Dan Wheldon killed in crash at IndyCar season finale


Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian

Wheldon pictured at the Indianapolis 500, which he won earlier this year

Dan Wheldon has lost his life following a crash at the start of the IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas.

Wheldon was running in the middle of the 34-car pack when the crash happened after 12 laps had been completed.

He was taken by helicopter to the University Medical Centre but succumbed to his injuries

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard announced the news following a meeting with the drivers. He said: “IndyCar is sad to announce that Dan Wheldon passed away from unsurvivable injuries.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan and his family. IndyCar, its drivers and teams have decided to end the race. We will run a five-lap salute in honour of Dan.”

Fifteen cars were involved in the crash and three other drivers – Will Power, Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand – were also injured.

The race was red-flagged and stopped following the accident, and abandoned after the news of Wheldon’s condition was announced. The remaining drivers staged a five-lap display run in Wheldon’s honour.

Wheldon, 33, won the IndyCar series in 2005. He won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time earlier this year in addition to the victory he scored in his championship year.

He did not have a full-time drive in the series in 2011 and the Las Vegas event was his third race of the year. He had started the race from last place and was in the running for a special prize of $5 million had he won.


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195 comments on Dan Wheldon killed in crash at IndyCar season finale

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  1. That was the first “live” fatal accident I’ve witnessed, and I hope to never see one again. RIP, Wheldon.

  2. Antony Butler (@butler_f1) said on 17th October 2011, 1:17

    I dont think any superlatives can really express what a shock and tragedy this is, its just heartbreaking.

  3. Schumacherisboss (@schumacherisboss) said on 17th October 2011, 1:20


  4. Jeff (@thefightin) said on 17th October 2011, 1:28

    A death that didn’t need to happen. The IRL was founded on ovals. Indy, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Texas, Loudon, Nashville, etc etc. Driver have always driven wheel to wheel at 210+ mph. Unfortunately the merger with Champ car dissolved this. The drivers once knew how to race wheel to wheel are were very talented. Today though the drivers are simply not as good. You have 8-9 drivers at the most that can do this on ovals. The rest, like JR Hildabrand, EJ Viso, Takuma Sato, james hindcliff, etc etc. have been thrown to the wolves. Road racers have their hands full because they’ve never raced at this speed side by side constantly.

    Las Vegas is not Indy, where’s there is one racing line and the field is sprung out. It’s not like Nashville or Kentucky for where the drivers run slower speeds with the surface and sharper turns. And Las Vegas is certainly not flat. It was ludicrous to even allow 34 cars on a track designed for 3600 lbs stock cars. As I said to someone else, this could mark the end of the IRL. The executive decisions have been downright terrible and dangerous. Take a look at what happened at Sau Paulo and New Hampshire. Look at how these drivers acted at the road course of Edmonton. The drivers are just not good enough for these race cars to be run at a track like Las Vegas. Shame on the IRL for this, this should have never of happened.

    RIP Dan Wheldon. He was one of my favorites.

    • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 17th October 2011, 1:31

      This probably isn’t the time for it but I’ve had the same thing in my head when watching Indy before. The quality of drivers leaves a lot to be desired for whats supposed to be a top class open wheel series.

      • Jeff (@thefightin) said on 17th October 2011, 1:39

        A shame really, considering there are some great drivers in the IRL.

        I just want to add that I am not blaming anyone for Dan Wheldon’s unfortunate death. I know in any racing series something like this can happen at any time. I just think this race should have never taken place at this particular race track.

  5. This is the sixth motorsport death I have witnessed live. The experience does not get easier with repetition.

    A few days after Wheldon clinched the 2005 championship he did an appearance on the Lettermen show. I thought he seemed smart, personable, and funny and have been a fan of his ever since.

    A great gift and a great loss. Many souls departed Earth for Heaven today. I’d bet Dan got there 1st.

  6. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 17th October 2011, 1:42

    I can’t even find words.

    I’m stunned.

    When you’ve been looking up to racing drivers as if they are gods since the age of three, to know that a driver has been killed on track makes it impossible to conceal the emotions.

    Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved and what he did best. He’s possibly the most underrated British racing driver of this generation. He will be missed by IndyCar, motor racing in general, but most importantly by his family and everyone who knew him.

    I hope Power, Hildebrand and Mann get well soon too.

  7. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 17th October 2011, 2:05

    Rest in peace, Dan Wheldon.

    This is the first time I’ve ever commented on F1Fanatic with tears streaming down my cheeks and I hope it’s the last. I feel like I should say something deep and meaningful, but I’m not the best with words. All I am going to say is this:

    I am not an IndyCar fan. I have only heard of Dan Wheldon, but I wasn’t sure which category of motor racing I’d heard his name mentioned in. But I am a motor racing fan and this is the very thing that we all dread. I’ve never seen a driver die live and that didn’t change today as I was fast asleep. But to everyone that did witness it, I am so deeply sorry. You have my utmost respect for handling yourselves in the way that you did.

    Finally, my thoughts are with Dan Wheldon’s family and friends. I know it’s a cliche and it won’t make the pain go away, but we know very well that Dan died doing the thing he loved most. May he rest in peace.

  8. Terrible tragedy for Wheldon and his family.

    I can’t get past the terrible irony of IRL putting in Wheldon as kind of “rabbit” by putting the $5m bounty on him. He was also the “on-track reporter,” meant to give mid-race commentary as he drove. His task was to keep people from switching to a football game should somehting happen to Power’s race, such that the title was decided early in the race. This rare free-to-air ABC broadcaset, the title fight, and the Wheldon bounty, were supposed to guarantee a fresh buzz for IRL. Now IRL has all the publicity it could want but of the very worse kind.

    There is plenty of time to debate whether the race/track/cars/drivers are safe enough. I have to say that in 25 years of watching motorsport I have never seen such a sight. Half a dozen cars flying into the fence engulfed in flames, many others totally destroyed. Several cars still infernos after they come to a stop. Will Power survied launching over the back of another car at 220mph, tumbling upside down, and then straight into a steel wire fence, and then being barbecued in a massive fireball. IRL of course sells this “close” “racing” as part of the appeal. They sell the danger. But when you have a situation where any one of the little misjudgements we have seen in the last F1 race could result in a plane-crash scene, rather than a puncture or a two-car wreck, maybe you have gone over the line from sport to blood-sport.

    • graham228221 (@graham228221) said on 17th October 2011, 7:40

      He was also the “on-track reporter,” meant to give mid-race commentary as he drove.

      Is that true? My god, that makes me very angry.

      This is a tragic, unnecessary waste of life, and doubts must rightly be again cast onto the safety record of Indycar. This is, what, seven fatalities since F1’s darkest weekend in 1994, and surely that can’t be acceptable in this modern age. @DaveW, I think you’re right that Indy seems to have been edging towards a bloodsport mentality – it sounds like there’s been an air of desperation there in the dire aftermath of the economic crisis to chase those cheap thrills.

      My thoughts go out to Man’s wife and two sons :( the apparently safer 2012 Indy car design can’t come soon enough.

      • Yes. And on the warm up lap, he gave an interview to the booth from the car, talking about his chances, etc. So on the broadcast, we heard last from him among the drivers before the cars took the flag. That really shook me. I guess the piont of this feature is personalize a driver and give a real in-race perspective for the viewers. Horrible horrible irony.

        I’m so sad for his kids. As a parent, I iknow it’s one of the two things you can’t even make yourself really think about without breaking down— leaving your young child without a father.

        I hope you ar right and that his legacy is bound with a substantial improvement in safety. I hope it does not stand for what could be a fundamental threat to the existence of this series.

  9. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 17th October 2011, 2:24

    I saw this image of the wider accident (there’s nothing graphic, but it may be disturbing to some). With all the fire, smoke and bits of racing car going every which way, Las Vegas looks less like a racing circuit and more like a war zone. Fortunately, the other drivers injured in the crash – Will Power, JR Hildebrand and Pippa Mann – should be okay. Power has been released from hospital; Mann and Hildebrand will be kept overnight

  10. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 17th October 2011, 2:30

    I just cannot believe my eyes! I never thought that we will see any death due to motorracing in the modern era due to the safety it has.One thing I can’t understand as I often see in INDY that whenever a bad crash happens we see fuel fire,I can’t remember when is the last time that happened in F1,aren’t they should have the same safety standard?

