Dan Wheldon Fatal Crash, Death Announcement and Salute - Live (HD)
Dan Wheldon's life tragically came to an end on October 16th, 2011, when the 33-year-old driver got caught up in what can only be described as one of the worst incidents in Indycar history. It all started when a car spun in the middle of the pack, creating a chaotic melee for the cars trying to get by. Some cars caught on fire as they skidded to a stop; others hit the wall and spun widely towards the inside wall. As for Wheldon, his car launched off a fellow driver's tire, sending him into the catch fence with dizzying speeds. His helmet was then penetrated by a fence post that was said to cause blunt force trauma to Wheldon. A helmet cam video also shows one of Wheldon's tires coming off its axel and hitting him in the face.
As a result of Wheldon's tragic death, the race was eventually called, and a five-lap, three-wide salute to Wheldom occurred instead. During the emotional tribute, the broadcasters remained silent while Amazing Grace played throughout LVMS. Finally, Dan's number 77 was put atop the scoring pylon to honor the former champion.
The worst part of the tragedy is that experts warned Indycar about competing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before the tragedy, which essentially made Wheldon's untimely death preventable.
Let's start out with the fact that many people pegged the race at LVMS to be extremely dangerous because Indycars can reach 220 MPH in a matter of seconds, leaving little room for error. Vegas is also only a mile and a half long, making it essentially a short track at those speeds. This created a pack type of racing that is similar to NASCAR, but with speeds reaching up to 30 MPH faster. This, along with little protection inside the vehicle made a fatal accident almost inevitable
“I hate to, so close to a tragedy, talk about a cause and effect,” the Nascar driver Jeff Burton said, “but when you’re running the speeds that they’re running, running in packs the way they’re running, you’re going to have spectacular wrecks and hopefully you don’t have catastrophic injuries and those kinds of things. There’s no way to avoid it."
If that wasn't bad enough, Indycar President, Randy Benard, decided to make the race more interesting by offering a 2.5 million dollar reward to be split up between a driver and a chosen fan. The deal was that the driver selected would have to start at the back of the pack and work his way up through the field. Although this might sound like a clever marketing strategy, and a way to create some excitement, it ended up backfiring.
Think about it! Wheldon might not have been that far back in the pack if he didn't accept Bernard's challenge. Furthermore, he wouldn't have lost his life if Bernard would have listened to warnings in the first place.
Wheldon's death was looked into, but they found that no single factor played a role in his death. The report was released in December of 2011 and claimed that the catch fence plus the close proximity racing played a role in his death. Ten years later, and Indycar is a much safer series to compete in. Of course, the series hit another bad snag when Justin Wilson tragically lost his life in an accident in 2015, but the sport is about to go six years without a death this season. This means that little by little, the series is getting safer.