(Photo: Kevin Liles, USA TODAY Sports)
Jeff Gluck, USA TODAY Sports
AVONDALE, Ariz. - NASCAR plans to consult with fencing experts and reconstruct Kyle Larson's car as part of an investigation into the violent Nationwide Series crash at Daytona International Speedway that injured at least 28 fans last Saturday.
Two fans remain hospitalized at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president for racing operations, told reporters Saturday.
In a news conference at Phoenix International Raceway, O'Donnell laid out NASCAR's preliminary plans to look into what happened in the wreck and how such incidents could be prevented in the future.
"If you look at the history of safety, where walls have evolved, where we've put new foam in, the next evolution is the fence," O'Donnell said.
All of the safety elements worked on Larson's car, O'Donnell said - the driver was uninjured - but NASCAR was concerned about the way Larson's car came apart. When it flew into the fence, it hit a gate area and sheared the front end from the car.
The engine and a tire ended up in the grandstands, along with other pieces.
"Our focus is going to be if the elements in the car did their job ... what happened once that car impacted the fence," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell said NASCAR will focus on the gate area, beginning immediately with the May race at Talladega. Most tracks have a crossover gate that can be opened and closed for people to use when there are no cars on the track.
But there's concern the gate areas might make for a weak spot in the fencing.
"We'll certainly look at fencing in general," O'Donnell said. "But I think that particular area, the fact that it is a gate, did that impact it? "We know the gate was locked, we know it was secure, but does that provide as much stability as the rest of the fencing?
"We believed it did. But we've got to now take a look at that based on this impact."
Larson's destroyed car remained at Daytona for a week in order for the track's experts to examine it. O'Donnell said the car is now in transit to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. The Turner Scott Motorsports team will have a joint session with NASCAR to discuss how the car was built and fabricated.
NASCAR will also make an effort to put the car back together and use video to determine what parts came off at what time.
O'Donnell said the car's tethers - which secure parts like the wheels to the car's body in order for it not to fly off - did their job and did not break. But the entire piece the tether was attached to was sheared from the car, which needs more investigation.
The tire that ended up in the stands went through the fence - not over - according to NASCAR's preliminary investigation.
"When you look at that car, the way it pivoted going into the fence, all four tires are on there," O'Donnell said. "We think it would be impossible for the tire to come back and go back over the fence. Everything we've seen so far says it went through that gate area."
On a separate note, O'Donnell said NASCAR officials were concerned with injuries sustained by Michael Annett. After being involved in an earlier wreck during the same race, Annett was found to have suffered a broken sternum and required surgery that will keep him out of the car for two months. O'Donnell said Annett's injury was one "we have not seen for some time now."
Also, O'Donnell said NASCAR "believed strongly" it issued the appropriate punishment in the case of Jeremy Clements, who uttered a racial slur in the presence of an MTV reporter last week. Clements, suspended indefinitely, will go through a program with renowned human rights activist Richard Lapchick before being allowed to drive again.