NASCAR Sprint Cup: Will Dan Wheldon's Death Loom over the Kobalt Tools 400?

David DeNennoContributor IIIMarch 7, 2012

LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 16:  Image 30 in a sequence of 47 images of the crash in which Dan Wheldon of England driver of the #77 Bowers & Wilkins Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara Honda was involved during the Las Vegas Indy 300, part of the IZOD IndyCar World Championships presented by Honda on October 16, 2011 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wheldon was pronounced dead less than an hour after the crash, his death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head sustained in the incident.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

After the horrific crash on Lap 11 at last year's IZOD IndyCar World Championship that involved 15 cars and took the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, the NASCAR Sprint Cup will return this Sunday to that track for the first time since the incident.

NASCAR's top division visits Las Vegas Motor Speedway only once per year, typically during the first week of March, though it has raced there once at the very end of February.

Since the tragic events of October 16, 2011 happened well after last year's Kobalt Tools 400, this is NASCAR's first opportunity to pay homage to Wheldon at the track where he passed away.

As an organization, NASCAR immediately acknowledged the importance of Wheldon's loss to the racing community after it occurred. It offered a moment of silence for him during the very next scheduled race of the Chase, the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega. Additionally, it allowed drivers to adorn their cars with small decals to pay homage to their fallen colleague, a rare instance for the organization as a whole.

Still, it seems befitting and proper of NASCAR to remember Wheldon one last time at the exact place of his death.

The prudence of this act is made more necessary by the fact that the IZOD IndyCar series will not be returning, in the foreseeable future, to honor one of its fallen. Therefore, the NASCAR Sprint Cup is the next best choice to carry out these unfortunate duties.

It need not be a major spectacle. A silent running of Lap 11 under caution would suffice.

A more personalized remembrance would be to have a No. 77 car, the number he raced when he perished, run the race. Since there is currently no No. 77 car running in the Sprint Cup Series, perhaps Regan Smith could lower his No. 78 by one digit for one race.

This is probably not allowed under NASCAR regulations, but the circumstances certainly could be altered for something such as this. Who would complain?

In any event, the usually bombastic, jovial atmosphere of Las Vegas should be quelled, if but for a moment, to remember a fallen comrade. It is the right thing to do.