"My fault," conceded JR Motorports driver Regan Smith as the dust settled on one of the most violent accidents seen at Daytona International Speedway in recent years.
Smith had been leading Tony Stewart on the final run to the finish of the Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race when Brad Keselowski tried a move around the outside, and Smith had reacted to head him off.
"I threw a block, I'll take the blame for it," Smith said. "I knew coming off 4 I was going to have to throw a block ... When you see the chequered flag at Daytona, you're going to block, and you're going to do everything you can to be the first car back to the stripe.
“You gotta do what you gotta do. You gotta go for it. Brad's a good friend. He pushed me to the front, and we're both wanting the race," Smith told ESPN
after the race. "That's a product of the tandem racing. Brad knew he was going to make a move. And that was all there was to it.
“If I had to [do it again], yeah absolutely. You're coming to the chequered at Daytona, it doesn't matter if it's a Nationwide race or a kart race, you want to win here," he admitted. “I couldn't play it any different other than to just concede second place, and I wasn't going to do that today. Our guys work really hard on these race cars all year long, and our job is to put them in a position to win. It was, and it didn't work out.
"Certainly want to do the same thing tomorrow. If I'm in the same position tomorrow, I'll do the exact same thing," he insisted. "It just didn't work out today. Just hoping everything is okay, everyone who was in the wreck and all the fans."
The accident ended up launching Kyle Larson's car into the air where it impacted the catchfence. The engine block tore through the fencing and scattered debris into the spectator area nearest the track, and one tyre was thrown into the air and landed in seating some 20 rows up. Medics attended casualties in both areas as circuit officials cleared the grandstands.
Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood issued an official statement on Saturday evening regarding the crash. "First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," he said.
"Following the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately. We transported 14 people off property and 14 were treated at our on-track care center," he continued. "We are in the process of repairing the facility, and we will be ready to go racing tomorrow [Sunday.]"