Just one week after the death of Dan Wheldon in an Indy car race, Italian motorcyclist Marco Simoncelli died in a horrific wreck in the Malaysian MotoGP.
While the two racing series are obviously very different, two deaths in such close proximity bring up the question of whether motorsports are sufficiently safe. There are obviously certain risks involved when becoming a racer, but every measure possible should be taken to protect the drivers.
NASCAR went to great lengths to improve driver safety following the death of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 in 2001. Use of the HANS device was made mandatory following his death and it could very well have prevented serious skull and neck injuries since its institution, although we'll never know for sure.
In addition to that, NASCAR drivers also have the benefit of a much larger car that protects them pretty sufficiently. IRL cars, on the other hand, are open wheel and leave the drivers susceptible to injuries, as do motorcycles as Simoncelli fell off the motorcycle during his fatal crash.
It is difficult to say what more can be done, particularly in an inherently dangerous sport like motorcycle racing, but there have to be furthered safety devices that can be created or implemented to prevent another grisly wreck like the one that Simoncelli was involved in.
I do think that the deaths of Wheldon and Simoncelli were coincidental, but if nothing else it should give the racing world an excuse to look further into safety precautions. NASCAR should be commended for taking extreme measures to protect the drivers even if some resisted the extra protection.
The rest of the racing world, particularly IRL and MotoGP, need to approach safety with the same urgency that NASCAR did. There is no guarantee that either series will be as successful since it is almost like comparing apples to oranges, but it is very clear that something needs to change.