During a NASCAR race in Daytona on Friday afternoon, 22 people were injured after new driver Mark Hardy fell asleep and crashed during a straightaway. Reports say the people who were injured consisted mostly of employees of the track.
Hardy walked away with no serious injuries, but says the situation is bitter-sweet.
“I am happy to be alive, of course but I feel terrible that others got hurt,” said Hardy. “It’s also hard, because I was in second place. I could have won the whole thing if I had just gotten some sleep the night before.”
Hardy says the crash was caused because he fell asleep at the wheel. He claimed that he didn’t sleep well because he was too nervous and excited about his first ‘big’ race, and that after driving left in a circle for so many miles during the race, it was a wonder he even stayed awake as long as he did.
“Anyone who is driving that long, going nowhere, you could tend to get drowsy,” said Hardy. “Think of it from a fan’s perspective. If you’re watching at home, there’s no way you’re not taking a nap midway through the event, right? It’s not any different for a driver.”
Strangely enough, it appears from video reviewed after the accident that Hardy was asleep for two laps before crashing.
“I remember my eyes getting really heavy, and then nothing for a bit, but I could still hear the noise of the other racers whizzing past me. I must have been driving on auto-pilot, basically. I remember being almost startled awake, and when I jumped, my leg hit the steering wheel and launched me off the track,” said Hardy.
According to hospital reports, all 22 people were, amazingly, treated and released, suffering minor injuries, with the biggest being a broken wrist. Hardy will be fined for racing in a state that NASCAR ‘unfit’ for driving.