NASCAR Media Conference
Topics: NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway, Drive4COPD 300, Daytona 500
Joie Chitwood, III
February 24, 2013
JOIE CHITWOOD III: Good morning. I just want to reiterate how important our fans are to us. As we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, we had our guest services team dispatched to Halifax and other medical institutions last night. We helped all of those released from the medical care to get reunited to family and friends, personal items, cars. We transported some of our fans back to Orlando. Throughout the night, we were making sure those released were getting proper care from us as it relates to getting connected back to everyone.
From an operations perspective, at 8 a.m., we met with NASCAR. We reviewed all of the repairs we made last evening. We worked late into the evening and are prepared to go racing today.
As you can see from the fencing that we repaired, we did not put the gate back in. We just had a straight fence there and that was based on timing of being ready today to run the Daytona 500.
And lastly, I just wanted to share as it relates to my ability to talk about specifics about patients, due to privacy law, I can really only be commenting on transporting individuals off property. The patient themselves or the medical institutions are the only ones by privacy law that can comment on conditions of patients. As it relates to Daytona and myself, I'm not allowed to do that unless I'm given permission by the patients themselves.
I'll be happy to take some questions.
Q. Could you just clarify if you had had time to find out whether the tire that went into the stands actually went over the fence or through the hole that was created, and if you could confirm that debris actually reached the second level of the grandstand?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: At this point, I probably have to direct part of that question to NASCAR in terms of the review of how the accident occurred, how the car got into the fence. That's probably something from a competition perspective.
I do know that we transported individuals from both the lower level and upper level on the other side of that fence area.
Q. How high is that catch fence and do you know if the crossover area, whether that fence worked properly or was any part of that compromise?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: That fence is 22 feet. That is the standard across the frontstretch. Following the 2009 Carl Edwards incident at Talladega, we brought in a structural engineering firm to review all of our fencing arrangements. We took all of them recommendations they made, and we actually installed new fencing at Daytona International Speedway prior to the 2010 season. So felt like we had done everything with respect to protocol in making sure we were prepared for yesterday's event.
Q. There's been a lot of conflicting reports about the number of injuries from the crash. Are you saying there were 28 injuries from the crash itself?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: What I can say is that we physically transported 14 customers from our property to a medical facility. We also saw 14 individuals at our first aid or on‑track care centers. Those individuals were released.
There could be other patients who self‑admit. As it relates to numbers today, I don't have that detail, that if another fan drove themselves to a medical facility, that they self‑admitted themselves based on that.
What I can tell you is, we transported 14 customers to medical facilities and we treated 14 others at our care centers that were released.
Q. You didn't put the catch fence back in the section that was repaired. Did you give any thought to removing the gates and other sections?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: No.
Q. I know in situations like this, you guys will look at everything. In theory, the fence did its job, it kept the car in the track. The larger issue is the debris that went into the stands. In your mind, do you have any idea yet what is the bigger problem?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: I don't in terms of a bigger problem. I think that's the key of working with NASCAR. I think NASCAR has done a great job with all the safety things they've added to, whether it was the Car of Tomorrow or the Gen‑6. I think we sit down and review everything in terms of what happened. I think NASCAR from a competition perspective will continue to address that, and we'd be happy, too.
I think the same thing happened following the 2009 incident which caused us to relook at our policies and bring in a firm to take a look at what we do. We've made improvements since then. I think that's the key that we learn from this and figure out what else we need to do.
Q. Do you expect to hear from fans who may have tickets in that area today and can or will they be accommodated should they want to move?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: Our guest service team is prepared throughout the entire venue, if fans are unhappy with the way their seating location or if they have any incidents, we would relocate them. So we'll treat that area like we do every other area of the grandstand. If a fan is not comfortable where they're sitting, we make every accommodation we can.
Q. Since you are doing a renovation, hope to, will you look at raising the seats, starting the grandstands at a higher level than where they are right now? The fans love being in the middle of it all. From a safety standpoint, should we look at racing where the grandstand begins?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: It's tough to connect the two right now in terms of a potential redevelopment and what occurred. We were prepared yesterday, had emergency medical respond. As we learn from this, you bet. If there are things that we can incorporate into the future, whether it's the current property now or any other redevelopment, we will.
The key is sitting down with NASCAR, finding out the things that happened and how we deal with them. I think we did that in '09. I think we have a case in example where we then made improvements to what we do now and before the 2010 season replaced all the fencing.
Q. Can you talk us through the mechanics of the review process, how long it takes, how many people will be involved, who will be involved and so forth.
JOIE CHITWOOD III: You know, probably for me, I'd have to refer that one to NASCAR because I think a lot of the elements, they're going to drive that with the competition side of it and we'll be there every step of the way.
But I think from a process perspective, that ultimately will come from NASCAR.
Q. Some of the drivers say restrictor plate racing is exciting, but a recipe for disaster. Can you expound from that to your never‑ending search to make the Speedway safer and safer.
JOIE CHITWOOD III: Well, not to speak for NASCAR, but I think I can comment that I think both NASCAR and Daytona share the same feelings. If there's opportunities to improve things, we will, whether it's on‑track product, whether it's safety, safety for the fans, safety for the drivers.
I don't think either entity is sitting back. I think we're all looking at ways to keep getting better and I think that's the key. I'm sure through this process, we'll learn some things that we can incorporate moving forward. But the goal is we're both committed to that.
Q. With the fans that were not so seriously injured last night, how many of them were planning on being at today's race, if you made any special accommodations or arrangements for them?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: Some of the patients who were released late last night and early this morning will be coming back to attend the event, and we're going to make sure they've got good accommodations to enjoy the event. That was a key on some of the guests that were released, they wanted to make sure they could come back to the race today.
Q. Based on yesterday, you know that the people sitting there face a potential risk watching the race from those seats. Why not move them?
JOIE CHITWOOD III: Well, we have over 100,000 seats on the frontstretch. I think we've got very good safety protocols. We had a structural engineering firm come in to look at our fencing. Based on their recommendations, we installed a new fence.
I think we've done a great job being prepared for our racing events. Incidents do happen and I think those are the exception. If you look at our 55 years in the business, we have a pretty good safety track record. I think we're prepared today. We met with NASCAR this morning to review everything we did last night, to actually inspect what we repaired.
I feel like we're going to do a great job for our fans today. NASCAR is going to give them a great race. We're going to give them a great experience. Hopefully everyone is looking forward to the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
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