NASCAR has a bit of a problem and itís not fan loyalty, rather, itís keeping loyal fans safe.
On Feb. 23, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway, 33 people were injured after a horrific wreck that sent chunks of debris into the stands.
The 12-car crash began as the front-runners approached the checkered flag. Leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski for the win, triggering the pileup.
Kyle Larsonís burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence. Parts and pieces of his car sprayed into the stands, including a tire that cleared the top of the fence and landed midway up the spectator section closest to the track.
No one was killed, but there were serious injuries and thatís enough to warrant changes. When it comes to racing, fan injuries are rare, but they still happen. Itís time for the sport to look at moving fans farther away from the protective fence. In all, since 1998, according to data collected by the Charlotte Observer, at least 15 spectators have died in this country at racing events.
Since 2011, the racetrack has installed better guardrails and upgraded its emergency communication system. But, there has to be more not only from NASCAR, but fans have to take charge of their own safety as well. Sitting in the front row of a boxing match isnít nearly as treacherous as it could be at a NASCAR event.
Along the grandstand where the accident occurred, the fence is 21-feet high and is reinforced with thick steel cables. I think that is an excellent start, but NASCAR is not only going to have the raise the height, but theyíre going to have to seriously consider moving fans back to a safer viewing distance.
I love being close to the action just like any other fan, but by no means do I want to be the action. The fence that NASCAR employs as a shield to protect fans is only the first line of defense for fans. Racing officials have a duty to protect fans, but fans also have a responsibility their own safety.