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.