Massa

Dan Wheldon

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon was seriously injured in today's IZOD IndyCar Series World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Roughly fifteen cars were involved in the wreck that saw at least two or three airborne, and many on fire. Speeds were well over 220 mph throughout the weekend, and thirty-four cars started the event (there had been a twenty-eight car limit previously set at the start of the year for safety purposes). Engines were believed to have been tuned up as this is the last race for the current chassis and engine formula; engines, under standard regulation, are tuned down to a max RPM limit to prevent failures.

Wheldon was airlifted to the hospital unconscious. No further word. A tarp was placed over his car.

Will Power has been transported to the hospital for lower back pain. Pippa Mann, who was injured earlier this season at New Hampshire, and J.R. Hildebrand have also been taken to the hospital.

EDIT: Added some respect by subtracting.

Edited by Massa

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Another note to consider is that, while wheel tethers have been implemented since a number of fatal accidents involving spectators, a wheel did come off in the accident. It is believed to have hit Will Power's car.

EDIT: Wheel may not have come off; may have appeared hanging by tethers. Point is, fortunately, moot as no one was hurt by any potentially loose/detached tires.

Edited by Massa

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A consideration raised on the broadcast: this event was to be part of the $5,000,000 challenge in which five drivers who do not race IndyCars were to start and race for the advertised prize. Given the danger of this event, and the accident that happened, it goes without saying that we are all fortunate no inexperienced drivers were able to participate (only two applied; Travis Pastrana was injured in the X Games while Kasey Kahne would not participate with any teams that offered).

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Drivers have asked for race to be canceled. I am hoping this is the subject of the driver meeting.

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I'd ask anyone who is spreading the rumors to stop.

Further:

We all created today's North American racing environment. To let factions be an excuse for some of the disrespect, insensitivity, and disgusting, offensive hate being posted in light of today's crash is absolutely disheartening.

I Tweeted this, and posted something similar on a Champ Car-centric forum where such posting is occurring. I was subsequently banned and the post was deleted.

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An announcement is evidently coming soon. Think positive. Tarps and Marty Reid asking to "think good thoughts" really brings me back to some sad memories in American auto racing, but that is no reason to speculate, or to spread rumors.

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Cameras are being set up for an announcement in the media center.

IndyCar debating whether or not to restart the race. If precedent applies, races have restarted in the past when a driver has been injured.

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Replays of the accident are out there; I do not wish to see more than I have until we know Wheldon's condition.

I can say that the accident (and I am not using names; I know which drivers were involved and do not wish to say so out of respect for inevitable "blame" that has been placed in these situations in the past) started with contact between two drivers, leading to another driver to get airborne off the spinning car as if a ramp. From there, the pack "checked up," resulting in multiple cars airborne and into the fence over the wall, as well as serious fire. One tire did come off the tethers, and the SAFER barrier as well as catchfence sustained damage.

EDIT: Still unclear about tire coming off the tethers. Still moot.

Edited by Massa

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I am going to watch on TV. Follow Twitter for updates and please keep Wheldon in your thoughts. No one likes to see a competitor hurt, and Wheldon is one of the greatest guys in this sport. Everyone likes him.

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RIP Dan Wheldon, this is so sad, these things are not suppose to happen but they do, I know they all know the risk involved in motor racing but it is still sad to see this. :(

Edited by Schumikonen

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Dan Wheldon passed away.

I've watched Wheldon race for years. I've watched racing in general for over a decade. I think this is my favorite motorsports moment...ever.

I won't forget Dan's tears when he won this race, how much it meant to him, and to him for his mother given their situation. It was, by far, the greatest story in racing this year to see Wheldon win in a one-off, with a small team, in such a fashion, under such circumstances.

And I certainly won't forget how Marty Reid signed off today, or my own tears, or just how sick I feel right now. How I wonder if I'll ever be able to watch another motor race. I've seen it before, and it always hurts, but Wheldon...was just someone we all knew so well, such a brilliant guy, a true class act, had grown up so much and really just had so much enthusiasm in addition to his talent.

