This is a very sad day for not only auto racing but for myself as well. Dan Wheldon, one of my favorite Indy Car drivers, was killed today in a fiery fifteen-car accident during the Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas. He was 33 years old.
Wheldon, who did not have a full-time Indy Car ride this season, won the Indianapolis 500 twice in his career. The most recent win came this year in the most dramatic win to a major race I’ve ever seen. Wheldon overtook rookie J.R. Hildebrand in the final turn on the final lap after Hildebrand slid up the race track and crashed against the outside wall.
I really liked Dan Wheldon. He was the rare British driver who didn’t use Indy Car as a stepping stone to Formula 1 and raced here in the States since 2002. He was one of the cleanest racers on the track and he had the most charming British accent. I always looked forward to his interviews just to hear it.
The video has already been uploaded on YouTube by others and I’ll let you decide if you want to watch it. I will not link to it here but I will say after reviewing the accident on my DVR that there was no way Wheldon would have survived this wreck. His car flew in the air and impacted the catch fencing above the padded outer wall. The air intake and rear wing were missing yet the driver’s helmet was exposed, which leads me to believe the car struck the fencing top first at some point in the accident.
I knew it was bad wreck once the safety crew put a yellow tarp over Wheldon’s car once he was extricated from it, and I knew things were very bad once he was taken to University Hospital via helicopter. That only happens when there’s life threatening or non-survivable injuries have occurred.
Indy Car racing has come a long way since I started watching it in the mid-70s but as we saw today it’s still considered a dance with death every time you climb into a race car no matter what is done to make them safer. That’s the way racing is and always will be.
This is the last image of Dan Wheldon I want to keep. This is a screen grab from Wheldon’s in car camera just after he crossed the start-finish line for the final time and moments before he wrecked. He started in 34th place, made up ten positions in the first ten laps and was on his way to a great finish.
If only that were true. Godspeed, Dan Wheldon.