Dan Wheldon Crash: IRL Must Improve Safety Before They Run Another Race

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2011

TORONTO, ON - JULY 11:  Dan Wheldon, driver of the #4 National Guard Panther Racing Dallara Honda in pit lane during qualifying for the Indycar Series Honda Indy Toronto on July 11, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Dan Wheldon crash made something wildly apparent to people like me who weren't following the IRL close enough: that the IRL has recklessly ignored some glaring safety precautions. These need to be ratified immediately.

I realize that it is impossible to take all of the danger out of auto racing, but it can easily be made safer than the conditions that currently exist in the IRL.

Any racing organizations straddles a blurred line of safety and amazing racing. With the following changes the IRL can move back to the safety side of that line.


Cars/Track Changes

Plans are already in the works for the IRL to unveil a new car for the next racing season. They need to be sure that these cars cannot race wide open on smaller ovals like Las Vegas.

The steep banked turns of the 1.5-mile oval of Las Vegas allowed drivers to keep the pedal to the metal. This keeps cars tightly bunched as they are all going full throttle with little straightaway to gain separation.

What happens is drivers in tight packs go three or even four wide into turns. The margin for error is too small in these scenarios.

One little miscue sends cars colliding with a big pack of cars behind them without enough room to steer clear of the wreckage.


Field Size

This is an easy fix. The IRL needs to limit the size of the field. There were 34 cars in the field for the ill-fated Las Vegas 300. There is simply not enough room on a 1.5-mile oval for this many cars.

On a track like Las Vegas, the field needs to be closer to 25. This will create more space between cars and ease the drivers' urges to make a desperation move.