Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dan Wheldon, gone.

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.

Above is a picture I took in May 2008 while at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a day of practice. That could be Dan's wife, Susie, to his left. I'm not sure. Today, she was widowed at around 3:00 p.m., leaving her to raise two young sons without their father.

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.

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