DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Regan Smith took responsibility for the last-lap accident that damaged several cars and sent pieces of another flying into the outside retaining wall and grandstands at Daytona International Speedway. The accident began when Smith blocked Brad Keselowski coming to the checkered flag of Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 and collected 12 total cars.
NASCAR President Mike Helton confirmed that several fans in the grandstands were injured and transported for further observation at nearby Halifax Medical Hospital.
“There was obviously some intrusion into the fence, and fortunately there was plenty of emergency workers ready to go,” Helton said. “They all jumped on it pretty quickly. Right now it’s a function of trying to figure out what all damage has been done. They’re moving folks to care centers and taking some folks to Halifax Medical Center.”
NASCAR immediately cleared the infield and pit road of non-essential personnel and began to assess the debris. Meanwhile, all the drivers involved in the final accident were treated and released from the infield care center and started to piece together what happened.
Smith took the blame, saying that he moved up to block Keselowski, but acknowledged it was just a part of racing at the highly unstable 2.5-mile superspeedway.
“I threw a block there,” Smith said. "I knew Brad (Keselowski) was going to try to make a move on me. I’m not going to just give up the win at Daytona. If I'm in the same situation tomorrow, I'll do the exact same thing again."
Keselowski took his part of blame and said that both he and Regan Smith were coming to the checkered flag and trying to win the race. Keselowski felt he had all the momentum coming out of turn four and would have won the race if not for Smith’s block.
“Regan obviously tried to block me and that’s understandable,” Keselowski said. “He wants to win too and at the end it just caused chaos... I really hope everyone in the grandstands is okay. I think that’s the most important thing right now.”
Tony Stewart avoided the melee, won the race, and described the pitfalls of racing at Daytona in place of the usual victory celebration. The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion expressed his concern for those injured and had not conducted a winner’s press conference at press time.
“The hard part is you just can’t get away from everybody,” Stewart said in victory lane. “When you get a green-white-checkered like that, even if a hole is closing up, the guy behind you isn’t going to let up and you’re not going to check up. You’ve got to take that chance.
“It’s like you want to put on good races, but not at the risk of the drivers and the fans like this. It’s a hard thing for NASCAR. There’s no solution and never has been. NASCAR is an extremely smart group and they’re doing everything they can to prevent this from happening.”