How close is too close for NASCAR fans?

How close is too close for NASCAR fans?
February 23, 2013, 8:15 pm
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"Horrific" doesn't seem to capture the scene.

On a day when NASCAR is celebrating its biggest weekend, the risks of racing became crystal clear.

The drivers accept the dangers of their sport, but the fans might not need to do the same. If cars bumping and drafting at speeds of over 200 miles per hour, is it really smart to allow the fans that close to a potential tragedy? We're not talking about a bat or a ball flying into the stands. These are cars filled with fuel racing at insane speeds. Even if the fans waive their rights and are willing to accept the possible consequences, should NASCAR allow them to do so?

Saturday's violent accident came on the last lap at Daytona International Speedway, just like the fatal crash that took the life of racing legend Dale Earnhardt 12 years ago.

This time the drivers were unharmed.

The fans weren't as lucky.

33 spectators were injured, and 14 of them were transported off-sight for medical treatment. NASCAR announced that two of the fans suffered "major injuries," including a 14-year-old in critical condition.

Tony Stewart won the Nationwide race, but even he admits that's hardly important.

"We've always known this is a dangerous sport, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it," Stewart said. "As much as we want to celebrate, I'm more concerned about the fans and the drivers right now. We want to put on a good show, but not at the risk to fans."

It's a thrilling sport and its popularity is growing almost as fast as the cars that speed around the racetrack. I'm not suggesting anything drastic. But Saturday's crash simply makes you wonder: if you can't stand right next to a football field, why do we need to be right next to the blur of 20 speeding automobiles jockeying for position? Move everyone back another 15 rows. It will cost the racetracks money, but it might save a few families from horrific heartache.

The 55th running of the Daytona 500 is on schedule for Sunday.

A moment of silence won't be enough for me.