I wasn’t able to watch all of the press conference but the following points caught my attention:
Randy Bernard discounted field size as a contributory factor and said it was now unclear whether IndyCar fields of any size might race at the track safely in future. He said they had originally sanctioned the track to hold races of up to 37 cars.
He also addressed question of starting Wheldon from the back of the field, pointing out that it was not uncommon for quick drivers to have to start at the back due to rule violations, and that Wheldon’s qualifying position for the race was 28th.
Brian Barnhart said Wheldon was running 24th at the time of the crash.
He added Wheldon had begun braking before hitting the car ahead of him (Charlie Kimball) at 165mph.
After being launched into the air Wheldon’s car struck a fence post which caused a “deep defect” in the chassis, striking the cockpit and Wheldon’s crash helmet. This caused Wheldon’s fatal injuries.
When asked, Barnhart said it wouldn’t have made a difference in this crash if the fence posts had been mounted on the outside of the fence (as at Indianapolis) instead of the inside (as at Las Vegas).
There was no evidence of mechanical or structural failures.
Bernard said it’s not the case that if one high-banked oval like Las Vegas is deemed unsuitable for IndyCars, it does not follow that all other tracks of a similar configuration are:
“Each high-banked oval has unique characteristics and each should be considered individually. The banking is not the only geometry taken into consideration.”
He added that drivers were able to run multiple lines around the Las Vegas track pretty much wherever they chose, which was highly unusual and a contributory factor:
“We’ve had pack racing at other tracks before, but there’s always been a limit. You couldn’t use the entire race track.”
What I saw of the press conference was broadly in line with what I expected. As some of you will know I wrote about the crash on the site earlier:
Rethinking oval racing for IndyCar after Las Vegas
The full report should be available soon.