Bottom Tier Superhero
Indy Cars Vegas 2011 Crash
There was a wicked crash in Vegas today at the Indy car race.
10-16-2011 03:28 PM
Wheldon died at the hospital from injuries suffered in this wreck. Wicked sad to hear that. I'd never really followed IndyCar and shot a race this summer for the first time and got an appreciation for it. RIP Dan :(
That was a horrible crash. Feel sorry for the family. R.I.P. Dan.
fire and carnage. bad news. condolences to wheldons family. wow did he catch some air!
I can see your point, but you are still full of shit!
Bottom Tier Superhero
MILLER: IndyCar Must Retain ‘Wow’ Factor
Written by: Robin Miller
Date: 10/25/2011 - 04:09 PM
Location: Indianapolis, IN
During qualifying for a sprint car race at Winchester in 1951, Cecil Green lost control, sailed out of the high-banked oval and crashed to his death. Bill Mackey was the next driver out and he met the same fate as Green. Then Duane “Pappy” Carter followed those two and set a new world record before going on to win the main event.
In 1964, after the Indianapolis 500 had been red-flagged for the first time ever following the second-lap inferno that killed Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald, the remaining drivers stubbed out their cigarettes, climbed back in their cars and resumed racing.
In the face of fatal accidents, IndyCar and MotoGP cancelled their respective races during the past two weeks after only a few laps.
These comparisons are used to illustrate the different mentality that auto racing operates under nowadays and why there needs to be some clear, rational thinking over the next couple months before anything major changes about IndyCar.
Dan Wheldon’s death unleashed the gamut of emotions, from suggesting the cockpit of future cars be covered with a canopy to dropping all oval races to the national media vultures trying to incite a witch hunt on Randy Bernard.
Even IndyCar has been swept into the vortex by launching a full scale investigation into the 15-car accident in Las Vegas that claimed the two-time Indy 500 winner.
But we don’t need the FIA or a special committee to tell us what we know and what we saw.
A veteran racer lost his life to the perils of open wheel racing that was torqued by a low horsepower/high downforce formula and probably aided by a lack of respect and/or experience by some drivers.
Pack racing didn’t kill Wheldon, it was simply the accessory to the crime, but it needs to go away and never come back.
And, contrary to the New York Times’ descent into tabloid journalism with a fable portraying Bernard as an un-caring huckster for staging a race with a $5 million incentive, it’s ludicrous to blame anybody.
As Bryan Herta correctly stated: “It’s not Randy Bernard’s fault or any one person’s fault. It’s either that or it’s all our faults because we all went there.”
Which brings us to the guts of this story. Racers always played the hand they were dealt. Whether it was the absence of seat belts, helmets, fuel cells, roll bars, cars or track safety, drivers didn’t stop and consider the dangers – they were too busy trying to beat each other.
Those were lethal years for Big Car racing, especially the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and thankfully guys like Bill Simpson, Wally Dallenbach, Bob Hubbard, Jim Downing, Steve Olvey,
Terry Trammell and John Melvin came along and led the charge to make racing safer.
The life expectancy of an Indy driver in the ‘60s was a couple years and now it’s at least a decade before retiring into sports cars.
But that’s not to say today’s drivers weren’t painted into coffin corner the past several years.
Racing spec Indy cars wide open at 210-220 mph on a high-banked, 1.5-mile oval made for NASCAR may not be as crazy as running Indy with a leather helmet and wire wheels but it’s damn sure in the ballpark.
And, while most drivers admitted they were either sweating or dodging bullets at Texas or Chicago every year, they still mashed the throttle. They may have ####### privately about the insanity yet the show went on.
Just like it did at Las Vegas.
Everybody who understands racing expected a crash like we finally had on Oct. 16 a long time ago yet here we were: the last race for these cars with these specs and IndyCar could escape the last bullet in the chamber.
That’s what made the reactions of many inside the paddock hard to fathom. They were shocked something like this could happen? Seriously?
Considering the velocity and magnitude of this crash, we’re lucky there weren’t two or three other memorial services last weekend.
Now, like has usually been the trend in motorsports, the sanctioning body will hopefully take this tragedy and turn it into a positive that benefits safety as well as competition.
The drivers worth their salt want a lot more horsepower and a lot less downforce in the new car/engine combo. “We need to make them tougher to drive so we can separate the men from the boys,” said Graham Rahal, who cut his teeth on 850-900 HP in Champ Car before coming to the unified IRL and 650 HP.
Not only would that reward talent and weed out the pretenders, it might also insure we no longer have any ovals that can be lapped without lifting. We don’t need Kentucky, Fontana or Texas unless drivers have to roll out of the throttle, tap the brake and drive the car.
If that’s not possible, then maybe IndyCar can keep trying Milwaukee, Loudon and Phoenix (and keep Iowa obviously) because those are the tracks where racers always shined.
Fans have been complaining for a long time that the cars go so fast through a turn at Indianapolis they can barely recognize the number and there’s virtually no reaction time for the drivers at those insane cornering speeds as we saw in Vegas. It’s fine to go 230 mph down the straightaway, but not in the corners. It’s not necessary to average that kind of speed for a lap and it obviously doesn’t draw anybody for qualifying each May.
The essence of driving a race car is that balance of brake, throttle and balls so it must be restored to Indianapolis and any other oval on the schedule.
The IRL dumbed down oval racing and in the process made it way too easy to be an Indy 500 driver because it needed teams. There’s no reason to dwell on it, just like there’s no reason to ever repeat that chapter of history.
In the next couple months, IndyCar has the chance to make changes that will put the driver back in the seat on ovals.
But, as Mario Andretti said Sunday night on Wind Tunnel, we don’t need canopies like sports cars or any knee jerk reactions that emasculate the character of Indy car racing.
It’s safer than it’s ever been yet let’s not kid each other. IndyCar racing needs to retain that WOW factor which separates it from NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am and anything else with four wheels.
As he’s often prone to do, Tony Stewart told the truth in blunt form last week when being pressed by the media to play the blame game in Wheldon’s accident.
“It’s nobody’s fault, it’s part of racing. Racing has always been dangerous. That’s why people come to watch because there’s always been an element of danger.”
That’s why many of us revered A.J., Parnelli, Herk, Mario, Gurney, J.R., Gordy and the Unsers. They lived at the limit in a much deadlier era and people couldn’t stop watching.
All the improvements like safer walls, HANS, carbon fibre tubs and cockpit padding have saved lives and reduced risks. Sadly, none of those things helped Wheldon and now we’ll likely explore new fences and try to make sure the new car doesn’t fly.
Still, we mustn’t lose the fiber of what made 16th & Georgetown.
IndyCar doesn’t have to be crazy dangerous, but it needs to stay friendly with the ragged edge.
Robin Miller brings 40 years of experience to his role as SPEED.com’s senior open-wheel reporter, and serves as a frequent contributor to SPEED Center and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.
double posted for added effect?
I can see your point, but you are still full of shit!