Just a day before this year’s “Great American Race,” on the very same oval of asphalt, a racing calamity that left at least 30 onlookers injured Saturday has changed the pace of the 2013 Daytona 500.
A last-lap crash during a second-tier Series Drive4COPD 300 race sent debris flying, including a tire that ripped through the fence with some pieces reaching the upper deck of spectators, as the Associated Press reports. A forklift worked to remove driver Kyle Larson’s engine from the fence while emergency crews responded, treating 14 fans on site and sending 19 fans to the hospital, according to the AP. Hours after the race workers moved swiftly to begin repairing the fence and cleaning up the wreckage left behind.
Spectators snapped photos and uploaded videos to YouTube showing the terrifying incident, but within minutes the clips were removed by NASCAR, sparking public backlash over the sporting organization’s decision to do so.
NASCAR reserves all rights to film and broadcast of its events, but the prompt removal underscores the question of how the use of copyright infringement can control the realtime coverage, or even fan experience, of an event. The autoracing company released a statement to the Verge citing the decision was out of respect for the injured audience members. “Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident,” the statement said.
But YouTube has since reversed the blocking of fan videos, which had already gone viral despite NASCAR’s removal. In a statement provided by the Washington Post, YouTube said, “Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos.”
While crashes are nothing new to NASCAR, accidents involving fan injuries are a rarity. The wreck, fresh in spectators’ minds, raises new questions of safety at the sport’s most famous speedway, but officials remain confident in improving safety conditions “You try to prepare for as much as you can,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told the AP. “You also take away and learn from every incident.”
With the crash behind them and a rapid cleanup that had the speedway in good condition by early Sunday morning, fans are able to again focus on what they came to do: cheering on the drivers — hopefully staying safe during the main event.