One day after a harrowing crash injured dozens of fans in the stands, those same seats are filling up for the Daytona 500.
No one seems too concerned.
"These should be good seats," said Rick Barasso, as he settled into a spot that was right in the danger zone when Kyle Larson's car slammed into the catch fencing on the final lap of a Nationwide Series race Saturday. "I mean, what are the chances of it happening again?"
That seems to be the prevailing attitude of the fans heading into the Daytona 500, the season-opening Cup race and biggest event on the NASCAR schedule. Most people say it's worth the risk to sit next to the ear-rattling action—no more than 20 feet away for those in the first row. They love to hear the engines, smell the exhaust, feel the wind whipping in their face as 43 cars go by at nearly 200 mph.
Still, there are a few fans fretting about the location of their seats.
Raymond Gober returned to the same location where he was nearly struck by a bolt from Larson's car. He scooped up the debris as a souvenir, though he acknowledged being a little nervous about his seat on the back row of the lower level. He even considered wearing his motorcycle helmet to the 500, but figured "everybody would start laughing at me." Next year, he plans to buy an upper-level seat in the main grandstand.
"My dad called and said, 'You're sitting in the same seats? '" Gober said. "He couldn't believe it.
There are grim reminders of what happened Saturday: a bloody spot that had been washed down (not entirely, though), a tire mark on a seat, another seat that was partially bent from getting struck by that same tire.
— Paul Newberry—http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
EDITOR'S NOTE—"Daytona 500 Watch" shows you the Daytona 500 and events surrounding the race through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter.