Daytona reinforces cross-over gates, readies for groundbreaking on remodel

  • Article by: MARK LONG , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 4, 2013 - 5:25 PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Daytona International Speedway just completed one project and is about to start another.

NASCAR's most famous track finished installation of revamped cross-over gates Wednesday, a day before drivers and teams took to the high-banked oval to begin preparations for Saturday night's 400-mile race.

The gates were reinforced following a frightening wreck in February that injured nearly 30 spectators. Daytona and Talladega added cables at the crossover gates, which allow fans to move between the grandstands and the infield before and after races. The tracks also installed supplemental tethers between the gate frame and support posts.

"I felt before that it was safe place," track president Joie Chitwood III said. "We've been around 55 years and, yes, things happen. But we've done a really good job of giving fans a safe and fun environment. You never stop doing that."

One of the eight gates at Daytona collapsed when rookie Kyle Larson crashed on the final lap of the Nationwide Series race a day before the Daytona 500.

Larson's car went airborne, slammed into the fence and spewed debris into the stands. Larson was unharmed, but dozens of fans were taken to hospitals for treatment, including one who was hit by a tire.

Daytona spent hours repairing the fence before the 500. After the race, the track hired a structural engineering firm to review the fence and propose improvements. NASCAR also was involved in the process.

The next Daytona project is considerably bigger and way more expensive.

The 2 1/2-mile speedway is overhauling the frontstretch to enhance the "fan experience."

International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona and 12 other NASCAR tracks, estimates the redesign with cost between $375 million and $400 million.

The three-year project, scheduled to be completed by January 2016, begins Friday. And it won't have a traditional groundbreaking ceremony.

Chitwood came up with a creative and competitive campaign for the event, called "Daytona Rising."

He is pitting current and former NASCAR drivers and a crew chief in a driving skills test, a competition on Caterpillar front-end loaders that will give the winning team the honor of breaking ground on the redesign.

NASCAR drivers Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman are paired on one team. Fellow drivers Greg Biffle and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne comprise another team. And three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip and former crew chief Larry McReynolds form the final team.

The teams have to maneuver an obstacle course while carrying items including tires and sand. The event will be treated like real NASCAR races, complete with driver introductions, the national anthem and a Victory Lane celebration that includes champagne and trophies.

"I have a lot of input when it comes to doing fun and crazy things," Chitwood said. "Maybe it's because I was a stunt man. We thought if we're going to do this groundbreaking, we need something more than just shovels and a picture. Let's Daytona-style this thing. ... I'm kind of proud of it. This fits NASCAR. This fits Daytona. Let's not just do a photo with gold-platted shovels. This just feels like NASCAR.

"We're only going to do this one time in my lifetime, so we want to make sure we get it right."

The redevelopment will give Daytona's aging grandstands a modern look and feel. It will include expanded entrances and a series of escalators and elevators to transport fans to three different concourse levels, each featuring spacious and strategically-placed social "neighborhoods" along the nearly mile-long frontstretch. Those 11 neighborhoods, each measuring the size of a football field, will allow fans to meet and socialize during events without ever missing any on-track action.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close