DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tony Stewart won a chaotic Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway today that ended with a frightening last-lap crash that appeared to injure fans when rookie Kyle Larson's car sailed into the fence that separates the track from the seats.
The front end of Larson's car was ripped away, and a gaping hole was cut in the fencing. Pieces of the car sailed into the grandstands and emergency workers could be seen attending to fans.
Ambulance sirens were heard behind the stands, which were briefly shrouded in smoke from Larson's burning engine, which appeared to be wedged into the fence.
A subdued Stewart did not celebrate in Victory Lane.
"The important thing is what going on on the front-stretch right now," the three-time NASCAR champion said. "We've always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it's hard. We assume that risk, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it.
"So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now because that was ... I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn't look good from where I was at."
Regan Smith was leading coming to the checkered flag when he was turned sideways into the wall. Cars began wrecking all over the track, and Larson's car went sailing into the fence.
Stewart slid through the wreckage to the win.
When Larson's car came to a stop, it was missing its entire front end. The 20-year-old, who made his Daytona debut this week, said he first thought of the fans.
"I hope all the fans are OK and all the drivers are all right," Larson said. "I took a couple big hits there and saw my engine was gone. Just hope everybody's all right."