Bodine, fans escape serious injury in firey crash news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A crash during the first-ever truck race at Daytona sent debris and a ball of flames into the grandstand Friday, injuring five fans and ripping off part of the safety fence.

The wreck midway through the Daytona 250 also injured driver Geoffrey Bodine, whose truck slammed into the wall near the finish line at about 190 mph and cartwheeled down the track in flames. Eleven trucks were involved in the accident.

Daytona 250 Craftsman Truck series race
The crash began as three cars crashed into each other in the tri-oval portion of the race track, setting off a chain reaction.
Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 champion who failed to qualify for this year's race, was taken to the Halifax Medical Center along with driver Jimmy Kitchens, who was not seriously hurt.

Dr. Jerry Punch reported from the hospital that Bodine is alert and neurologically sound. He suffered a concussion, facial laceration, multiple bruises, right wrist fracture and a small fracture to a vertebra, and is in the intensive care unit in serious, but stable condition.

Doctors say Bodine will not be able to race because of the wrist injury. It has not been determined how much time he will miss.

"I've never had a wreck like that in my life," Bodine said from the hospital. "I was fully aware of the trouble down on the inside of me. I saw they were coming up into me, and then I just went on a wild ride.

"My concerns are with the fans that were injured, and I wish them all the best. I want to thank everyone for all their support and want them to know that I will be fine."

Five spectators were injured from flying debris after the trucks crash, none of the injuries were serious. They were treated and released from the hospital. One with a facial laceration, one with a slight head injury, one with an elbow injury, one with a lip injury and one with a forearm injury.

Bodine's Ford disintegrated into an unrecognizable heap of scrap metal in the crash on the front straightaway.

"Pretty scary. To go through that kind of motion in that truck, it's pretty violent," said Todd Bodine, the driver's brother, who competes in the Busch series.

"I was scared stiff. I've seen some bad wrecks, been in a couple bad wrecks. That was probably one of the most violent wrecks you'll ever see."

The truck hit the 3-foot-high wall, which supports the 12-foot-high safety fence, and burst into flames. As it careened down the track, flipping wildly along the way, it was hit at least two more times by trucks.

The engine was torn away from the truck body and landed on the grass in a thick black cloud of smoke.

"There was so much smoke I couldn't see anything," Lonnie Rush said. "I checked up and everything turned loose. I was hitting the brakes, trying to downshift and do everything you do, and it just started spinning."

The Craftsman Truck Series race was making its debut at the Daytona International Speedway. The 2½-mile oval is the biggest and fastest track ever run by the 6-year-old series.

The force of the crash tore about 50 feet of wire mesh away from steel support poles, several of which were also snapped off.

The second half was run without any crashes. Mike Wallace won with a thrilling last-lap pass of Andy Houston. The race was extremely competitive with a series-record 31 lead changes among 12 drivers.

It was not immediately clear how long the race would be delayed by the damage. Workers were trying to fix it. The International Race of Champions was scheduled for later in the day.

The crash on the 57th of 100 laps caused the fifth caution of the race. The accident and earlier crashes took out about half of 36 starters. The race was extremely competitive with a series record 21 lead changes by the halfway mark.

The crash was similar to one by Winston Cup driver Bobby Allison at Talladega, Ala., in May 1987. As a result of that crash, NASCAR mandated restrictor plates on carburetors to reduce speeds at Talladega and Daytona, its two biggest and fastest tracks.

The trucks, however, were not considered fast enough to warrant them, although they still approached 190 mph at Daytona. Winston Cup cars ran over 210 mph without the plates.

When the truck slammed into the wall, about 10 feet from the first row of the grandstand, it sent a ball of flames along the fence line and debris into the stands. The truck then bounced back into the line of traffic, setting off the chain-reaction accident.

Spectator injuries have been a major concern for NASCAR since Allison's crash in Talladega. A woman lost an eye after being hit by debris from Allison's car after it flew into the air and tore down nearly 100 feet of fencing.

There have been no spectator deaths in NASCAR events, but the open-wheel circuits have not been as fortunate.

In July 1998, three fans were killed and six others injured at Michigan Speedway when a tire and suspension pieces from a crash during a CART race flew into the stands.

Only 10 months later, three fans were killed and several others injured at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., from flying debris at a wreck during an Indy Racing League event.

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