Dan Wheldon: IndyCar Releases Findings Following Legend's Tragic Death

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 17:  Flower lay by the gate at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway along with other tributes left by fans to two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon on October 17, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Wheldon, winner of the 2011 Indy 500, was killed in a crash yesterday at the Izod IndyCar series season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

It has been two months since Dan Wheldon was killed in an accident at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and IndyCar has completed its findings of the accident and made them public. 

According to the report on SpeedTV.com, it was a number of usual circumstances you normally see on a racetrack that all converged at one time that led to Wheldon's death, though the track, which came under fire afterwards, was a contributing factor. SpeedTV.com's report said:

The accident review revealed that Wheldon's path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. The No. 77 car became airborne and ultimately impacted a vertical post of the track fencing. The pole intruded the cockpit, and the impact with the driver's helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.


Examination of video of the incident demonstrates normal "pack racing" that is common on high-banked ovals. However, there was almost unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions not previously experienced that is attributed to track geometry beyond banking. Such freedom of movement outside of normal racing grooves not only increased the probability for car-to-car contact, but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers. As a result, the opportunity for this incident was increased.

While this incident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamic of the current car and the overall track geometry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appears to have been one of the contributing factors in this incident.

While I understand why IndyCar had to look into the accident, I do wonder if their findings about the track being unstable will actually lead to changes with the way these races are run or the number of cars that are allowed on it at one time. 

Wheldon's death was a tragic accident and one that may not have been able to be stopped, but there have to be steps taken to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. 

It's a shame that we are such a reactive culture instead of a proactive one, because anything that does get changed as a result of this tragedy won't bring Wheldon back.

But now that the findings have been revealed, the healing process can begin for Wheldon's family and hopefully someday they will be able to look back and realize what a lasting legacy he left behind in such a short time. 

We should all be so lucky to live a life as full as Wheldon did, despite the fact that he left us at the age of 31.