TODAY   |  February 24, 2013

Day after crash, Daytona readies for famous race

Wreckage of a race car flew into the air at the Daytona Speedway Saturday, hitting fans as high as 45 rows up. The crash destroyed part of the catch-fence, meant to protect fans, and was rebuilt overnight for the Sunday race. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let's begin with the massive crash a daytona that injured dozens of fans. the race will go on today in just hours, janet shuar janet shamlian joi ns us.

>> reporter: we were here when it happened. a horrifying crash, a car literally sheared in half. it soon became evident it was worse than that. the most serious injuries weren't the drivers in the cars, but the fans in the stands.

>> and contact!

>> reporter: a violent crash that started on the track and ended in the grandstand. the wreckage of a race car , large chunks of metal and a tire, flying into the air and hitting fans as high as 45 rows up. it was the final lap. drivers jockeying for a position, when a bump between cars turned terrifying.

>> tony stewart is going to win the race.

>> drive kyle larsen's car cut in half and tore through the fence designed to protect fans. one spectator posted this stunning video on youtube. a tire in the stands. people scrambling and waving to get help for the injured. mike wilkinson had a clear view from his seat but couldn't bear to watch.

>> i was stunned. my hand was over my mouth. i -- when i saw the car fly up and hit the fence and a fireball erupt, i turned away, i didn't want to see what happened.

>> reporter: others say it was a scene of complete chaos. nascar reports more than 30 hurt. 14 taken to daytona hospitals. among the most serious, a child in critical, but stable condition.

>> fans want to be close to the action at daytona . if you were to walk by the fence here, you will feel it. your hair will literally be sucked sideways because are you so close to the action. that's what fans want.

>> reporter: amazingly, kyle larsen walked away from the accident and no other drivers seriously hurt. they moved quickly to repair damage to the fence and retaining wall ahead of today's daytona 500 , its signature race. as nascar said, it would take a close look at what happened.

>> we need to take the type to study it, see what we can improve on and if we can, certainly the safety of our fans is first and foremost and we'll make that happen.

>> it can be risky business navigating the heavily horsepowers cars. as one driver said after the accident, we assume the risk. it shouldn't be the fans. and the speedway worked overnight to repair and replace the retaining wall and the fence that was damaged in the accident. daytona is ready for the signature race that starts at 1:00 eastern today. fans will be seated in the same stands where so many were hurt on saturday. lester.