Should it be dangerous to be a fan?
You attended the event as a fan, but you left as a patient.
You showed up and probably paid $40 to park, but you left your car in the lot because you left in an ambulance.
And you liked it?
“That’s the mentality of the NASCAR fans. They come to see life on the edge and they want to participate in life on the edge. They actually, I think, want to participate in the danger.”
That was the assessment from Ed Hinton, senior writer for ESPN.com, a day after a 12-car crash on the final lap sent Kyle Larson’s car airborne and his burning engine through a catch fence. A tire shot into the stands and other debris sprayed into the lower and upper seating areas.
“The only way to describe it was like a bomb went off, and the car pretty much exploded,” one fan described.
Over 30 fans were injured, including seven who wound up spending the night in the hospital. And that’s what they signed up for?
“Some were hurt quite badly. But the majority of ‘em were minor injuries. I guarantee you about 65-70% of them have already been on their cell phones home bragging about being part of this. That’s just their mindset,” Hinton told ABC News.
Perhaps. But other fans had other ways to describe the experience: “It was freaky,” one fan told the AP. “I looked over and I saw a tire fly straight over the fence into the stands, but after that I didn’t see anything else. That was the worst thing I have seen, seeing that tire fly into the stands. I knew it was going to be severe.”
“Stuff flying everywhere, fluids, parts, pieces,” said another fan, who was in the line of fire but didn’t say either way whether he’d bragged about it over his phone.
As for the drivers, most of them seemed to relate. And that makes sense considering they spend their life risking their life.
“We’ve always known since racing was started this is a dangerous sport. But it’s, it’s hard. You know we assume that risk,” said Tony Stewart, who then went on to add that spectators don’t assume the risk of putting their life on the line.
Do they or don’t they? Ideally, spectators would never have to think twice about their own safety when attending a NASCAR event. But should they?
“I’m a plumber, okay? I grabbed my belt and wrapped it around his leg and that seemed to help because it cut down the bleeding,” said Terry Huckabee, whose quick-thinking might’ve saved the life of his own brother, who was sitting next to him in the lower stands and had his leg sliced open by a piece of shrapnel.
Is climbing in your own car more dangerous than watching race cars go around a track? Yes, no doubt. But, once again, you know the inherent risk when you buckle your own seat belt. Should you assume risk in a grandstand seat at the track?
“Never saw one quite as bad as we did today,” said Debbie, a longtime fan in attendance. “We were all praying because we knew (fans) got hurt badly. I’m a nurse.”
The argument goes that auto racing is no different than baseball or hockey, where balls and pucks can fly into the seating areas at any time with many fans unable to react in time. Here’s the difference — a baseball or puck isn’t tearing through the fencing in flames and packing the lethal velocity of car parts.
“Some of the patients who were released late last night and early this morning will be coming back to attend the event,” said Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. “And we’re going to make sure that they’ve got good accommodations to attend the event.”
Hey, it’s good to know that at least fans got that going for ‘em. Right?
Of course, the day after, not every fan was able to attend the Daytona 500.
“I’m not gonna go and leave him in the hospital,” Huckabee said about his brother. “I mean, maybe I’ll come over here and watch it on TV with him. I mean come on.”