DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Daytona continues to rise as part of a $400 million refurbishing project.
But what’s priceless for Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood and his staff is fan safety.
He says he’s got that covered, too.
An incident in a practice Wednesday — when a car stayed on the track after it flipped up into a wall barrier — reinforces Chitwood’s belief that everything is in place for fans to have a safe and pleasant experience for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Improvements along the track were made after Kyle Larson’s car went flying during a Nationwide race last year, and car parts went scattered into the stands, injuring a handful of fans.
“The fence did exactly what it was supposed to,” Chitwood said. “There was a kink in one of the cables. We got out there and repaired it, actually quicker than we thought we would repair it. We want to do everything possible to keep our fans safe, and I think we’ve shown our commitment to do that.”
“For us, the key for us is preparation and knowing that whatever happens, we have a plan and we’ll get it fixed.”
The project, entitled Daytona Rising, is one of the most ambitious efforts in the history of the famed track, according to Chitwood.
“This reimagining of this American icon is special,” he added. “Seven months ago, we actually did our groundbreaking and to see as much concrete and steel out there, it’s pretty impressive.”
One of those positive steps kicks off in March with the addition of 40,000 new seats, which are expected to be available to fans attending the 2015 Daytona 500. New escalators are also expected to be operational for fans attending the race.
“It will provide some unique challenges for us as we manage our customers, but we’re excited that there will be some fans who will actually get to enjoy the new seats a year early,” Chitwood said.
The project represents 6,300 new jobs to the area with over $300 million in labor income being spent in Central Florida, according to Chitwood, who added that 80 percent of the workers on site are from the Central Florida area.
Included in Friday’s update was the announcement of a partnership between the track and DeLand-based Kingspan Insulated Panels, the first partnership in the project. That’s another sign of the group effort to spend locally during the renovation.
“Although we still have two years to go, we’re excited about what’s in front of us and we continue to take positive steps along the way,” Chitwood said.
Orlando Sentinel writer Matt Murschel contributed to this report.