Austin Dillon, the grandson of legendary team owner Richard Childress and a driver for Welcome’s RCR Enterprises, won the Xfinity Series race Saturday night. On the race’s final lap, just as Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line, chaos erupted behind the pack leader. I was there in the media infield center when race victor Dale Earnhardt Jr., and teammate Jimmie Johnson came into address the media sometime around 3 a.m. EDT because of the prolonged rain-delay (another controversy but not almost as important today).
In the meantime, Dillon said he can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. The project will include replacing the entire catch fence.
Dillon’s No. 3 auto went airborne and into the fence, tearing part of it down, flipped and landed on its roof.
Many crew members ran from their pit stalls to Dillon’s aide.
Shockingly, Austin walked away from the crash.
“Coming to the checkered there…and after that it was just insane”. Like everyone else, his mind was not so much on winning but the insane carnage that ensued behind him. Thirteen fans who were in proximity to crash debris from the catchfence were also checked for injuries at the scene. Eight declined treatment, four were treated on site, and one was taken to the hospital in stable condition, he said.
Dillon is recovering, but said on a teleconference Tuesday morning, the fence is a lifesaver. I … hope everybody in the stands is all right. “I’m more thankful that everybody is OK than to be standing here in Victory Lane, that is for sure”. “It is great to have the focus of NASCAR on the tracks…to make the cars safe”. It got my tailbone pretty good and my arm. He went on to thank everybody for their concern on Twiiter, just a few hours after the life-threatening crash.
Dillon then invoked an old racing saying.
“It’s not really acceptable I don’t think. We can work at that, and then figure out a way to keep the cars on the ground”, Dillon said.
“That scared the hell out of me, I will be honest with you”, Earnhardt said. That’s the next thing. I think if you’re at Talladega, this wreck might not happen because it’s a little bit wider. Dillon called for change from NASCAR to these restrictor plate races, saying the speeds were too high, making airborne cars more likely, and it was an unacceptable situation. “I didn’t care about anything other than figuring out who was OK”. “It’s a recipe for disaster because drivers are put into a box”.
“No matter how safe we can make the sport, when you are going that amount of speed, things happen”. It’s nearly as guaranteed as the sun rising each day. It’s hurled into the air over several cars and into catch cables feet away from spectators.
According to a report from Bob Pockrass of ESPN, Matt Morgan a high-powered attorney in Florida has confirmed that he has taken on the cases of two Daytona fans who were injured at the track. Earnhardt was the last driver killed on the track in a Sprint Cup race.
Ben White is a motorsports columnist for The Dispatch.