The horrific accident that took the life of Dan Wheldon will send shock waves through IndyCar and the larger sports world.
Obviously, during a time like this, it is important to remember the family and friends of Dan Wheldon as well as the other injured drivers involved. It is also important to think about IndyCar as a whole.
This incident is sure to lead to big changes and big initiatives to make IndyCar safer and decrease the peril for drivers. In 2003, the IndyCar season underwent many safety changes, including changes in the chassis and a reduction in engine displacement.
The 2004 season was consequently the safest in IndyCar’s history. IndyCar continued to make their raceways safer by using the SAFER soft wall system which absorbs part of the kinetic energy released by the car when it makes contact with the wall. The SAFER has been very successful thus far.
However, no driver is truly safe at the speeds common in IndyCar. One is reminded by this incident of the NASCAR crash that took the life of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Although Dan Wheldon’s death won’t have the same cultural impact as that crash did, it will still lead to major changes in IndyCar.
Ultimately, all sports involve some kind of peril to the participant. In most sports it is merely the danger of an injury. However, all those perils seem to be out of sight and out of mind compared to this.
May all of our thoughts and prayers be with the Dan Wheldon family and IndyCar.