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DIS President Joie Chitwood, III Talks on NASCAR Race Hub
Joie Chitwood on left
The past weekend’s scary incident where a portion of Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Nationwide Series car hurtled into the grandstand, sending as many as 28 people to the infield care center and nearby medical facilities for treatment.

Some of the injuries were critical, but not life threatening.

Host Steve Byrnes interviewed Chitwood about the next steps in the evaluation process, and what he anticipates could unfold in the months ahead.

Steve Byrnes: One refrain I kept hearing yesterday on pit road and in the garage, before the Daytona 500, was drivers saying, “We accept risk. It’s what we do. But we hate it when anything happens to our fan.”

Joie Chitwood, III: We all say the same thing. We don’t want our fans to have a bad experience at Daytona, let alone, that we have to transport them for any care from the properties. The key was that we were prepared for anything, and when the incident occurred, we responded to the emergency as a team. We got folks transported as quickly as possible; made sure we got to the fans who needed care immediately, sent right away. I think the key for us was that we were prepared. We have been operating the venue for 55 years. One hundred thousand people are in the front stretch grandstands, so you have to prepare for anything.

Unfortunately, we had that incident on Saturday, but the key was responding. As Steve (O’Donnell, NASCAR’s VP of Operations) said earlier, he’s reviewing the situation, understanding what occurred, and if there’s information that we can use to get better next time. The same thing happened in ’09 when Carl Edwards got into the fence at Talladega (Ala.). We actually brought in a structural engineer to review what we have, and based on their recommendations, we actually installed new fencing in 2010. We want to make sure we’re providing the best experience for our fans, possible.

Byrnes: Your facility doesn’t sit dormant until the next event, you made the point in talking about the Carl Edwards incident; you guys are evaluating your facility after every single event. I did not know that.

Chitwood, III: After every event, there are so many things that can occur, whether were returning from an ARCA event, returning a Truck Series event, obviously the Nationwide event, we’re also returning the property to get ready for motorcycles. We always have to make sure we have a great team around to keep an eye on the property. You never know what areas we have for concerns. The key is though, we have the right people on property to do that, but there is a chance to kind of take a break, take a look around after each event. We go out there and look at the race surface itself. We look at our safety measures, the safer barrier and the fence. You name it, we’ve got a long checklist of things that we do to be prepared. 

Byrnes: How does that process work now? Steve O’Donnell said that there’s going to be a thorough investigation, how does that move forward now?

Chitwood, III: We’ll work in concert with NASCAR as it relates to a timetable, and I think we referenced that we don’t have one yet. We are only 24 hours away from crowing the Daytona 500 champion in Jimmie Johnson. The key is getting the process in place, work through the structure of it, and start to review the information. The key is the car, the fencing, and trying to understand what really occurred. Once we get that information, then we can start to make some determinations from it. The key is to work with them, but the timetable, we’re still so early in the assessment period, literally, less than 24 hours from the finish of the Daytona 500, so we’ll get there, just make sure that we have a good process in place.

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