A wife and two very young sons, too. :(

Thoughts with everyone close to Wheldon. It just hurts. I have nothing intelligent to say, and if I did, my hands are shaking too much to type it.

I'm going to miss Dan, and I know everyone else in auto racing will, too.

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Hours later and I just can't stop thinking about it.

That 2011 Indy 500 meant a lot to me as a racing fan. I fell in love with this sport in the late 90s/early 2000s as a big NASCAR fan. My favorite driver was, and still is, Bobby Labonte. I had so much fun supporting Labonte as he won his title in 2000, and continued to be a race-winning driver through 2003. Just so much enthusiasm about it.

But as Labonte's career declined, so did my passion for auto racing. I tried a lot of different forms of it, including F1, for the first time to try to find some love for the only sport I'd ever cared for.

And there was definitely some merit in that. Still, those jumping off the couch, fist waving, frantically excited moments I had watching Labonte battle for wins just didn't happen.

Until Indy 2011. I was so enthused for Hildebrand, the rookie, the American, carrying the National Guard colors, and into the wall! And when I saw that Wheldon had passed Kanaan and Dixon and there he was coming out of the corner, I just jumped up out of my seat and exclaimed "Wheldon! Oh my god Dan Wheldon's going to win!"

Wheldon brought back the magic of auto racing for me after years of being a bit more passive about it. A wonderful guy, a brilliant personality, so engaging with fans and with media, a father and a husband, forgotten and disrespected as a past-champion stepping into a one-off ride with a small team owned by friend Bryan Herta and helped by Sam Schmidt, his car owner today and a remarkable story himself, and out of no where, in such a surprise, after such an intelligent and patient race, driven like a true champion with an ultimate respect of what it takes to win a 500-miler, right there at the end...and to see his tears in victory lane, how much this meant to him, and to his family...man, it just all made racing right again.

It reminded me why I cared.

I care because of the human drama.

I'm here for the stories. And I think auto racing has provided a great platform for those stories to both be written, and be told, moreso than any other sport, perhaps ironically given that the cars and teams are just as important, and the drivers are hidden behind helmets and logos.

Now Dan's gone.

And so is my passion for this.

I was shaking. I was sick. I cried. I never even met him.

I just never felt like driving cars so fast, so close, on so tight of a circuit was so senseless until today. I was so young when the other drivers who have passed in my lifetime did, that they just didn't hit me like this one has.

I watched those five laps honoring Wheldon, the music playing, and I just thought to myself "these are the last five laps of any auto racing I'll ever want to watch."

I just can't do it anymore. I can't sleep at night knowing my fan interest allows this to happen. I know the drivers want to do this, I know it's dangerous, I know that's part of it. But I feel guilty in a way. I feel like my desire for entertainment is why they go so fast, why they race so hard, why they run these tracks, why this happens. And it just feels so wrong. I'm not calling for auto racing to disappear, or be abolished, or whatever. I'm not calling for drivers to all quit and walk away from the sport. I'm not really calling for anything, but calling on myself, to find something else.

I can't watch these guys die.

I can't watch these invincible drivers, these people who have given so much joy to those of us who never even knew them, die. I can't watch Dario Franchitti or Tony Kanaan or Danica Patrick sobbing. I can't see my father get choked up. I can't see that look on Eddie Cheever's face, those teams huddled together, the cracks in Marty Reid's voice, the sighs into the microphone.

This accident has just changed everything for me.

They put on auto races for me. And then the participants die. It's ****ing me up.

I really feel like I just can't watch auto racing anymore. I think I'm done.

I really feel for Wheldon's two little boys and his wife. I know I'm going to miss the hell out of Danny, and the hell out of this sport. :(

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Emberton Park, Bucks. There with my wife and son at the weekend, playing on swings and enjoying what will surely be the final day of glorious sunshine this year.

Also the home village of Dan Wheldon.

A talented, passionate family man. RIP, Dan. My thoughts are firmly with your wife and two beautiful children.

