Lenny Santiago, senior director of public relations for the speedway, says the track was on top of the weather information on race day.
“We are in constant contact with the National Weather Service,” Santiago said. “We provided timely information and the right information. We didn’t want to cause a panic,” he said.
Fans look for cover from the inclement weather during Sunday's rain delay at the Daytona 500/ (Roger Simmons/Orlando Sentinel / February 23, 2014)
Sunday’s race was halted by inclement weather just 38 laps into the 200-lap, 500-mile race. What turned into a six-hour weather delay included heavy rain and tornado warnings.
The Weather Channel report said the speedway didn’t alert fans when the first tornado warnings were issued for Volusia County. Santiago said the early warning was for nearby West Volusia county, but once the track was in the tornado warning box, that’s when fans were told to take cover at the speedway.
The Weather Channel story also criticized the speedway for not halting the race earlier, when the National Weather Service reported lightning was within 10 miles of the speedway. Santiago said that in addition to NWS information, the speedway uses a third-party service that alerts officials when there is a lightning strike within 5 or 10 miles of the speedway – not just the possibility of lightning in the area.
“Fan safety is the most important thing,” he email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@rogersimmons. Become a fan of the Orlando Sentinel Sports Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/orlandosentinelsports