IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and President of Operations Brian Barnhart have announced that findings from the report into the 15-car pile-up that killed Dan Wheldon at the 2011 season-ending race in Las Vegas indicate a combination of factors as the cause of the Englishman’s tragic death.
According to the report, Wheldon’s helmeted head made contact with a fencing post in the catch-fencing surrounding the circuit, which protruded the cockpit and resulted in non-survivable blunt force trauma. The fencing itself did its job in keeping the car from leaving the track altogether.
A further combination of the speed difference (Wheldon was doing 224mph while JR Hildebrand ahead was doing 215mph) at the time his No 77 car was launched over the back of Charlie Kimball’s car with the blocked path through the melee Wheldon’s car took to try and avoid the unfolding carnage played a major part in his fatal involvement in the crash.
“There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan’s life. It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan’s family,” Barnhart said.
The findings have concluded that the circuit’s banking did not contribute to the severity of the crash. These words particularly will be bittersweet for Bruton Smith, the owner of Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, the latter of which is currently the only 1.5-mile oval remaining on the 2012 season schedule and alongside Indy and Iowa, one of only three ovals set to take place next season.
IndyCar oval racing in general has been the subject of much debate and conjecture following the events in Vegas of October 16. Numerous critics, mostly from NASCAR, have labelled oval racing as too dangerous, while others currently involved with the series, such as Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt remain supportive of oval racing as a whole.
Former Indycar series champion Nigel Mansell, who won on many different types of ovals in his title winning year of 1993, recently said that it was very unusual to have so many cars (the field size in Vegas was 34 cars) on a circuit smaller than Indianapolis, which is a 2.5-mile circuit and has 33 starters each year.
Bernard added “IndyCar’s commitment to safety was enhanced by Dan Wheldon’s testing throughout 2011 of the new car to be used by IndyCar in 2012. The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season ushers in an era of a new race car and the opportunity for continued safety advancements. Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of this new car and the safety innovations that it represents. We are thankful for his efforts and commitment to racing.”
[Article by Matt Lennon’ image via AutoGuide]