Local teen injured at NASCAR race
For 16-year-old Caroline Morris, this past weekend in Florida meant spending time with family and friends and indulging in one of their favorite past times — watching NASCAR.
But by the end of the Nationwide race Saturday, the Haywood Christian Academy student was leaving in an ambulance.
During the final lap fans were on the edges of their seats, including Morris, who was watching her favorite driver Tony Stewart intently as he made his way to the front of the pack.
Regan Smith was leading the race when his car pushed sideways, causing a pileup of race cars. That's when Kyle Larson's car went airborne, colliding with the fencing and sending an explosion of car parts raining onto the crowd in the grandstand.
The sheared off front end of Larson's car was wedged in the fence and on fire, but he managed to leave the crash without injury, unlike 30 NASCAR fans in the stands.
Morris had been standing along with everyone else during the last lap when she heard the sound of the car crashing into the fence nearby.
“I was just shocked. It happened in literally probably two seconds. I felt the initial pain and I realized I had been hit,” she said.
A hot, flying lugnut had struck her in the arm, which immediately turned black and blue. She even temporarily lost all feeling to her hand. Crouched in pain, she watched as chaos broke out around her.
"Everybody was screaming and calling for help," she said.
Two rows and four seats over from her was a man who had been knocked unconscious by a tire.
Within five minutes the paramedics arrived and began treating the injured, and sent away most of Morris' family.
She was placed in a wheelchair and taken behind the concession stand until an ambulance whisked her to a nearby hospital.
Luckily, the lugnut didn't break any bones, but she is still wearing a sling on her bruised arm.
This was her fourth race and her father, Jack Morris, has been to several races over the past 30 years. Although they've both seen wrecks, this was the most dramatic, she said.
Her injury wasn't enough to stop her from returning Sunday to watch the Daytona 500. By that time, the fence had already been repaired and there was no sign there had ever been a crash at all, she said.
Her experience, though terrifying and painful, won't stop her from attending future races to cheer on Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, one of her new favorite drivers.
"I'm a big NASCAR fan and I know that the chances of that happening again are slim," she said.