It was a crash that we have all seen by now and it brings to mind some of the most horrible tragedies that have happened in auto racing over the years. Dan Wheldon managed to get into the midst of a multi-car accident that cost him his life and injured a few other drivers. Nothing short of a Hollywood special effects team could recreate a crash that looked like this and the death of one of the sport’s brightest stars has brought safety clear in mind for those involved.
It brings back memories of the death of Dale Earnhardt. While that was NASCAR, the principles of racing were the same that led to it. It was a large group of racers that were bunched together going full throttle. It happens in NASCAR during restrictor plate racing and it happens in Indycars when they get on an oval track. The lightweight cars are able to increase speeds and go over 200 miles per hour. With the build of them, it creates a deadly situation with all of these cars bunched up with literally a thin skin between them and the track. One false move and you have this type of thing happening.
The questions will come after the life of the late British racer is celebrated and he is laid to rest. The biggest question was raised by none other than Jimmy Johnson, multiple Sprint Cup winner in the NASCAR series who brought up his thoughts that these cars don’t belong on oval tracks. The idea of how to keep drivers safe will be bandied about and in the end, something will have to be done. What you might see is some sort of restrictor plate for Indycars and you might see a large change in the way that they race. Less ovals and more road courses. They will not go totally away from ovals because of the most famous race of all, the Indy 500.
I for one would not advocate that racing be abolished as some will no doubt make a move toward. Any sport brings with it risk. Ask any NFL player if they are willing to take the risk of paralysis and they will largely say yes for the sheer love of the sport. NASCAR drivers as well as Indycar drivers will say the same thing because they love what they do. Safety is important and will be stressed over the next several years because of this incident, but it shouldn’t bring an end to the excitement of racing itself. Dan Wheldon would not have raced had he felt that it was too much risk and he loved doing it. I’m sure he would want it to continue and it will.
In the meantime, we need to remember Dan Wheldon’s family and they mourn his loss. Indeed it is a loss we all feel.