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From what I've read today about Dan, it seems he was one hell of a human being. To me, that is a true champion.

RIP, Dan.

I hope his wife & kids are cared for.

Edited by LabradoRacer

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A cruel, unfortunate irony is that, being without a ride this season, Wheldon was the test driver for Dallara with their 2012 car: a car that was, of course, designed with improved safety very much in mind. It has been suggested the chassis, currently named IR12, be renamed to DW98 or something similar.

Michael Andretti revealed that Wheldon had signed a multi-year deal to drive what was Danica's ride this year, the #7.

Another note: I'd suggest going to YouTube and searching for the finish of the 2006 Toyota Indy 300, and then watch the interview at the end and in the next part. Paul Dana was killed in a crash that morning in the warm-up, and Dan Wheldon won the race narrowly over Hélio Castroneves. In the interview, ESPN's Jamie Little showed no class, all bubbly and all smiles just wanting Dan to talk about the race and his battle, and instead, Wheldon kept giving his respect to Dana, his family, his team, the sport, and saying how the race should not have been run. It was a great drive followed by pure class by Dan.

Not that anyone who has followed his career expected any less from him.

Still hurts a lot.

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Tragic news re a great racer.

Motorsports can be very cruel; fortunately a rarer event now than when I was younger when the morbidity rate was high. And thanks to heroic figures like Jackie Stewart, safety has improved massively.

From what footage I have seen, Dan could not have avoided the crash. I missed the race but my impression was there were too many cars going too fast around a track that was too narrow. Easy in hindsight but I hope that in 2012 they learn from this. I understand the 2012 cars are safer.

I won't stop watching Motorsports but hope in a similar vein post Senna's death that changes are made to improve safety.

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I wanted to make one more post. One more while all those images still flash in my mind.

Especially that 77 on the top of the scoring pylon.

Exactly where I wanted to see it at the start of the day.

Didn't think I would.

Didn't think it would hurt so much to.

I'm glad they did that five lap salute. I'm going to watch that a lot, I suspect. Really moving.

And when I watched it, I realized what I wanted to say in this post.

When I saw Franchitti weeping, when I saw Kanaan sitting there alone in his car moments after Vasser tried to console him, Servià after sitting alone on pit wall crying...all doing those laps...it hit me then.

This sport is vicious when it takes one of its own, and this is the first time it hit me so hard.

But it's hit so many before me. It hit with Earnhardt, Moore, Senna, Villeneuve, Clark, and so many others I feel I am disrespecting in not naming. And I bet so many wanted to stop then, just like I did yesterday.

And maybe some did.

Most didn't.

There's a reason Wheldon got in his car yesterday. A reason his thirty-three peers joined him. A reason they went out on a tight track at 225 mph even with so much tension pre-race about safety.

And there's a reason they got back in and did those parade laps, with their minds and hearts so far elsewhere.

And those same reasons, are the ones, I know I'll be back.

There's just something about those cars, those engines, those speeds, and those men and women who make it all so compelling.

I don't know when, I can't see how, but I know I haven't seen my last auto race.

And I hope some way, somehow, Danny hasn't, either. May he rest peacefully...peacefully in the c#ckpit of a 700 horsepower racing car, amidst the chaos he was so damn good at triumphing in with his balance of patience and aggression.

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I wanted to make one more post. One more while all those images still flash in my mind.

Especially that 77 on the top of the scoring pylon.

Exactly where I wanted to see it at the start of the day.

Didn't think I would.

Didn't think it would hurt so much to.

I'm glad they did that five lap salute. I'm going to watch that a lot, I suspect. Really moving.

And when I watched it, I realized what I wanted to say in this post.

When I saw Franchitti weeping, when I saw Kanaan sitting there alone in his car moments after Vasser tried to console him, Servià after sitting alone on pit wall crying...all doing those laps...it hit me then.

This sport is vicious when it takes one of its own, and this is the first time it hit me so hard.

