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DATE News (chronologically)
10/20/11
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Risks Haunted Fatal Race
Sunday's IndyCar Series race here was supposed to be a showcase event for a struggling sport undergoing a transformation.

Essential to attracting new crowds, said IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard, was increasing the excitement—and risks—on the racetrack.

Promotional materials for the Las Vegas race on IndyCar's website predicted "the wildest race of the season" because the track was unusually "fast and smooth."

'Danger has been an inherent part of the sport since 1909.' -- IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard
.In the materials, one driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, said, "All it takes is one mistake by one driver, and it could be huge consequences. This should be a nail-biter for the fans, and it's going to be insane for the drivers."

Now, as track officials try to piece together the causes of Sunday's 15-car crash that killed driver Dan Wheldon, race-industry officials, drivers and families in the sport are questioning whether the risks were too high.

After taking over the Indy series in March 2010, Mr. Bernard tried to make Indy racing more exciting, like its more popular cousin, Nascar. The Indy circuit packed more cars into each contest, for instance.

Mr. Bernard also started using side-by-side restarts. The restarts, which occur after the course is slowed by a yellow flag, meant cars were closer together, raising the possibility that their exposed wheels could touch and result in crashes.

In an interview in June with the Globe and Mail newspaper, Mr. Bernard said the change to restarts would mean more "carnage and wrecks," adding that "danger will be an important element of the sport."

"I'm sorry if my comments are interpreted this way," he said in an email Monday. "Danger has been an inherent part of the sport since 1909. I don't know if what I said was taken out of context or I misspoke, but if you know me, you know where my loyalties lie, and I'm very respectful to the drivers and the sport."

In an interview, Jody Scheckter, a former Formula One driver whose son Tomas was in Sunday's accident, said that for the past few years he has been concerned about safety of the IndyCar contests and is encouraging his son to stop racing Indy cars. "Now I'm going to have to push harder," he said. More at The Wall Street Journal

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