Steve O'Donnell, Joie Chitwood III press conference on Nationwide wreck
KERRY THARP: I want to thank everybody for their patience and understanding here this afternoon here at Daytona. At this time we have track president Joie Chitwood and also from NASCAR Senior Vice President For Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell that will update you on today's events.
|Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood (L) holds a news conference with NASCAR Nationwide Series President Steve O'Donnell |
|Getty Images for NASCAR|
First we'll hear from Joie, then from Steve. We still have a lot of things going on tonight. I hope you all understand that and take that into consideration. We'll take a handful of questions. We appreciate your cooperation, your patience and assistance.
At this time I'll call on president of Daytona International Speedway.
JOIE CHITWOOD III: First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans. Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols, and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately. We transported 14 people off property and treated 14 people at our on-track care center. We're in the process of repairing the facility and will be ready to go racing tomorrow.
STEVE O'DONNELL: Certainly on behalf of NASCAR, I want to echo Joie's statements about the fans that were injured here today. Our thoughts are with them and their families. As far as our drivers are concerned, all that were involved in the last-lap accident have been treated and released from the infield care center. We did have one driver that was transported earlier in the race, Michael Annett. He has been treat and will be at the hospital and is remaining there.
Joie talked about the track and the track is currently underway repairing the fencing. We're very confident that we'll be ready for tomorrow's event with the 55th running of the Daytona 500. As with any of these incidents, we'll conduct a thorough review and work closely with the tracks as we do with all our events, learn what we can and see what we can apply in the future.
KERRY THARP: We'll take a handful of questions.
Q. Do you have any idea in terms of the seriousness of the injuries involving the fans who were hurt?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: I'd have to refer you to Halifax for any conditions of the patients. It's not appropriate for me to comment on that.
Q. What sections of stands were most of the people injured and do you know what they were hit with?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: At this point as we responded to the incident, we transported immediately those patients that needed critical assistance.
We'll review ourselves in terms of where the debris flew and what we need to do with that. But it was the grandstands immediately outside of the fence where the car hit.
Q. Besides replacing that section of fence, are you going to make any other changes for the race tomorrow with regards to safety?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: At this point after every event, we review our property, but from an asphalt and fencing perspective. So we did that after our Duels and the truck race, we'll do the same thing to make sure that we're ready for tomorrow.
As a property that has been here for over 55 years, we make sure we make the right investments in our property. The only changes that will occur with the fencing that goes back, we will not have time to put the crossover gate that was there, so it will be strictly fencing for tomorrow.
Q. Steve, Joie just mentioned the crossover gate. I assume that was the point of impact. Seems like the most serious incidents involving fences is when the crossover gate is involved. Is there something that NASCAR can do going forward or studies that can be looked at to prevent this?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we look at this after every incident. We've learned in the past certain protocols put in place today are a result of prior incidents. Again, our initial evaluation is still ongoing. But it's certainly something we'll look at. If we can improve upon it, we'll certainly put that in play as soon as we can.
Q. Will fans be seated in those sections tomorrow or will you have to move anything around in terms of fans?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: We don't anticipate moving any of our fans. We had our safety protocols in place. Our security maintained a buffer that separates the fans from the fencing area. With the fencing being prepared tonight to our safety protocols, we expect to go racing tomorrow with no changes.
Q. Joie, there was some talk that the news conference you had earlier in the week about the changes to Daytona, if it was changed, the layout of the track, as you were laying it out in the news conference earlier, this would probably not have happened. Can you address that?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: I'm not sure that it's fair to compare an incident that occurred today with potentially the future development of the property. The key was that we were prepared, we responded, we had the appropriate personnel in place. We were able to transport the individuals that needed care off property. We dealt with the other people on property. The team right now is preparing and will be ready for tomorrow. I don't think it's fair to compare those two right now.
Q. Steve, it's rare that you see a car break apart the way that car did. How concerned are you with the way the car did break? What are your initial thoughts on that?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think, again, we're really early in what we've seen. Some of the things we have in place, tethers, that sort of thing, held up, did their job.
But certainly when you look at this incident, there are some things we can learn and evaluate. We'll take the car, we'll do that. We'll evaluate the fencing and see if there's anything we can learn from where gates are.
But, again, really initial right now. I think we need to take the time to really study it and see what we can improve on. If we can, certainly the safety of our fans is first and foremost and we'll make that happen.
Q. Joie, could you go over one more time where people were transported? Our understanding is that they were transported to Halifax as well as other hospitals.
JOIE CHITWOOD III: All I can report at this time is that 14 were transported off property. At that point emergency management make the decision on where they go. So for us, we know that 14 were transported off property, with 14 being seen on property.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much. Again, we thank you all for your patience and understanding. We will provide updates as we get them. We just wanted to give you what we had at this current time. Thank you very much.