NASCAR, Daytona hold press conference following Nationwide crash

Mike Ehrmann

At least 28 fans were injured by debris from a crash at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, and the Daytona 500 will run as scheduled on Sunday, NASCAR's senior VP of racing operations and Daytona's president announced at a joint press conference following the incident.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A total of 28 fans were injured on Saturday after a multicar crash sent debris from a car into the stands at Daytona International Speedway on the final lap of the DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Of those injured, 14 fans were treated on-site and 14 others were sent to nearby hospitals in Daytona and Port Orange. Neither NASCAR's Senior VP of Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell nor Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III would comment on the injuries sustained to fans during an impromptu press conference on Saturday night. They instead directed reporters to follow up at nearby Halifax Medical Center for additional information.

One person at Halifax is being treated for life-threatening injuries and two patients -- including one child -- are in critical condition, according to tweets from Jeff Gluck of USA Today.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to our race fans," Chitwood said. "Following the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency personnel on the scene immediately... We're in the process of repairing the facility and we will go racing tomorrow (in the Daytona 500)."

The accident featured 12 cars and was triggered when Regan Smith blocked Brad Keselowski coming to the checkered flag of the 300-mile race. Both the Smith and Keselowski cars began sliding sideways across the frontstretch and collected other contenders including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Travis Pastrana and Nelson Piquet Jr.

The car driven by Kyle Larson made contact with Keselowski and was sent into the air and into the outside retaining wall. The car was caught by the track's catchfence, but the front end of the car was shredded by the fencing, sending debris, including a tire and engine, into the spectator area.

One tire and wheel assembly was spotted six rows up into the grandstands and the engine caught fire. Larson was uninjured and immediately got out to observe the damage. All 12 drivers involved in the last lap accident were examined at the infield care center and released.

Damage to the track includes the fencing area immediately surrounding the frontstretch crossover gate that allows fans to move from the grandstands to the infield. NASCAR will not be able to repair the gate in time for tomorrow's race and will instead install a line of fencing in its place. Track officials do not expect the repairs, which began immediately after the accident, to delay Sunday's race.

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