What the Daytona crash means for Charlotte Motor Speedway

What the Daytona crash means for Charlotte Motor Speedway


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC


Posted on February 25, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 25 at 8:41 PM

CONCORD, N.C. -- Charlotte Motor Speedway is monitoring the investigation into the fiery crash Saturday in Daytona.

Scott Cooper, the spokesman for the organization says every incident is a learning opportunity.  If the investigation reveals more precautions must be taken to protect fans,  it will be considered.

Ron LeMasters witnessed the crash in Daytona on Saturday. He was there with 60 fans from the NASCAR Member's Club in Charlotte. As the organization's managing editor, he has seen many crashes first-hand.

"We knew it was going to be bad when it got up in the fence," says LeMasters.

Despite public questions following the 12-car wreck that injured 28 people over the weekend, LeMasters does not see a repeat of Daytona happening in Charlotte.

Along with existing safeguards in place, he says Charlotte's track is not as steep compared to Daytona.

"It's like running around in a bowl. You know there's a lot more inertia and centrifugal force--the faster it goes this way, the faster it goes outward. In Charlotte, it comes off the bank and into a flat surface,” LeMasters explained, “If you are going to have trouble, it is in turn four or turn two."

The height of the turning bank in Charlotte measures at a flatter 24 degrees, compared to 31 in Daytona, 33 in Talladega, and 35 in Bristol.

While the speeds can reach up to 200 mph, LeMasters says Daytona's "accordion" style of racing, in which cars travel inches apart increases the risk of a crash. In Charlotte, racers are more spread apart, although, crashes are still part of the experience.

He calls this an isolated incident, and knows it won't deter fans from coming to the tracks.

"Racing people know when something crashes, everything goes outward. We know they are going to protect the fans."

In 1999, three people were killed when a tire and debris made its ways into the grandstand at turn 4.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, as a result, extended catch fences from 14 to 21-feet. Twenty-two galvanized cables reinforce the mesh covering from top to bottom. It is anchored four-feet deep in concrete.

The park also required car parts be tethered to the body of the vehicles, but as LeMaster notes, even with such measures in place at Daytona, there is no guarantee.

"It's physics, you can't legislate physics; you can only be prepared for the worse."