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Old 10-16-2011, 08:51 PM   #1
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Default Dan Wheldon killed in crash at Vegas

Sucks - purely sucks... 33yrs old, rest in peace Dan.



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LAS VEGAS

Dan Wheldon, who moved to the United States from his native England with hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500 and went on to prevail at his sport's most famed race twice, died Sunday after a massive, fiery wreck at the Las Vegas Indy 300.

Crash in Las Vegas
Two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon died after a 15-car wreck in Las Vegas.

He was 33.

Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 for the second time this May, won 16 times in his IndyCar career and was the series champion in 2005. He was airlifted from the Las Vegas track at 1:19 p.m. local time Sunday and taken to a nearby hospital, becoming the first IndyCar driver to die on the track since rookie Paul Dana was killed in practice on the morning of race day at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006.

As word began to spread that his injuries were fatal, those at the track could not control their tears. Television cameras captured Ashley Judd, the wife of IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, dabbing at her eyes shortly before the official word came.

The remainder of the race was canceled. Drivers solemnly returned to the track for a five-lap tribute to Wheldon, almost all of them hiding their eyes behind dark sunglasses after being told their colleague was gone. As Roger Penske met with his team trackside and other drivers simply hugged those around them, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard made the announcement of Wheldon's death.

''Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today,'' Bernard said.

When drivers returned to the track, Wheldon's No. 77 was the only one on the towering scoreboard. Franchitti sobbed uncontrollably as he got back into his car for the tribute laps. Over speakers at the track, the song ''Danny Boy'' blared, followed by ''Amazing Grace'' as hundreds of crew workers from each team stood solemnly.

The race was only minutes old when Wheldon, who started at the back of the 34-car field and was in position for a $5 million payday if he could have won the race, was one of 15 cars involved in a wreck that started when two cars touched tires.

Several cars burst into flames, and debris was all over the track, some of the impact so intense that workers needed to patch holes in the asphalt.

Video replays showed Wheldon's car turning over as it airborne and sailed into what's called the ''catch fence,'' which sits over the SAFER barrier that's designed to give a bit when cars make contact. Rescue workers were at Wheldon's car quickly, some furiously waving for more help to get to the scene. Bernard said Wheldon's injuries were ''unsurvivable.''

Wheldon's first Indianapolis 500 victory was in 2005 - he passed Danica Patrick with less than 10 laps to go that year - and his win at the sport's most famed race this year was one to particularly savor.

It came in perhaps the oddest of fashions, as he was the beneficiary of a huge gaffe by someone else.

Wheldon was in second place, far back of rookie J.R. Hildebrand approaching the final turn - when Hildebrand lost control and clipped the wall. Wheldon zipped past, and the only lap he led all day at Indianapolis was the last one. He returned to the track the next morning for the traditional photo session with the winner, kissing the bricks as his 2-year-old son Sebastian sat on the asphalt alongside him, and wife, Susie, held their then-2-month-old, Oliver.

Wheldon was almost resigned to finishing second at Indy for the third straight year, before misfortune struck Hildebrand.

''It's obviously unfortunate, but that's Indianapolis,'' Wheldon said. ''That's why it's the greatest spectacle in racing. You never know what's going to happen.''

Such was the case again Sunday.

Wheldon was well behind the first wave of cars that got into trouble on the fateful lap, and had no way to avoid the wrecks in front of him. There was no time to brake or steer out of trouble.

''I saw two cars touch each other up in front of me and then I tried to slow down, couldn't slow down,'' driver Paul Tracy said. ''Then Dan's car, from what I saw in the videos, came over my back wheel and over top of me. Just a horrendous accident.''

Even as a former series champion and one of the sport's top names, Wheldon did not have the financial backing to secure a full-time ride for himself this season. He kept himself busy by working as a commentator for some races and testing prototype cars that the IndyCar series will be using in the future.

IndyCar will have new cars in 2012, much of the changes done with a nod for safety. It had been a passion of Wheldon's in recent months, and he once quipped that he was a ''test dummy'' for the new cars by working with engineers as often as he was.

