Daytona crash on minds of fans, other racing officials - WFLA News Channel 8

Daytona crash on minds of fans, other racing officials

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ST PETERSBURG -

We're getting a clearer picture of those terrifying seconds during a Nascar race at Daytona this weekend when 10 cars crashed, sending debris into the stands and hurting 28 people.

Hillsborough High School Coach Earl Garcia was watching the Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 with his wife and a friend about 150 yards on the far side of the finish line.

"The kid that was driving 32 ended up right in front of us - what was left of his car ... and Gilda, my wife, actually saw the tire go over the catch-fence," Garcia said. "Immediately we saw people frantically in the stands, which is an awful sight. You don't ever want to see that at a race track."

It wasn't the first time Garcia watched a crash in person. In 2002 he saw a truck racing crash come too close to his seat. He said the woman behind him suffered a broken leg during that accident.

"I was on the 8th row back when that was a bad one at Daytona and I learned my lesson," he said. "I'm up at least in the second level now."

Garcia says it's why so many race fans have a respect for the sport they're watching.

"It's a gladiator sport," he said. "You just pray every time they throw the green and when the checkered flies - everybody leaves there safe and sound - drivers and spectators alike."

The crash happened at a time when the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is taking shape.

"We're prepared for instances like that," said Tim Ramsberger, President of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "We don't expect them but if they were to happen on our track - we have full confidence the way we design and build the track with the block, the fence, the cabling and the poles ... that it will contain the cars on the track."

Crews are in the process of putting up 44,000 feet of chain-link fencing, 20,000 feet of steel-reinforced concrete block, and more than 12,000 tires for extra walls. It takes from February 15 until March 21 to get it all ready.

"There's been talk about doing our part to reduce the number of days that we're building this track but I think what happened on Saturday is a real good example of why we need to build this the right way," Ramsberger said.

He said the way racers compete on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg make racing here different.

"The style of racing we have here on the streets of St. Petersburg is considerably different than what you encounter on a high-speed oval," Ramsberger said. "We're a street course so we don't have the same consistent high-speed racing through the entire 1.8 miles of the track."

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