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Kyle Larson wreck leads to gate reinforcement at Daytona, Talladega

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013

The crossover gates at two of NASCAR’s biggest tracks have been reinforced following a third-party review of a Feb. 23 accident at Daytona International Speedway that injured more than two dozen race fans.

On Wednesday, officials with NASCAR, Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway announced additional cables and have been installed at the eight crossover gates at each track. Tethers have also been added between the gate frames and support posts.

The gates allow fans and officials to move between the grandstands and infield areas before and after races.

The changes were recommended in a review by an outside structural engineering firm, HNTB, and put the crossover gate areas more in line with the rest of the catch fencing as far as reinforcement.

“Fan safety is an ongoing process and we’re going to continue to look at the fan experience across all our venues for future improvement as we continue,” Daytona President Joie Chitwood said.

“We felt very good with the design and the recommendation to improve the crossover gates but (we’re going to) keep the gates at this time.”

It is possible other tracks used in NASCAR’s three national series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks – could eventually implement the crossover gate changes as well, said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president of race operations.

The crossover gate near the finish line at Daytona is where Kyle Larson’s car hit the fencing during the last lap of the Nationwide Series season opener.

Larson’s car slammed into the fence, sending a tire and other debris into the grandstands. At least 28 fans were injured in the incident.

Videos showed the tire, which went into the stands, traveled through the opening created in the crossover gate area, not over the fence, O’Donnell said.

No other changes are planned for NASCAR’s visit to Talladega next month, which like Daytona requires cars to use restrictor plates to slow speeds.

O’Donnell said an examination of the remains of Larson’s car have so far produced no anomalies.

“We’re breaking down every part and piece to see if there’s anything in addition we can learn and share with the team,” he said.

Larson’s No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports car remains at NASCAR’s research and development center in Concord.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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