R.I.P., Dan Wheldon

I wanted to write something on the horrific Indy Car crash that happened in Vegas on Sunday and took the life of Dan Wheldon. One of the responsibilities of authors on blogs is to give regulars a chance to pipe in on things that the author might not be that familiar or interested in. This is one of those posts.

The only racing I follow with even a passing fancy is horse racing. I wrote a post a few months ago on NASCAR and really had to bone up on it since I have never ever been to either a NASCAR or Indy Car event. I understand the appeal, it is just not my cup of tea. But in reading about the crash (I am not going to link to any actual video footage of the crash, there is some spectacular videos over at youtube that do it justice) I started to become interested.

One thing I did not know about Dan was that he had rock star status over in England. Maybe Poosh can flesh that out further, but the guy had a big following.

In the years following his first Indy 500 triumph in 2005 Dan Wheldon was often likened by journalists in his home country to a motor racing version of David Beckham, the UK’s other, rather more widely celebrated, handsome multimillionaire sporting superstar export.

I found a video with his dad speaking about the death, I thought poignant:

An article in WSJ that illuminates a number of risks that were apparently brushed off, for theatrics.

One thing I did not know, from the article:

Media attention focused on a publicity stunt: Mr. Bernard had offered $5 million to any driver who could start in last place and win the race, splitting the money with a fan. Mr. Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, took the challenge.

I wonder if a last place start with the chance of a big payoff at the end caused him to race a bit riskier then he normally would.


In the materials, one driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, said, “All it takes is one mistake by one driver, and it could be huge consequences. This should be a nail-biter for the fans, and it’s going to be insane for the drivers.”

No doubt that was meant for publicity sake, to juice up the spectator number, but now I bet he wished he could take that all back.

Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death in 2001 precipitated a number of safety features that are now standard fare in NASCAR racing vehicles, but given the dynamics of an Indy Car, the outrageous speeds obtained and the usual crowded (much more than NASCAR) fields, any new modifications are limited. But where the Indianapolis 500 track is 2.5 miles round, this course was only 1.5, and drivers were worried before the race.

So if you are a Indy Car fan, or want to add anything about the crash, the driver, or the future of Indy Car racing, here ya go!

Comments are closed.

  1. InsipiD

    I can’t say that I followed it much, but I knew his name. He was about my age, had a lovely young family, and was a real racing talent. He was handsome, articulate, and was a rising star. The only thing sadder would be for him to have died this weekend doing anything else. The world needs more fearless people with a sense of the grand.


    Thumb up 1

  2. CM

    Yeah nice post Rich. Indy is pretty much the only motorsport I follow, and that’s because of Scott Dixon’s involvement. Dixon was a close friend of Weldon’s (they used to be in the same team). A second Kiwi is now involved too (Wade Cunningham) and unfortunately it seems he was the one that triggered it all. Very sad indeed. I agree that at least he died doing what he loved. But horrible leaving two young kids behind. It seems he was very well liked, and it sounds like the community will do everything possible to support his wife and kids, which is great.

    Thumb up 0

  3. FPrefect89

    I wonder if a last place start with the chance of a big payoff at the end caused him to race a bit riskier then he normally would.

    My view of the accident was that Dan did not start it, just was one of the cars caught up in it. His was one of the two or three that were flying through the air.

    The safety features introduced to NASCAR were optional until the Dale Earnhardt’s accident. Now the HANS device is mandatory. The only thing that I could see that would have prevented this accident is to have the wheels covered. From the video I saw, the accident was precipitated by one of the other drivers running into the wheels of another. This from what I have seen is something that usually is the cause of most accidents in open wheel racing. It does not take much of a touch to cause one of those cars to lose control and go flying.

    Thumb up 0

  4. InsipiD

    They were racing like NASCAR with open wheels. It’s good TV, but dangerous. I’ve heard it said that Danica Patrick “had a bad feeling” and started kind of holding back soon before the crash. It was a crowded and fast field that made contact, and the cars’ handling is so edgy that spins are unrecoverable. Wheldon didn’t start the crash, but he had no time or places to go when it happened right in front of him.

    Thumb up 0