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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway, Drive4COPD 300, Daytona 500

NASCAR Media Conference

Steve O'Donnell
February 24, 2013


STEVE O'DONNELL: Again, our thoughts and prayers are with those who were affected last night. As you heard.
Joie say this morning, we worked closely together with the racetrack. We're confident with the repairs put in place. It will be an ongoing process with us for the racetrack. We have an R&D center up in Concord, North Carolina, that specializes in looking at things like that.
We'll bring in the best and brightest. Anything we can learn will be put in place. We're ready to go racing at 1:00 today. But again, our thoughts are with those affected.

Q. Can you talk about NASCAR's never‑ending search to continue the safety. The cars were very safe yesterday. Did you notice anything there?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think for the most part the car held up. The tethers held up. Obviously we can always learn. When a car gets up into the fence, that's something we have to take back, analyze everything we can. We'll do just that and the process has started.

Q. (Question regarding the wheels and axles.)
STEVE O'DONNELL: The tethers did hold on, but the challenge is that piece obviously got away when it hit the fence. That's something, again, we can learn.
The tethers came from an incident where we learned with a tire going and escaping from the cars. We implemented tethers. Now we've got to take another look and say, Hey, is that the best practice or is there more that we can do.

Q. (Question regarding crossover gate.)
STEVE O'DONNELL: The reason we didn't put that back in was due to a timing standpoint. It is something we'll look at. Again, we've got to evaluate that and don't have the exact answer today.

Q. You're saying you're going to have a major change and research project?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's something we've always looked at. This is not something new. As you heard Joie say, new fences were put in in 2010. It's something we look at with outside experts. This will be an evolving process. If there's something we can learn today, tomorrow, we'll implement that.

Q. Did the car hit the pole and the gate?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We're still reviewing all the film.

Q. How can NASCAR improve fan safety?
STEVE O'DONNELL: When you look at NASCAR as a whole, that's what we try to do every day. Our fans are first and foremost for us to have an exciting and safe experience at the track, so that's what we're going to continue to look at.

Q. Will anything be looked at from a competition standpoint about blocking and things like that at the end of the race, that might have been a factor in this incident?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's always something we review. Not new to Superspeedway racing. We've been racing here for 55 years.
We'll always analyze every race and see what could be different and we'll put that in place again.

Q. You've been racing here for 55 years, but there's going to be questions whether you should still be racing here or you could alter the way that cars run here. Would that be part of the review?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We're very confident that we'll be racing here. Obviously, like I said, it's something we look at after every race. Unfortunately incidents take place at other tracks as well that we review.
Daytona is a place we will be at.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Again, that's something we're going to look at.

Q. Are you concerned about the safety of fans in areas like that with the new car?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we're confident. The Gen‑6 car was developed based on the COT, which took safety first and foremost into account. Anything we learned was put into the Gen‑6 car. We'll continue to evaluate that if we can.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I do not. I know the total was 28, 14 evaluated here.

Q. Is there a reason some of the large support cables were replaced?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I'd have to look at that. I'm not sure.

Q. Can you talk about as far as what you saw yesterday? Obviously a horrific scene, but do you feel fortunate in a sense that it wasn't worse?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I do. I think one of the things that we train for every year in January, we bring all the tracks and the best and brightest emergency service workers together to train. Hopefully we never have to put that in place for an incident like what you saw yesterday.
Our reaction that you saw from our medical and safety personnel was very good. I think we can always learn. We'll review that. But very happy with how that response took place for the fans.

Q. Have you gotten any feedback from the fans other than those injured, any reaction or opinion? Most fans were relatively understanding of it.
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think most fans share the same concern we do for those affected. They're sending their best wishes to those affected and their families.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Our protocol would have been obviously first and foremost to respond to the fans. Difficult to say because it could have been different circumstances. Usually a red flag, then you would have seen everything from a reaction standpoint that you saw yesterday from emergency personnel. I think Mike Phillips and the track dispatched every person we could. So obviously we would red flag the race and go from there and see what the situation was.

Q. Is it possible you could stop the race at that point?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I can't speculate.

Q. Is it impossible for you to ask for all crossover gates to be removed in the future?
STEVE O'DONNELL: If that's what we thought the experts said we should do, we'd certainly take a look at that. I think it's way too soon to make that kind of a statement without really studying exactly what happened and apply what we can from there.

Q. What is the role of NASCAR as related to the track on this? How do you work together moving forward?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's a mutual process. We work together on every step of the way. We'll bring in some outside experts, particularly through our research and development center. That's been how we got to the SAFER barrier. We'll look at fencing as well. It will be a group of experts that we'll involve.

Q. Have you had a chance to look at the accident to determine why that car got off the ground?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Short answer is no. As the cars are coming to the checkered flag, obviously people are not letting off the gas. Speeds play into this. We'll look at that, speeds versus maybe where they were under caution with somebody spinning. We'll take a further look at that.

Q. How long do you think it will take?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I'm not going to put a timetable on it. That's what we do, each and every day we look at safety.
We'll bring in whoever has ideas, the best and brightest. We work with a lot of the top universities. We've done that with the SAFER barrier. We'll continue to look at that, but for timetable.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I'm not sure at this point.

Q. Have you talked to drivers, any reaction?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I have not, no.

Q. Can you give us any specifics at how you're going to look at the car, what you're looking for, what parts?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think a little bit early. But we'll bring that back. We'll look at every piece. What came off, what didn't. What held. We'll review the film of where it hit and just look at what, if anything, every aspect of that car will be looked at.

Q. A fan was interviewed last night and he said it's going to be a while before he goes to a Sprint Cup race again. If there are fans that are nervous, what would you tell them?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I would tell them that the fans are our first priority. Obviously we want everybody to be safe at an event. We've talked to the Speedway. We're confident in what's in place at today's event. Certainly still thinking about those affected, but we're confident to move forward for this race.

Q. Will there be extra care down there today?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We think the care that was in place was adequate. As I said, the fence has been repaired.
Thank you.

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