But it's hit so many before me. It hit with Earnhardt, Moore, Senna, Villeneuve, Clark, and so many others I feel I am disrespecting in not naming. And I bet so many wanted to stop then, just like I did yesterday.

And maybe some did.

Most didn't.

There's a reason Wheldon got in his car yesterday. A reason his thirty-three peers joined him. A reason they went out on a tight track at 225 mph even with so much tension pre-race about safety.

And there's a reason they got back in and did those parade laps, with their minds and hearts so far elsewhere.

And those same reasons, are the ones, I know I'll be back.

There's just something about those cars, those engines, those speeds, and those men and women who make it all so compelling.

I don't know when, I can't see how, but I know I haven't seen my last auto race.

And I hope some way, somehow, Danny hasn't, either. May he rest peacefully...peacefully in the c#ckpit of a 700 horsepower racing car, amidst the chaos he was so damn good at triumphing in with his balance of patience and aggression.

In safety terms, Indy Racing is like the Wild West compared to F1. Dan and his contemporaries knew that but the ultimate prize and buzz of competing in such a dangerous marque outweighed concerns for their own well being. I watched Wheldon's progress through the 90's and considered him a fine talent. It is crushing when anyone from the world of auto racing loses their life and I am truly sad for his family and those close to him. I am angry at those whose organise such races and allow so many inexperienced rookies to take part in them. We know that so many fans go to such meets hoping to see just what they saw yesterday. It's the nature of the beast. What I want to see are regulations that not only protect the drivers and fans but imprison those who put the participants in harm's way just to fatten their pocket books. Only a cretin could have OK'd yesterday's and he should be brought to book. RIP Dan and may the angels watch over you loved ones and help to ease their pain at this time.

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Well, Eric, you saved me a few hundred words in your last post there. You were obviously distraught and all, but as long as this blue blob continues to spin, this thing called life goes on. And that's as blunt and as simple as you can make it.

Whilst Indycars are, perhaps, less safe than a modern F1 car, they are still "safe". Nothing can be made in such a manner as to totally eliminate the possibility of injury or worse. We apes are just not that smart. However, we apes have made things safer, and quite rightly as you have pointed out, the sad irony is that Dan was helping test the new Indycar for 2012 and beyond...a car that features one thing that would quite likely have prevented both Will Power and Dan going airbourne yesterday...that being the rear tyre "bumpers"...I know they look gay and all...but why should that matter when it can prevent what happened yesterday?

The new car is a clean sheet design, and takes it, in some respects to a safer level than that of Formula 1 cars.

Dan was one of those drivers that you always thought would reach great heights in his career...when he was Dixons teammate, I saw him as Scott's biggest challenge to overcome. And this past year was just not right with him not being a regular in the series.

Another irony in life, was the recent issue of Motorsport magazine that did a "Lunch with..." interview with Dan. Quite possibly this will be the last, in depth interview of Dan. As with the majority of Motorsports articles, it is well worth the read if you haven't already.

I heard of his death on the road to picking up my daughter, and was left thinking about him for awhile, and sent a text to Steph with "RIP one of motorsports gentlemen", long before anyone else had ever mentioned the word "gentlemen" about him. He was that sort of driver, and person. And in a way, is one of the reasons you are attracted to a series like Indycar...because you get a closer, less PR/PC insight to the guys behind the wheels, than say, F1, which in some respects has made itself too exclusive.

Personally, I really feel for his son's...especially Sebastian. He's 2 years old, he know's his Dad, and now, somehow, he has to work out that Daddy isn't coming home. Poor wee guy.

But, the drivers will continue to suit up, and get in their cars. As Nouvalaro (sp?) once said after being asked if he was afraid he might die every time he got in his car to race:

"And how do you want to die? In your sleep perhaps? How can you get a wink of sleep every night then?" (or something, paraphrased along those lines)

And also the words of Bruce McLaren also come to mind:

"To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone" (a few months later Bruce would die testing a CanAm car at Goodwood, crashing into the only last remaining concrete marshall's bunker when part of the car failed).

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