As cars crossed the finish line early Monday morning in the Coke Zero 400, a huge wreck sent Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet airborne and tore down part of the catch fence, injuring several fans at Daytona International Speedway.
“It was very vicious,” Dillon said. “It’s a swishing around in there and the belts are loosening each hit, so the hits are getting more and more violent.
“By the fourth one, you know you’ve separated enough where your fourth one is going to hurt more than others. But like I said, I held on to the steering wheel as hard as I could.”
Dillon’s car ended up on its roof and then was smashed into by Brad Keselowski’s car.
“I had already actually relaxed when the 2 [of Keselowski] had hit me because all I can see is the roof and the windshield,” Dillon said. “I’m glad we build safe cars at RCR [Richard Childress Racing] and NASCAR.”
One fan was sent to a local hospital and was treated and released.
Dillon said after the race that NASCAR should reduce speeds.
“It’s not really acceptable, I don’t think,” Dillon said. “We’ve got to figure out something. I think our speeds are too high, I really do. I think everybody can get good racing with lower speeds, and we can work on that and then figure out a way to keep cars on the ground.
“That’s the next thing. We’re fighting hard to make the racing good. I hope fans enjoy all that. We don’t. That’s your job. You go out there and you hold it wide-open to the end, checkers or wreckers, and hope you make it through.”
Officials with the track and NASCAR said they will evaluate the performance of the catch fence. NASCAR also has taken Dillon’s car for a post-accident evaluation.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led a race-high 96 laps, was speechless as he crossed the finish line to win the Coke Zero 400.
“You hate to see that kind of wreck at the end,” Earnhardt said. “You are just on the verge of tears. I saw everything in the mirror pretty clearly … I just was very scared for whoever that car was. I didn’t care about anything except figuring out who was OK.
“The racing doesn’t matter anymore.”
The wreck started after Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick made contact as they crossed the finish line behind Earnhardt.
“Just snagged him and turned him as he was in the middle of the track,” Harvick said. “I hate that all happened, but just at the end of the race, it becomes pretty aggressive.”
Want to thank all the guys that came out to the car to check on me. We compete against each other every week but we are one family #NASCAR
— Austin Dillon (@austindillon3) July 6, 2015