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Seven fans hurt by Daytona debris still in hospital

Early issue: Kasey Kahne (5) spins, triggering an early wreck involving the cars of Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and others.

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Early issue: Kasey Kahne (5) spins, triggering an early wreck involving the cars of Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and others.

DAYTONA BEACH — Seven fans remained hospitalized Sunday, a day after a horrific crash injured at least 28 people in the Nationwide series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Halifax Health said in a statement that seven patients remained at its facilities for injuries sustained after Kyle Larson's car flew into the catch fence on the last stretch of Saturday's final lap and sent debris into the upper and lower sections of the grandstands.

The two fans that were most critically injured — one of them a child — were upgraded to stable condition.

Meanwhile, Fran McCabe of Ormond Beach was back in her customary seat on Sunday in Section H, a few rows up from the fence along the frontstretch.

And that was where they sat Saturday as Larson's car slammed into the fence right in front of them.

"My heart's still pounding," McCabe, 59, said of the terror the day before. "We saw the car come through. The wheel went right over my husband's head. The suspension went over mine. The tire landed on a guy a few rows back. The engine landed right there, on fire. It was very scary."

Speedway officials worked late Saturday to repair the track. The speedway replaced the crossover gate — the stretch of fence that opens to allow fans to go from the grandstands to the infield — with a normal section of fence. The message "New 2-23-13" was written in Sharpie on a freshly installed metal pole.

The spot where the wreck happened didn't seem to inspire much fear among fans. Hours before the race, many took turns posing and taking photos in front of the fence. One man laid down on the track and spreads his arms.

Race officials said they were continuing to review what happened to the car and fence so they can make safety improvements.

"This will be an evolving process," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations. "If there's something we can learn today, tomorrow, we'll implement that."

DIS president Joie Chitwood said if any fans were uncomfortable with their up-close seating for Sunday, officials would work to move them.

Favorites sidelined early: Tony Stewart extended his winless streak in the Great American Race to 15 races after an early wreck dashed his victory hopes.

On Lap 34, Kyle Busch nudged Kasey Kahne near the front of the pack in the tri-oval to start a nine-car wreck. Kahne's No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy veered left into Juan Montoya, and the wreck collected Stewart, who has won 18 races at Daytona but not the 500.

"I don't know what started it," Stewart said, "but we just got caught up in another wreck."

The crash also ended hopes for Kevin Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 champ who won the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel this month.

Martin on money: Mark Martin made big bucks with 50 Cent by his side.

Martin has never been a fan of restrictor-plate racing.

But this event ended considerably better than most of Martin's others on plate tracks, as he finished third with the rapper being in the No. 55 team's pit before and during the race.

"We told 50 Cent if we won the race, he would have to change his name to 55 Cent for one day," Martin said.

Bad streak for Edwards: Carl Edwards' day also ended early to continue his rough start to 2013. On Lap 139, Trevor Bayne tapped Brad Keselowski to start a chain reaction that ended in Edwards' No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford going to the garage. That was Edwards' fourth wreck at Daytona in Speedweeks and his fifth at the track this year. "This has not been fun," Edwards said.

JGR fades: Joe Gibbs Racing controlled the race with 51 laps left before car problems ruined their day. JGR held the top three spots — defending champ Matt Kenseth led Denny Hamlin and Busch — when smoke came out of Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota. "Disappointing end to a great day," said Kenseth, who led 86 of 200 laps. Two laps later, the motor in Busch's No. 18 broke.

Local ties: Tampa native Aric Almirola finished 13th, and Zephyrhills' David Reutimann took 16th, his best performance since an 11th-place run at Daytona in July.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Seven fans hurt by Daytona debris still in hospital 02/24/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 12:07am]

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