Wheldon began driving go-karts as a 4-year-old, and racing stayed with him as he attended school in England as a child, winning eight British national titles along the way. He moved to the United States in 1999, quickly trying to find sponsor money to fund his dream, and by 2002 - after stints in some lower-profile open-wheel series, such as the F2000 championship, Toyota Atlantic Series and IndyLights - he was on the IndyCar grid for the first time.

Wheldon was a fast study. He got his first IndyCar Series ride, in 2002, for two races with Panther Racing, then replaced Michael Andretti when Andretti retired the next season and won Rookie of the Year.

His first victory came the next season, in Japan, and he finished second in the championship standings behind Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan. The next year, he was its champion. NASCAR teams talked to him about changing series. So did Formula One organizations.

In the end, he decided IndyCar was his calling.

''The biggest thing for me is the Indianapolis 500,'' Wheldon said in 2005, not long after becoming the first Englishman since Graham Hill in 1966 to prevail at the Brickyard. ''It would be really difficult to leave this series because of that race.''

As evidenced by the difficulty in finding sponsorships this season, it was also difficult for him to stay in the series. Even though he finished among the top 10 in IndyCar points annually from 2004 through 2010, Sunday was only Wheldon's third start of 2011.

Off the track, Wheldon had varied interests, some of which had almost nothing to do with his driving.

In 2010, he released a photo book he called ''Lionheart,'' a coffee table book that he described as ''almost like a photo biography from my career in IndyCars up until this point.'' He spent years editing the book, which included dozens of photos of his life away from the track, including images from his wedding.

''I wanted it to have a lot of my input,'' Wheldon said last year. ''Obviously, it's a reflection of me.''

He also wanted that book to provide his fans with a glimpse of his life that they would never have known otherwise.

''There's a lot of my wedding in there,'' Wheldon said. ''I wanted there to be a lot of photos of my wife. She was the most beautiful bride on her wedding day the world had ever seen.''
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Old 10-16-2011, 08:57 PM   #2
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:01 PM   #3
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R.I.P. Dan Wheldon...

Watching how fast Indy Cars disintegrate at 1.5 mile superspeedway velocities is horrifying...

Hope the 2012 cars are much safer & sturdier.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:10 PM   #4
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That's a sad event. I don't see how they could get much safer than they already are without ruining the sport.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:15 PM   #5
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That's a sad event. I don't see how they could get much safer than they already are without ruining the sport.
not sure exactly what changes are being made, but the 2012 cars that we'll see next year are definitely supposed to have some improved safety features, and I believe they are going to a turbo motor too.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:26 PM   #6
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Wheldon lived the dream!

REST IN PEACE
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:10 PM   #7
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not sure exactly what changes are being made, but the 2012 cars that we'll see next year are definitely supposed to have some improved safety features, and I believe they are going to a turbo motor too.
Yeah, but only so many safety improvement can be made in a single year.
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:43 PM   #8
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Yeah, but only so many safety improvement can be made in a single year.
true.

I dont know if it's the car itself that is flawed, or just the freak nature of the impact. if you watch the video, he went airborne and the cockpit went against the chain link safety fence.

maybe they need to take some designs from F1, who hasnt seen a driver death in almost 20 years; I believe the last F1 drive to be killed was Senna.
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:49 PM   #9
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Sad day but to only be so lucky to die doing what you love at 200+ mph. I will poor one out for you Dan.
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:58 PM   #10
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true.

