The Indy Racing League was dealt a devastating blow today when one of its leading drivers was killed in a 15-car accident at the Las Vegas Indy 300.
From what I know, Dan was a great driver, great competitor and a nice guy. He had won at Indy, won the IRL championship and won the hearts of many Indy car fans, especially the feminine variety. He was a good looking guy.
Today, his life was cut short at the age of 33 after his car hurled into the air, then barrel-rolled into the barrier fence before careening back to the pavement ablaze. His wrecked car was covered with a golden-colored tarp before being removed from the track at Vegas. During that same time, he was being airlifted to the local hospital where he would later be pronounced dead.
I feel so badly for his widow and their two children. My heart goes out to them.
I understand the dangers of racing at speeds above 220 mph. The Indy cars are like jets on racing tires. Unfortunately, too many times they go airborne. I witnessed it firsthand at the 2010 Indy 500 where on the last lap of the race a guy went airborne into the fence between turns three and four. I was sitting at the entrance of the short chute where the crash began that year.
I remember another deadly accident in the 80's that occured at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Another driver, Gordon Smiley, was killed by a horrific accident that ended with him airborn and into the fence. Safety and race car design has come such a long way, but today we are reminded just how dangerous this sport still is.
Again, I am saddened by the Wheldon family's loss. I can only hope that this incident leads to further advances and improvements in driver safety.
Rest in peace, Dan.