  11. Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 17th October 2011, 2:31

    i don’t have much to say, i’m speechless.. this is such a horrible moment

    RIP Dan Wheldon, You were a fantastic driver, and a great person. You will be missed

  12. vho (@) said on 17th October 2011, 2:36

    It’s disappointing to see that the power brokers of motor racing are still putting money ahead of people’s lives. Like in San Remo 1994, there were some drivers, including Senna, that proclaimed the track was dangerous – just like today in Las Vegas, but yet none of the power brokers listened. This sort of behaviour is distressing and I hope legal proceedings occur to put some of these people accountable for these sorts of decisions.

    I once worked for a mining company and you constantly hear about near-misses, incidents and fatalities. Mining companies work tirelessly in improving safety and the Australian government won’t hesitate to close an operation down if it wasn’t deemed to be safe. Nevertheless, in my 3 years at the company I came across 3 fatalities – lightening strike, and 2 rolled vehicles where both drivers were distracted.

    It’s always distressing to hear that someone lost their life at work, and in Dan’s case, he also enjoyed what he did. It’s even more distressing to realise it could’ve been prevented if the organisers listened to the drivers.

    RIP Dan, my thoughts are with you and your family.

  13. Egon (@egon) said on 17th October 2011, 2:56

    i think the real problem here is the safety of the track itself now, the cars are as close to safe as they can be and now the focus needs to shift to how to make the tracks themselves safer.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 17th October 2011, 3:36

      Las Vegas Motor Speedway is unique in that it has some rather extreme banking – twenty degrees, second only to Texas Motor Speedway (which has twenty-four degree banking). By comparison, Kansas Speedway has fifteen degrees of banking, and Indianapolis has twelve.

      Furthermore, LVMS is classified as a tri-oval. It’s specifically designed to allow cars to reach high speeds by easing the corners. The effect of this is amplified by the banking, which decreases the lateral G-forces on the drivers, and lets the teams run less downforce, allowing them to go faster through the corners.

      The question that really needs to be asked here is what role, if any, the $5 million bounty on the race played in causing the pile-up. The orgnisers offered an additional prize to any part-time driver who could win the race. Dan Wheldon was one of those entires, and I believe there were several more – Las Vegas had a grid of over thirty cars. I don’t believe they all got greedy and tried to win the race straight away, though Dario Franchitti reflected that he felt a little nervous after five laps because other drivers were doing “crazy” things. A lot of the drivers in the race were inexperienced; even those who were doing a full season, because more than half the races this year were on road courses (and even more will be run next year).

      • Martyn said on 17th October 2011, 9:44

        Prisoner Monkeys, the 5 million dollar prize played no role. The crash wasn’t caused by part-timers, nor was Wheldon at fault. Basically, many of the Indycar drivers do “crazy” things at every oval (and street course) race. Banging wheels and so on. This just happened to be a really dangerous track that they shouldn’t have been racing on, unless they raced extremely carefully.

  14. KEN ALLEN (@ken-allen) said on 17th October 2011, 3:19

    The eyes of Scottland are crying today. Dan “77” was and will always be a champion. The Indy car world will miss him, for sure.

  15. Scalextric (@scalextric) said on 17th October 2011, 3:45

    I felt I had to spend more time with my kids tonight, because Dan can’t.

    When I was a kid, drivers had this fearless exuberance and dashing way of ignoring the dangers of the sport. It was part of the glamour, somehow, maybe echoing wartime heroism. Before my time, seat belts were thought of as a weakness as were parachutes by WWI aviators. Such foolishness has long since gone and this tragedy must become an incentive to redouble safety efforts and protect our heroes.

    Condolences to the Wheldons. Good luck to those who seek to increase safety.

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