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35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Dan Wheldon killed in Las Vegas

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Sunday, October 16, 2011

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Dan Wheldon after winning this year's Indy 500
Popular IndyCar driver and defending Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon has died from unsurvivable injuries in a horrible 15-car accident on lap 13 in today's IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race will not continue as the drivers have elected to do a 5 lap parade around the circuit in memory of Dan. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Wheldon's family and friends in this time of great sorrow.  IndyCar has lost a great driver and great personality.

A run for $5 million to celebration of the inaugural IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda, turned sad when INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard announced that Dan Wheldon was pronounced dead at University Hospital from injuries suffered on Lap 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The accident was started when Wade Cunningham and J.R. Hildebrand got together that set off a chain reaction among the cars behind them.

When appeared to drive over a car driven by Paul Tracy who had slowed to avoid the accident.  Wheldon rode up over Tracy's wheel and went airborne over Tracy (that's what happens when you race open wheel cars in packs on high banked ovals where the drivers are sacrificial lambs when 'the big one' happens) turned over and up into the catch fencing drivers head first.  It was the catch fencing above the concrete retaining wall, that is there to keep the car and debris inside the track, that has killed and permanently maimed many drivers before this.

"It was like a movie scene which they try to make as gnarly as possible," said Danica Patrick, running her final IndyCar race.  "It was debris everywhere across the whole track.  You could smell the smoke.  There was a chunk of fire that we were driving around.  Car were scattered everywhere."

It looked like a scene from The Terminator movie.  We have seen this scene played out many times when the IRL used to have 'pack' racing all the time.  Poor Randy Bernard, the CEO of IndyCar who has no experience with racing until now, was talked into thinking he could put on more races like this because fans found them exciting.  Well only about 15,000 showed up for the race when he was predicting 70,000 so it's obvious that even when you give IndyCar fans free tickets to an oval race they still do not show up in droves.

In the early 1900's Europeans tried oval racing with open wheel cars, and after killing many drivers, concluded that it was ludicrous and stuck to road racing.  IndyCar still has not learned that lesson.  For Dan Wheldon and many before him, it's too late.

Wheldon, came to the United States from Emberton, England, in 1999, won 16 times in his IndyCar career and was the series champion in 2005.  He was 33.

We were at Fontana in 1999 when Greg Moore was killed in the final race of the CART IndyCar series.  It brings back horrible feelings and the same knot in our gut and it does not feel any better this time than it did then.  It reminds us how dangerous and costly it is to race open wheel cars on high-banked tracks built for NASCAR.

A fan, who was in tears, holds a sign up #77 We Love You
Following is a statement from INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard:

"INDYCAR is sad to announce that Dan Wheldon passed away from unsurvivable injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan and his family. INDYCAR, its drivers and teams have decided to end the race. We will run a five-lap salute in honor of Dan."

------------------

Dario Franchitti took the death of Dan Wheldon pretty hard as he cried in his car before the 5-lap tribute run today instead of finishing the race. Later he met with the media.

The drivers chose not to finish the race and instead they did a 5-lap 3-wide tribute to Dan Wheldon around the 1.5-mile oval.
"I was just telling Dan's son Sebastian the other day I have known Dan since he was 6-years old.  He was brash and bold and had an infectious personality.  One minute you are joking around during driver intros and the next he's gone."  Dario proceeded to talk about the stories with Dan Wheldon - some great memories about a fine 'chap' - he will be missed immensely.

"A little bit of IndyCar died in everyone today," said Chip Ganassi.  When he drove for us he won the first time out and then he won again I realized just how much drive he had to win.  I think he taught Scott Dixon how to win."

Michael Andretti said, "It is with extreme sorrow that we have lost one of our champion drivers today. Dan was an Indy 500 champion and IndyCar Series champion with Andretti Autosport-and one of our closest competitors. Dan brought such enthusiasm and passion to the sport not often seen in motorsports. We will remember Dan's tremendous racing accomplishments with our team as well his infectious personality. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Dan's family, racing team and friends today. Dan is one of IndyCar's greatest champions."

Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on the loss of Dan Wheldon: "For everyone in the Honda family, this is a day of tragedy and incalculable loss.  For us, Dan was more than a driver, he was a member of the Honda family.  But most of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, wife Susie and two young sons.  Dan had a passion for motorsports and a wonderful personality that made him a friend to everyone in the racing community.  His talent and dedication were an inspiration to us all.  We will miss him terribly, and everyone at Honda extends our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and fans across the world."

Below is a statement from Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway, on the passing today of INDYCAR driver Dan Wheldon:

“This is a truly heartbreaking loss.  Dan Wheldon was a terrific driver and a great champion, but overall he was one of the most engaging, intelligent and colorful individuals in our sport.  We were fortunate to work with Dan as a regular promotional partner over the years.  We will miss his competitive drive on the track and his energy and sense of humor in the paddock.”

From Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing: "The Firestone Racing team is deeply saddened by the death of Dan Wheldon.  We have very fond memories of celebrating with Dan at Indianapolis following his win this year, and he was a true champion.

"Recently, we had been working very closely with Dan on the development of the 2012 IndyCar. His passion for the sport was evident every day and he worked endlessly to do the best he could at everything he did.  We extend our sympathies to his family, to his team, and to his many friends and fans.  He was a talented competitor on the track who will be long remembered by all who had the privilege of working with and knowing him."

