not aware of any fans requesting for seat changes. The fans I was sitting with were having a really good time. I couldn't see any problems at all” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26).

GOOD FOR THE SPORT? L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said in any other sport, Saturday's wreck “would be, ‘Oh my God, calamity, bad for the sport.'" Plaschke: "In NASCAR, it’s almost good for the sport. I hate to say this: it’s what these fans want.” Plaschke noted most fans refused to be reseated from the area where debris from the crash landed for the Daytona 500. Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the crash is "what the sport’s all about,” and danger "is what the fans want.” Paige: “I don’t think it’s going to have any effect whatsoever on NASCAR” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/25).

I'LL SEE YOU IN COURT
: Attorney John Morgan said that three spectators injured by the wreck “have contracted” with his personal injury firm and “four more have made appointments.” In Daytona Beach, Frank Fernandez in a front-page piece noted a DIS attorney “would not comment on possible litigation.” The potential legal fight “will involve the ‘assumption of risk’ when someone attends a sporting event.” Morgan said, "This case here is going to be different, because the fans who were sitting behind that fencing did not really assume a risk like you would think, because they were assured that fence could weather anything coming through it.” He added that NASCAR “probably would ask the fence manufacturer to contribute financially to any payouts the Speedway must make” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/26). Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Marty Smith noted NASCAR team owner and driver Tony Stewart on Sunday “visited six NASCAR fans who were injured" during Saturday's race. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson said that Stewart visited the fans at Halifax Health Medical Center after the Daytona 500 "for more than two hours.” He met with each patient “individually, and interacted extensively with five of them.” He gave each “a personalized, autographed Bass Pro Shops No. 14 cap” (ESPN.com, 2/25).
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