Indy 500 Winner Dan Wheldon Dies in 15-Car Crash

PHOTO: IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, of England, poses with his family, wife Susie, left, holding Oliver, and Sebastian, right, next to the Borg-Warner Trophy after winning the 2011 Indianapolis 500.
Share
Copy

Dan Wheldon loved to drive fast, from the time he first took the wheel of a go-kart when he was 4 years old, but the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner had begun to have concerns about the speeds cars were reaching on the IndyCar circuit.

He and other drivers had also expressed concern about the conditions for today's IndyCar series final at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was crowded -- 34 cars -- and drivers were speeding, even by Indy standards, getting up to 225 mph. As ABC News' Josh Elliott noted, "Even the tiniest mistake can touch off wrecks like we see today."

Only minutes into the race, two cars touched tires, setting off the 15-car crash that would claim Wheldon's life and send three fellow racers, including championship contender, Will Power, to the hospital.

Wheldon was 33 years old and is survived by his wife, Susie, and two children, Sebastian, 2, and Oliver, 8 months.

IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard made the official announcement of Wheldon's death without further comment. Officials decided to call the race.

"IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries," Bernard said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today. IndyCar, its drivers and owners, have decided to end the race. In honor of Dan Wheldon, the drivers have decided to do a five-lap salute to in his honor."

The horrific crash occurred on lap 11, and for several long shocking moments, several 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."

"I'll tell you, I've never seen anything like it," driver Ryan Briscoe told The Associated Press. "The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from Terminator or something. I mean, there were just pieces of metal and car on fire in the middle of the track with no car attached to it and just debris everywhere. So it was scary, and your first thoughts are hoping that no one is hurt because there's just stuff everywhere. Crazy."

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.

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

The melancholy sounds of "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes could be heard as the drivers ran the memorial laps. Wheldon's crew solemnly walked out to the track for the parade laps and Ashley Judd, wife of IndyCar racer Dario Franchetti, cried before official word came out.

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.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...