Fans injured in spectacular NASCAR crash at Daytona
Austin Dillon's car flies into fence; Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins Coke Zero 400
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Five NASCAR fans were treated for injuries early Monday after a rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 ended in a spectacular crash at Daytona International Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race, which ended at 2:41 a.m. with a horrific finish-line accident. The outcome wasn't in doubt as Earnhardt dominated the race.
But as the pack of cars chased him on a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, contact in traffic sent Austin Dillon's car flying upside down into the fence.
"And then you just see a bunch of smoke coming, and this car flies right at us," said Gabriella Owens, 14 weeks pregnant, who was sitting in the front row. "I turn in, a defense mechanism, and my brother pulls my parents in too."
The car tore down a section of fencing, and Dillon's car sailed back onto the track. His mangled car landed on its roof, and Casey Mears' crew members raced to pull Dillon from the wreckage.
"They come around everyone is excited, Dale Earnhardt is leading," said Mark Bartel, sitting in the 8th row on the front stretch. "We went from excitement to devastation."
The crew members quickly waved to signal that Dillon was fine, and the driver climbed from the car and raised his arms in the air.
"What's devastating is Dillon, there he is, winning the night before and then Sunday night we thought he was dead," said Bartel. "We thought there's no way that they're gonna pull this person out and he walked away and waved to the crowd. It was incredible."
Replays of the crash show parts of the car flying into the stands during impact.
The Gallina family said they discovered a chunk of aluminum that had come to rest under their seat in the first row.
"I pulled it out with my foot and told my son Dino 'this is still hot, I don't know if it's off the engine or fence,'" said Sheila Gallina. "I was just saying 5 minutes before those cars were going so fast that fence isn't going to protect us."
One fan was taken to a hospital and was later released. Four others were treated in the infield care center. Dillon suffered a bruised tailbone.
"Injuries we saw from people, there was no blood, it's incredible that no pieces flew in," said Owens. "A lot of the pieces were still stuck in the fence. So it's engineering and it's God."
Rain delayed the race for several hours Sunday before the green light finally dropped just before 11:45 p.m.
Improvements were made to the fencing around the track after a similar incident occurred in 2013 and more than 30 fans were injured. Speedway officials redesigned the fencing to be sturdier and further from the track.
2015 crash at Daytona -- Coke Zero 400
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