There was some of irony from IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon’s death on Sunday. It happened in Las Vegas, where gambling is king. The crash involved a popular diver. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was my favorite driver and I immediately received flashback to that fateful day in Daytona. And, in a strange twist of fate, both incidents happened within 10 years of each other.
I attended a NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2005. If you’re not familiar with the track, it’s a one and a half mile tri-oval. The first turn going into the back stretch is notorious for car wrecks. The day of our race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered a major crash at the exact same spot early in the race. The crash ended his day and thankfully, he was able to walk away from the crash.
Looking at the impact of the 15 car pile-up, it was to no surprise that death was apparent. In fact, many Indy car drivers, including Wheldon was concerned about the conditions of the track.
In light of the accident, there are major changes that need to be made in IndyCar racing. One change needs to be whether or not IndyCars need compete on NASCAR tracks. There were similar concerns about racing conditions at Texas Motor Speedway in 2005. Speed and control were the major concerns among the drivers.
Another consideration, should IndyCars have restrictor plates (like in NASCAR) to lower the speeds of the cars themselves? A stock car can barely handle the pressure of a crash going 180 miles an hour, but an Indy car is a different story. The car’s size, lack of protection and the speed of the vehicle (up to 230 miles per hour) makes safety a great concern.
Another is the cars themselves. It’s highly unlikely Wheldon would have survived with a secure passenger cage, considering the engine is directly behind the driver. Engineers will have a tough time trying to adjust the cars to make is safer.
Dan Wheldon’s death will hurt IndyCar more so than NASCAR in that they’re still trying to gain fans. Sunday’s crash will hurt the sport even more.