I dont know if it's the car itself that is flawed, or just the freak nature of the impact. if you watch the video, he went airborne and the cockpit went against the chain link safety fence.

maybe they need to take some designs from F1, who hasnt seen a driver death in almost 20 years; I believe the last F1 drive to be killed was Senna.
You could make the cars twice as safe, and it's still a risky, dangerous sport. Doing more than 200MPH in a heavy chunk of mixed materials, going around a track of concrete, with hard barriers... someone is still going to get killed from time to time. It's just one of those things, **** happens. Like everyone has said, at least he went out doing what he enjoyed doing. Beats croaking on the toilet or being hit by a train.
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Old 10-16-2011, 11:35 PM   #11
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RIP, died doing what you loved.
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Old 10-16-2011, 11:46 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Import Al View Post
Watching how fast Indy Cars disintegrate at 1.5 mile superspeedway velocities is horrifying...
What amazes me is that despite the suspension, wheels & tires, wings, etc. being flung off the car, the cockpits stay remarkably intact. I don't know what specific improvements they're making for the next generation of cars, but it's not like they are 220 mph death traps today IMO. Wheldon's wasn't the only car that became airborne and/or caught fire. I'm amazed that the only other injuries seem to have been a couple of concussions.

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maybe they need to take some designs from F1, who hasnt seen a driver death in almost 20 years; I believe the last F1 drive to be killed was Senna.
I think if F1 cars ran on banked ovals in a pack of 20+ cars going 3- and 4-wide, you'd see a lot more wrecks and a lot more deaths in F1. Road courses just don't enable huge multi-car indicents at 200+ mph. Now I'm not a die-hard F1 fan like some, but my impression is that most of their crashes are 1 or 2-car incidents, caused by either driver error or asshattery, or driver intention if it will benefit his teammate in the points (bazinga). The cars just aren't running that close together.

RIP Dan Wheldon.
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Old 10-17-2011, 05:01 AM   #13
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I imagine F1 is much safer due to the huge run-off areas and gravel traps that 90% of the tracks have (Singapore and Monaco excepted).

So you can have an incident at near 200mph, but you're not going to hit a concrete wall at that speed there's lots of room for the speed to be bled off reducing the impact.

RIP Dan.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:50 AM   #14
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It's still amazing to me that more drivers aren't killed or seriously injured in car racing (particularyl open-wheel). Very sad that he left behind a young wife and kids.
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Old 10-17-2011, 01:30 PM   #15
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:54 PM   #16
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I honestly think ovals should be done away with in Indy, instead use part of the infield to slow the pack down a bit. So only use ovals with infields, like Daytona. Not only is it too fast for open wheel, open cockpit racing, but it's boring compared to road course.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:39 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by NA6C-Guy View Post
I honestly think ovals should be done away with in Indy, instead use part of the infield to slow the pack down a bit. So only use ovals with infields, like Daytona. Not only is it too fast for open wheel, open cockpit racing, but it's boring compared to road course.
Noo... IndyCar's cockpit shots of guys weaving through traffic at 220 mph is
unique. In the mid to late 1980's NASCAR was nearly as fast, Bill Elliot
ran 210+ mph at the big tracks. But instead of advancing car &
track safety design, NASCAR pussed out & added restrictor plates for
Daytona & Talladega. Higher brake & tire limits & they could safely do 20 mph more...

F1 cars produce more downforce & have larger scoops above the cockpit,
but like you guys mentioned its F1's circuits that save lives. More aero,
+150~200 lbs of tub reinforcement & turbo engines to retain current hp/lb
ratios might keep this from happening as much (Wheldon's the 4th Indy
driver killed since 1996.)
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Old 10-20-2011, 04:43 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NA6C-Guy View Post
I honestly think ovals should be done away with in Indy, instead use part of the infield to slow the pack down a bit. So only use ovals with infields, like Daytona. Not only is it too fast for open wheel, open cockpit racing, but it's boring compared to road course.

This.

Indycar should stay away from ovals. Nascar can do it because they're driving tanks. If Wheldon had been in a Nascar car, he probably would have survived. Nascar has built their vehicles to enable driver survivability in the bump&bang world that they race in. Oval racing multi-car wide at 220mph in carbon fiber open-wheel cars, where any incident is going to result in unavoidable chain reaction collisions, is simply a bad idea. The in-cockpit shots may be unique, but I don't find them as interesting as the in-cockpits from road courses. Especially when the telemetry data is displayed as well.
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