It’s Monday, the day after the horrifying death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval with 20 degree turns and 9 degree straights. The high banking results in super high speeds. These open-wheel IndyCars can reach 225 MPH and run 3 or 4 wide. I followed IndyCar religiously in the 90’s when they were called CART but after many financial failures, loss of sponsors, and mismanagement I stopped following it. I still attend the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on an annual basis just to see how some of my favorite drivers are progressing in the field. Some have become team owners, some are still drivers.
It’s only today that was I able to carefully watch video footage of the collision, flipping through pictures, and reading stories, all brought back memories of many fatalities involving open-wheel racing. Some come to mind are…
Greg Moore at Fontana,
Jeff Krosnoff at Toronto,
and of course Ayrton Senna at Imola.
In 1996, I was at the U.S. 500 in Michigan when Adrian Fernandez’s wheel came detached during a 200MPH collision and launched into the spectator stand. The wheel and debris injured 9 people and killed 3. After that race CART mandated wheel tethers to the keep that from happening again.
I’m still at a complete lost for words as I view the videos and images. They show carbon fiber scraps raining from the sky, cars lifting off, sparks flying, and fireballs with comet like tails. It looked more like a staged production from Transformers, instead these were real images, real effects, and real lives. They were so graphic that it doesn’t even leave any room for imagination. This crash took out 15 cars and red flagged the race.
As exciting ovals are for spectators, I feel it doesn’t have a place in open-wheel racing. It’s a recipe for disaster – a human catapult. Sunday was an example of that. A small speedway with high banking is like throwing frozen berries in a high-speed blender with the lid off. We all know when entering the career of motor sports, the possibilities of injuries or fatalities are magnified exponentially but it is still a tragedy when one is lost. I hope the IndyCar league will take a good look at their track schedule in the near future and put aside contractual greed for lives.
We get so caught up in our daily lives, already planning trip for the winter or the summer. The fact is we are all susceptible to any harm at any time. Any loss is tragic especially ones that are taken so suddenly. Rest In Peace Dan Wheldon. Condolences to the family.
I’m not down to take copyright images, so here is a link to Wall Street Journal.