What to Read Next

Why the Daytona crash should change auto racing for good

Alex Lloyd
24 February 2013

Watching Saturday's crash at the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona that injured at least 24 spectators brought back some frightful memories. In 2011, at the IndyCar race in Las Vegas, I was involved in a 15-car pile-up that took the life of my friend Dan Wheldon. Racing is dangerous, and as a driver, we acknowledge and accept the risks. Despite the legalese on the back of the tickets, the fans should not face the same risks. This shouldn't have happened.

Race car drivers disengage the part of the brain that dictates fear. It’s a unique ability, and impossible to comprehend. In many ways, it’s a product of naivety, believing that bad things simply won’t happen. I certainly felt like that, and even to this day, after the horrendous accident in Vegas, don’t fully grasp how lucky I was.

That naivety, the detachment from reality, is what will allow today’s Daytona 500 drivers — many of whom were involved in yesterday’s carnage — to race like nothing happened.

But let’s not pretend racecar drivers are an emotionless, impassive bunch. Situations like this affect us all. No matter our fearlessness, prior to this year’s 500, the drivers will kiss their wives that little bit longer, and squeeze their children that little bit tighter. The risks are more prominent, and the drivers, once again, choose to accept them.

I had a big accident during practice for the 2008 Indianapolis 500. I entered turn one at 234 mph when the rear-end snapped, and in an instant, I was headed backwards towards the wall. You hear people say how, when in dire situations, time stands still. And they’re right. I had time to think about why this was happening, how badly the car would be damaged, and how much this was going to hurt.

When you hit the wall that hard, it feels as if all the life has been sucked from your body. The world goes quiet, and your mind, like the car, grinds to an abrupt halt. It takes a minute or two before the sense of life seeps back into your veins.

That incident left me serving three days of sheet time in the hospital, and getting back behind the wheel was hard. But it’s what supports your family, so you accept the risks and carry on. When it’s your livelihood on the line you can do that; you detach from reality, close your visor, and get to work.

But that doesn't apply to the fans involved in yesterday’s horrendous accident. If you’ve seen the footage taken by the spectator situated just feet from where the tire landed in the grandstands, you’ll notice the normality of the lead up. The fans were on their feet, cheering their favorite drivers, blissfully unaware of the horror that would ensue.

Unquestionably, the fans could not have envisaged the devastation, but could NASCAR have been better prepared? Concerns about catch fencing have been prevalent for some time, spearheaded by Wheldon’s death in Las Vegas. As the safety of the cars, walls, equipment and regulations improve, fencing advancements remain slow.

Thick Plexiglas walls have been suggested, but material strong enough to withstand a 200-mph bullet, weighing 4,000 lbs., could cost an overwhelming amount. Ensuring every major venue switch to a product like this — if there is such a product —is, at this moment, unfeasible. NASCAR limits the speeds of its cars to minimize crash risks, but as Saturday's wreck shows, even at slower speeds tires and debris can penetrate today's cable-reinforced fencing.

But something has to be done. If we can’t find a solution for accidents like the Wheldon case, where the fence post fatally struck him to the head, then we must ensure a system that, at the very least, protects the spectators. NASCAR takes a lot of criticism for sticking to tradition too closely, but its race teams have as much engineering expertise as any in the world. Racing is about finding solution to challenges, and there's no tradition that should keep fans from better, smarter protection.

Alex Lloyd has raced the Indianapolis 500 four times, and was the IndyCar rookie of the year in 2010. He's been racing competitively since age 8.

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Is your insurance comp Laughing Behind Your Back?

New Studies Show that if you drive less than 55 miles a day you can save a ton on auto insurance.

You'll Love This Disney Movie Club Offer!

Get 4 Disney Movies For $1 With Membership. See Details. Exclusive Titles, Merchandise, Offers & Discounts. Plus, Free Shipping On Your Initial Order!

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

New Treatment Options Available for Lung Disease

Minimally invasive stem cell therapy is a treatment option that could help people with COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or pulmonary fibrosis.

Stop Paying Too Much For Your Prescriptions.

Drug prices vary wildly between pharmacies. GoodRx finds the lowest prices and discounts. Compare prices, print free coupons & save up to 80%.

How To Make Sagging Skin Look Tight and Lifted

[Watch] The easy and effective way consumers across the country are improving the look of their wrinkled and sagging skin without cosmetic procedures.

Read This Before You Buy Medigap Plan F

Plan F is the most popular Medicare Supplement plan, but there's another option that could save you money.

Toddler tantrum email series for moms

We get it. We’ve been there. Sign up for our email track for advice on how to handle different situations that may arise with your little one.

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.

Reconnect With Your High School Friends

Classmates® has the largest directory of high school class lists. Remember the good times and reconnect to create new memories.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of A Reverse Mortgage?

More Americans are accessing their home equity to support their retirement years. Speak with a professional and see what you may qualify for today.