Sunday afternoon, the racing community lost a champion, as Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died after a fiery 15-car pileup on lap 13 of the Indycar series’ season finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Wheldon’s car collided with another car, sending him flying over 100 yards, landing in the catch fence of turn two. The carnage could barely be made out to be an Indy car, as a large portion of the speedway was covered in debris from the mass of vehicles involved in the accident.
- Wheldon, 33, was airlifted from the track to University Medical Center where his death was announced at the track a few hours later.
“IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries,” IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today. IndyCar, its drivers and owners, have decided to end the race.”
In his honor, drivers took part in a five-lap salute around the oval, with the scoring tower beaming #77 in the number one position.
Wheldon started at the rear of the field but quickly worked his way through the 34-car field, moving up 10 positions in the opening laps of the event.
Drivers had expressed concerns about the high speeds at the track, where they were hitting speeds of nearly 225 mph during practice sessions. Unfortunately, those concerns became reality on lap 13.
IndyCar has not had a fatality since Paul Dana was killed at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006 in a crash during practice.
It was Wheldon’s 134th career start, but only his third of the season.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Wheldon and IndyCar family. The sport lost an incredible member of the racing community, and his impact on the fans and drivers within it will carry on his memory, kindness and love of racing.
~ Mark Twain