Two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car crash on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In the 300-mile IndyCar Series race, the 33-year-old's car went airborne 12 laps in, striking the catch fence and bursting into flames.
Wheldon, who was respected throughout the racing circuit, may have been the most well-known driver to have died in the United States since Dale Earnhardt died in the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Drivers have expressed concern about the one-and-a-half-mile oval before. Because Indy cars travel much faster than stock cars, there's always been worries that there could be a devastating pileup.
Said driver Dario Franchitti on Thursday, via The New York Times:
“The cars are going to be inches apart, both to the sides and behind and in front of you, at speeds of over 220 miles an hour."
Ironically, the track itself is actually pretty safe, given it's generally regarded as an easy course to maneuver. But because it is so easy to drive, it's also difficult for cars to gain a big lead, which leads to cars bunched close together.
Said driver Will Power, whose car became tangled with Wheldon's after the crash on Sunday, "It’s a track that’s so easy to drive it manufactures really tight-knit racing, which is really quite intense.”
The truth is there's very little that can be done unless you completely ban IndyCar racing, which is never going to happen. IndyCar racing is dangerous in itself, and there will always be the possibility there could be a big crash.
After veteran Paul Tracy slowed down quickly to maneuver through the debris of the crash on Sunday, Wheldon's car launched over Tracy's, flying from the inside of the track to the outside wall. This is something that can happen very easily on the track.
The reality is, as long as race cars are traveling at over 200 miles per hour, there will be crashes—sometimes with traumatic consequences.
This is the world race car drivers live in, always on the edge.