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Mar 13, 2001

Pace Car Speed, Pick-up Point, And Indistinct Warning Flag Contributed To Daytona 200 Back-straight Pile-up

Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

The relative speed of the pace car, the similarity of the orange pace-car flag to a yellow flag and the part of the racetrack where the pace car attempted to pick up the field all contributed to the pile-up that caused the initial red-flag in Sunday's Daytona 200.

Racing observers note that it would be safer for the pace car to pick up the field on a slower part of the course with more warning to riders-- for example, exiting turn one after more-distinctive pace-car flags have been shown all the way around the course the previous lap.

The closing rate between riders and the pace car on the Daytona back straight in Sunday's incident may have exceeded 50-80 mph with several riders unclear on the exact procedure and uncertain if the single flag they saw before encountering the flag was orange or yellow.

"I saw a guy where you go up out of the infield onto the banking out there with a flag out of the corner of my eye, and I was thinking, ‘Was that a pace car flag?'" said Aaron Yates, one of three riders involved in the incident, in a phone interview from his home in Milledgeville, Georgia on Tuesday, March 13. "I was looking at Kurtis (Roberts) and he was going, and I was right on his rear wheel, I was trying to look ahead and see where it (the pace car) was at.

"We stayed on the gas a little while, and then I saw it, I was rolling off, and I looked at Kurtis and he was slamming on the brakes. So I got on the brakes, and I was coming up too fast. I was kinduv in his draft, and I tried to turn it to get around him and I sort of clipped Kurtis. Kurtis was locking them down and I was trying to dodge him, and just barely got by. I felt like I hit Kurtis pretty good.

"Jamie (Hacking) said he kind of nailed me after that, he said I clipped Kurtis and was kind of wobbling around and then he hit me. Jamie said he hit me before I went down.

"I talked to Dale Quarterley, he was driving the pace car, and he said he was going about 80 mph, but it seemed like it was going about 20, we were going so fast. At that time (when I saw the pace car) I was just full-on. If I could have got out of Kurtis' line I would have just blown on by the car and everybody, worrying about the guys behind me.

"It seemed like they would have had more pace car flags, there was only one I saw. So I was thinkin' maybe we'd go around a lap and then they'd send out the pace car.

"As few laps as we had run, it seems as if there's a situation where we need the pace car, they ought to just stop it (the race) and start over.

"I woke up in the ambulance one time. The next time I woke up they were unloading me in the hospital, and all these people were trying to talk to me. Finally I reached up and took the earplugs out of my ears and said, ‘Okay, what are you talking about?'"

Yates said he was released from the hospital about 5:00 p.m. Sunday, went back to track, gathered his things, signed a few autographs and left.