Horrific NASCAR pileup raises concerns for fan safety

(CBS News) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 Sunday, while Danica Patrick finished eighth. But what everyone is still talking about is the horrific crash during a preliminary race on Saturday that injured more than 30 spectators.

Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Daytona was entering the final turn when a dozen stock cars collided at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour.

Kyle Larson's car went airborne. It hurtled into the 22-foot-high safety fence, just yards from Whitney Turner.

Whitney Turner suffered a shattered shinbone and sliced Achilles tendon.
Whitney Turner suffered a shattered and sliced Achilles tendon.
CBS News

"We're up on our feet, and all of a sudden we hear, 'Wreck, wreck!'" Turner says. "And the cars are going everywhere."

The pileup was captured on cellphone video.

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"We started seeing stuff fly everywhere," Turner recalls. "Debris, tires flying up in your face, not knowing if you're gonna live or die."

Debris shattered Turner's shinbone and sliced her Achilles tendon. Other fans suffered deep cuts and broken bones.

NASCAR and track officials investigating the wreck want to improve the safety of so-called "catch fences" at U.S. speedways. Daytona's steel pole, cable and wire fence is the industry standard.

IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay
IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay
CBS News

Ryan Hunter-Reay is the current champion of the IndyCar series, where car speeds typically approach 230 miles per hour. He races on many of the same tracks as NASCAR.

"At times it can be like a cheese grater," he says of the fence. "In some cases, it can shred the car apart and send debris into the stands."

"This incident gives us an opportunity as an open forum for IndyCar and NASCAR to get together and come up with some solutions on how to make our sport better and how we make it better for the fans, because that's what it's about," Hunter-Reay says.

A grandstand redesign was already planned for Daytona. Spectators could be moved back, but being close to the action is part of the allure for fans like Whitney Turner. On crutches, she made it back for Sunday's race.

Below is more cell phone video of the crash, taken by Jake McCabe:

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.