Austin Dillon doesn’t blame the track for his violent wreck during the early-morning hours Monday at Daytona International Speedway.
That doesn’t mean, however, that improvement in safety for NASCAR drivers and fans can’t still be made, he said.
“You can’t blame things on Daytona. I feel like it’s a race track that has done its job to put on good races,” Dillon said Tuesday during a teleconference. “We just have to keep developing to keep our grandstands safer, our drivers safer, and do what we can as a sport to develop and bring new technology, like I said, to keep it safe.”
Moments after Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag in the rain-delayed Coke Zero 400, a multicar accident erupted behind him that sent Dillon’s car airborne and into the fencing on the frontstretch that separates the grandstands from the track.
The car tore a large section of the fencing down and badly mangled his car. Debris from Dillon’s car flew into the stands, injuring at least five fans and sending one to a local hospital, track officials said.
There were no serious injuries. Dillon came away with a bruised tailbone and forearm.
Nothing from his experience has changed Dillon’s mind about his career choice.
“You have to be able to move on and trust in the safety equipment,” he said. “If I can take a lick like that and feel as good as I do right now, I feel like I can do anything. You feel like Superman.”
Dillon believes the focus to prevent similar accidents in the future is to prevent the cars from getting airborne. Over the past several years NASCAR made some safety improvements aimed at just this issue, including the addition of roof flaps.
“NASCAR will look at the car and figure out ways to keep them on the ground. I think we’re trying to keep them from getting in the air, and we’ll do what we can,” he said.
“The way the racing is set up now … it breeds these kind of wrecks. It’s three-wide pack racing, and at Daytona it’s tighter than Talladega (Ala.) and less room. I think if you’re at Talladega, this wreck might not happen because it’s a little bit wider.
“It’s just a part of the racing that we’re in right now.”
Dillon’s wreck was the third time since February 2012 that fans have been injured at Daytona from an incident at or near the end of a race.
The season-opening Daytona 500 is the biggest – and most recognized – race of the season and the track is considered hallowed ground for many of the sport’s drivers.
Dillon, himself, enjoyed his first victory at the track in Saturday night’s Xfinity Series race.
“I think you can’t tarnish Daytona. For me even after wrecking like that, I got to experience one of the greatest things in winning there the night before that, and it’s a part of it, and I still had a good finish on Sunday,” he said.
“It’s a wild place that you have lots of up and downs and you have to be able to ride them and have a good attitude going into it.”