A Sad Day for Indy

Sorry, all. The vast majority of you won't understand a lot of this post, I fear, but I need to get this out.

This week IndyRacer Dan Wheldon was involved in an on-the-track accident and passed away.

I've mentioned before that I grew up involved with auto racing. I can recall multitudes of accidents on the track. Some that looked horrific - rolling, hood-to-trunk flipping, being crunched between the wall and another car - but in almost every single one, the driver climbed through the window and walked to the infield. I remember, too, the day someone died. G. was a long-time family friend.

For a large place, filled with hundreds of people and loud cars, there was an eerie silence as everyone watched him being put into the helicopter and then his crumpled car being hoisted onto the flatbed and taken to his pit garage. In a moment of horrendous irony, the man that 'teched' (inspected and approved the car to race) the car was the man G. crashed with. It was later found that the bolts in the floor pan were rusted and he was crushed on impact when his seat came loose and he hit the wheel at well over 100mph - or the wheel hit him; the dark green car was almost literally a ball after the wreck. It should never have passed inspection. I'll spare the very gruesome details that I wish I'd never heard.Yeah, they are far worse than what I just wrote there.

Still, I can't come close to imagining what Dan's friends and family were feeling. His wife was there, and my aches for her and their two young sons.

What's really hit me hard is something that happened before the race, and also what's happening now.

Very shortly before this race, my husband was talking with a friend of his, who I won't name, but he is highly involved in the sport, and someone close to Friend was *in* that race. They were discussing how dangerous it's becoming with the crazy speeds - specifically at that track (Vegas). Many of the drivers are even having reactions to the G-forces these cars are putting off. Seriously! Does anyone out there think it's a safe thing to have someone driving a car that goes upwards of 200mph to feel "off", even if only for a few seconds.

(Friend did not say this next stuff - it's purely me.) The powers that be are concerned about winning and making [more] money. This is not a game, people are dying. There needs to be more restrictions set on the car, whether it be weight or speed, and much harsher penalties for the teams who feel pressured to "cheat" the restrictions to give their boss a win.

That was the before, now the after.

Drivers are coming out, in the press, Twitter, etc., to talk about their safety concerns. And you know what? They are getting flack for it. People who call themselves fans are not understanding what these guys are saying and they are bombarding them. A well-known NASCAR racer voiced a few things in his Twitter and got slayed by ignorant "fans." Ashley Judd, whose husband, Dario Franchitti, was driving that day - and was openly crying when the news of Dan's passing reached the track -. had some really harsh and mean-spirited things directed at her Twitter feed after she made comments that people misconstrued. Granted, those people probably don't realize there's been so much talk about the safety issues of late, but the woman lost a friend. And what she said was heartfelt and meaningful.

If the drivers can't advocate for their safety and the safety of their friends, then who will?

Despite all the competition and on-the-track-feuding, racing is a seriously tight-knit family. They are ALL hurting right now. My heart goes out to every one of them.


Aimee Laine said...

Mine, too, Tara. I'm a LONG time Indy fan and watched Dan win the 500 this past May. The wreck in Vegas is ETCHED into my mind.

Someone told me they DO have speed limiters, but then again, I have no idea because I only hear what the media says. The truth is always in the drivers and teams.

I just hope this was in fact a freak accident with no malice and that speed wasn't the factor ... something else altogether, you know? Just something so far out there no one could have anticipated it.


Maria Zannini said...

Anyone who gives flak over safety concerns of the competitors is not a fan, they're ghouls.

Cars are always going to be pushed to see how far they can go, but they don't have to be put on tracks like the one in Las Vegas.

Dan Wheldon was too young to die. My sympathies to his family.

Jess said...

I didn't know who these people are/were, I'm not a big fan of racing, but it hurts to think of someone dying that way. I hope his family is okay.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's a sport for entertainment, and no one should die for the sake of entertainment.

Old Kitty said...

I'm not familiar with racing (sorry)but for such a young man full of promise to die so tragically is horrid. If things can be done to prevent such a tragedy occuring again then they should be done no matter what detractors say.

My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.

Take care

Jenny S. Morris said...

I read about this yesterday, and it makes me so sad this happened. And, my heart really goes out to his family and the community of racing. I hope that this will open peoples eyes, and start the ball rolling for more safety. I'm sorry about your friend.

Slamdunk said...

My prayers are with the driver's family. It is sad that a tragedy is usually what it takes for those in power to push safety ahead of profit.

roh morgon said...

My husband and I were watching the race on TV when the wreck happened. My gut twisted as I watched two of the 15 cars involved become airborne and crack into the wall.

There was even a recent interview with Dan about the upcoming race, and he expressed his concerns at that time about the speeds and the tightness of that track.

What most non-race fans don't realize is that the slightest mistake, the tiniest rub with an open-wheel car at those speeds is deadly.

The best memorial to Dan would be to address the drivers' concerns and implement more rigorous safety rules.

I can't begin to imagine the sense of loss that his family and friends are feeling.

Sad day indeed.

Portia said...

This is such a sad story. And I agree with you, it's absolutely crazy that the drivers are taking flak for voicing legitimate concerns. Wheldon's family will definitely be in my thoughts.


LTM said...

Man, that's really sad. I don't know very much about racing, although we are living in Indy again. Still, you make valid points, and I do think they should put more restrictions on the cars. Hopefully they will~ :o) <3

Su said...

Sigh... people say stupid things on the internet. I wish they would think for just a second about the person with feelings on the other end. Shame on the 'fans' who act as though their entertainment is paramount over everything else.

Sunday was a sad day. The footage of Franchitti was heartbreaking-- it was so plain to see the pain he was in at losing his friend.