Fast cars, loud engines and intense competition. The thrill of NASCAR is intoxicating for fans across the country. But Saturday the thrill and risks of racing broke the line between drivers and fans.
A crash at the Daytona Nationwide Series on Saturday sent car parts flying into the stands, injuring more than two dozen people.
The terrible accident raised questions of what safety precautions are being taken locally.
"You never can predict fully what's going to happen."
"It just happened so fast."
"I feared the worst."
The thrill of not knowing, is what draws thousands to NASCAR, mesmerized by the track that connects them all.
But Saturday that wonder...
"It was kind of surreal," Don Zeller, who was at the race said.
...turned to a paralyzing shock.
"You see that there's an accident happening but you're kind of mesmerized by what's going on," Zeller said.
Through the eyes of homegrown driver Eric McClure:
"When you're racing you don't think about it. You're just trying to get to the finish line and you don't care what you hit or how you get there as long as you can get there because it's the end."
But the end was really just the beginning, of fully grasping what happened.
"People all around are either laying on the ground or laying on the seats and shielding one another when all of this stuff started flying," Zeller recalled.
"I feared the worst... felt like maybe we had a responsibility in that. And that's something you just can't get over," McClure said. "We understand the risk that we take to have the opportunity to do this. But for fans, ah, you know I'm a sports fan and when I go to an event I expect to have no problems except to enjoy myself. And when you see that happen, it becomes serious. It makes you think about things that, that you don't normally think about."
A top ten finish milestone...
"Personally and professionally it was the best day of my life," McClure said.
...marred before mile 300.
"They make our racing world go round so when you see something happen to them - it hits very close to home," McClure said. "People always remember the big things, so that day will always be remembered for the accident, and it probably should because it was scary."
And home at Bristol Motor Speedway, General Manager Jerry Cauldwell says after ever race, both locally and nationally, they reevaluate safety measures.
"If you look at the number of events that we have here throughout the year as far as NASCAR is related - and the very few instances we have of something happening, there's a strong safety record there," Cauldwell said.
A record they plan to continue heading into this year's spring race.
"They know that we've taken every possible precaution and measure to allow them to enjoy the sport that we all have grown to love," Cauldwell said.
One day after a major crash in the Nationwide Race injured a number of spectators at the Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR's main event, the Daytona 500, gets underway on Sunday.
But the crash and outcome on Saturday is still under investigation. News Channel 11 contacted spokesperson Kevin Triplett with Bristol Motor Speedway and he says quote:
"The safety of our fans is something we take very seriously. Although the circumstances can be different from there to here, this is not something we take lightly and we will be watching the outcome of the accident closely."
BMS would not go into specifics about the safety measures at the track, but said they will have more information and feedback pending an investigation into the crash at Daytona later on this week.