Dan Wheldon Frustrated With Car's Speed Before Crash

PHOTO: In this May 31, 2011 file photo, Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon visits Frankies Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Fort Worth, Texas to promote the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas motor Speedway
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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon expressed concern he wouldn't be able to get enough speed from his car in the Las Vegas race where he died in a fiery 15-car pile-up.

In the Sunday crash that killed the English racing champion, Wheldon's car, travelling at over 220 miles per hour into a turn, climbed the back of racer Paul Tracy's vehicle and burst into flames, flipping over and slamming into a crash-fence above the track's retaining wall.

In a blog before the race by Wheldon posted on USA Today, the 33-year-old racer had expressed concern that he wasn't going to be able to climb to the speed needed, saying that he and his team "just didn't have the speed" at a recent race at the Kentucky Speedway.

"So far, things haven't been going very well as we've started our pursuit of the GoDaddy IndyCar Challenge this weekend … but I'm confident in the ability of the guys at Sam Schmidt Motorsports to find the problem and get it fixed," Wheldon wrote.

"It's actually been a very difficult weekend for us so far. Basically we carried over our problem from Kentucky Speedway, where we just didn't have the speed and never really found it."

In the blog Wheldon went on to express frustration that his No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Magnolia/William Rast Dallara/Honda was three miles per hour off pace.

"If we start the race that far off the pace, it's going to be difficult to keep up," Wheldon wrote.

Sunday's pile-up happened just 11 laps into the final race of the Indycar season. The 34-car race made for a considerably crowded track, and drivers were speeding, even by Indy standards, reaching up to 225 mph.

For several long, shocking moments after the crash a number of cars were engulfed in flame as debris smacked the track so hard that workers would have to repair the asphalt.

"I saw two cars touch each other up in front of me and then I tried to slow down, couldn't slow down," driver Paul Tracy told ESPN. "Then Dan's car, from what I saw in the videos, came over my back wheel and over top of me. Just a horrendous accident."

Wheldon's car was thrown into the air and sailed into the "catch fence," designed to give cars a bit of cushion if they make impact. Workers almost immediately rushed to Wheldon's car, frantically waving for more help, but in the end, as Bernard described it, Wheldon's injuries were "unsurvivable."

Wheldon was airlifted from the Las Vegas track at 1:19 p.m. local time Sunday and taken to University Medical Hospital, becoming the first IndyCar driver to die on the track since rookie Paul Dana was killed in 2006.

Wheldon died surrounded by his wife Susie and sons, as well as two brothers and sister.

The crash also sent three fellow racers, including championship contender Will Power, to the hospital.

Wheldon was there competing to earn a $5 million bonus that was part of a league promotion for drivers who didn't compete full-time in the series this year. The only driver to accept the challenge, Wheldon would have split the money with Ann Bavenco, a randomly chosen fan.

A number of racers reportedly expressed concern earlier this week over the track's blinding speeds ahead of Sunday's IndyCar series final. At least one driver, Scottish racer Dario Franchitti, echoed those comments Sunday after the crash and before it was announced Wheldon died.

"This is not a suitable track, and we seen it today its nowhere to get away from anybody. One small mistake from somebody and there's a massive thing," Franchitti said.

Jamie Little, pit reporter for ESPN, told "Good Morning America" Monday that there was talk of the danger of the event, the challenges of the Las Vegas track made the event exciting.

"Anytime you go to racetrack with Indycar series, especially at a track like this, there's so much grip -- that's what makes it exciting. There was a lot of talk … you have that, there's always concern. What we saw happen was so tragic," she said.

Wheldon was beloved on the Indycar circuit as a gregarious figure and talented driver who'd won the series championship in 2005.

"He was one of my best friends and one of my greatest teammates," Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan said Sunday.

Sven Behm, Wheldon's father-in-law, spoke kindly of him after he learned of the news.

"He wasn't just a great driver he was a great human being. He was always very, very positive. Always had something good to say about everybody" Behm said.

After learning of Wheldon's death Sunday's race was canceled. As bagpipes sounded, Wheldon's fellow drivers drove five laps in his honor.

Just before the race, Wheldon wrote: "This is going to be an amazing show. The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out."

He ended the blog on USA Today, telling fans: "As long as I can find some speed and keep up with the pack, I'll do everything I can to put on a show."

Born in Emberton, England, he began racing go-karts at the tender age of 4 after his father got him started in competitive racing.

"I love the go-karts," he told the Los Angeles Times last week. "I get them up to around 90 on the straights."

He competed in England, winning eight British national titles along the way before moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1999.

After time in a few low-profile series, he joined the IndySeries in 2003. In eight full IndyCar Series seasons, he has posted 132 career starts, collected 26 top-three finishes, 93 top-10 finishes and five pole positions, also winning the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 in 2005 and 2011 and won 16 other races, was set to replace Danica Patrick next season in the Go-Daddy-sponsored car for Andretti Autosport after she moves to NASCAR fulltime in 2012.

Family has been a staple in Wheldon's life. In 2010 he released a photo book in collaboration with photographer Michael Voorhees. The book includes pictures of his wedding, candid photos off the racetrack, as well as a photo tribute to his racing career.

The Associated Press and ESPN contributed to this report.

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