JIM MICHAELIAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, GRAND PRIX ASSOCIATION OF LONG BEACH: “On behalf of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach family, our hearts are saddened to hear the news of the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great representative of our sport and personified what the IZOD IndyCar Series is all about. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Susie, his children and family. He will be sorely missed.”

Oriol Servia, No. 2 Telemundo Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “This is incredibly sad. We all know this is part of the sport.  Cars are getting safer, tracks are getting safer so fortunately it hasn’t happened in a long time.  We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat and if you give us the opportunity, we are drivers and we try to go to the front -- we race each other hard because that’s what we do.  We knew if could happen but it’s just really sad.  There was no right or wrong thing to do really on how to proceed.  It’s the first time ever that we knew that a driver was gone so I think the series did the right thing.  Even if you were going to be more careful we were still going to be traveling at a very high speed and in a risky situation.  I think Randy’s call was rational.  He was saying ‘Listen, you guys are not thinking straight.’ If they had kept us in the car and we still had hope that Dan was going to be okay and they restarted the race sooner you can just focus on what you do.  This wasn’t the right way either to finish the race or the season; it feels wrong but there was no right way to deal with the situation.  I feel so bad for Susie and their kids.  It’s so tough to understand when somebody is gone that quickly.  Dan was always a very happy guy; he was always smiling.  He was a funny, great person that touched a lot of people.  He will be missed.”

James Hinchcliffe, No. 06 Sprott Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It’s a black day for the sport.  We came in here hoping for a good season-finale and ended up losing a very close friend and a very good racing driver.  I think Dan was coming into his second wind as a driver.  He had so much success early on and he was getting back into that.  It’s going to be hard next year to climb into the new cars every time knowing that if it wasn’t for Dan this thing wouldn’t be what it was.  He made such an impact on this sport and will even continue to now.  It’s proof that this is still a very dangerous sport.  As hard as we work on the safety side, these things are still very possible.  It’s tough to put into words what everybody is feeling.  There was no right answer on how to deal with this situation in terms of the rest of the race.  Deep down we all think Dan would have wanted us to race but out of respect for him we made a decision, right or wrong.  We’re going to have to regroup over the winter and head into the first race next year and race the whole year for Dan because all I said, the new car that we all are going to be blessed with the opportunity to race, a lot of that is as good as it is because of Dan.  My thoughts are with Susie and the kids.”

Statement from Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell on the death of Dan Wheldon: All of us here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway  are deeply saddened by the death of Dan Wheldon. He was a tremendous race car driver and a great representative for IndyCar racing. Our prayers are with Dan's family as well as the officials and sponsors of IndyCar.

Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer issued the following statement Sunday evening regarding the passing of IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon: Along with everyone at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the entire racing community, I am saddened by this news. I offer my condolences to the Wheldon family, especially wife Susie and her two young sons.  I had the opportunity to spend time with Dan at promotional events and always came away impressed by his warmth and sincerity.

Chip Ganassi, Team Owner:
"What can you say? He was such a big presence in our sport and quite a talent.  Today we lost a little bit of IndyCar.  He raced here for us for three years, won six races and made many friends – the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization mourns his passing.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Susie, the boys and the whole Wheldon family."

Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO, Target
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden death of Dan Wheldon, who drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing from 2006 to 2008.  He was a special part of the Target family and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Dan’s family and friends."

Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 10 Target Honda:
“We lost a good friend.  Everybody in IndyCar Series considered Dan a friend. He was one of those special, special people from the first moment he showed up in IndyCar. And he was kind of the brash, but he was a charmer. Then he became this loving family guy who was still charming, but he had this whole new side to him. I'm just thinking of Susie and the boys. When I think about them I'm struggling to hold it together.”

Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 9 Target Honda:
“Dan is family and I will miss him badly. Such an amazing person and wonderful family man. We will be with Susie, Sebastian and Oliver for whatever they need. I still can't believe it."

Graham Rahal, Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 38 Service Central Honda:
"My heart goes out to the Wheldon family. Dan was an incredible champion, a great friend and someone I will always respect and admire. We have truly lost one of the greatest members of our INDYCAR family."

Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Driver, No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen Honda:
"We lost a special member of our INDYCAR family. Dan was doing exactly what he wanted and died doing what he loved. Our thoughts are with his wife, Susie, and his two children. There are much bigger plans in life than we can ever hope to understand. Dan will be forever missed."

This statement is in regard to the death of Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who passed away due to injuries suffered in today IZOD Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If used in print, it should be attributed to the team and/or team co-owner Bobby Rahal.  “The passing of Dan Wheldon today is a great shame. Dan was a great driver as evidenced by not only his Indianapolis 500 victories, but by his many wins and great performances in the race car. But he was much more than a great driver. He was a good guy, good family man and really seemed to have a bright future not only as a driver but as a television personality as well. We had spoken to him very recently about his prospects as a driver for 2012 with our team and he was very enthusiastic about his future. He will be missed.

A statement from Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Belskus on the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon from injuries suffered in the Las Vegas Indy 300 on Sunday, Oct. 16 during the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented By Honda at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

"We are incredibly saddened at the passing of Dan Wheldon. He was a great champion of the Indianapolis 500 and a wonderful ambassador for the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of motorsports. Most importantly, he was a fantastic husband, father and man - a good friend to so many in this sport. His memory will live forever at the Speedway, both through the magnitude of his accomplishments on the track and his magnetism off the track. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans."

Wheldon, 33, won "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in 2005 and 2011.

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