“You ask me about tragic accidents? If I am on my tractor at my farm and it rolls over on me and kills me, that's a tragic accident. If I die in a race car, that's life. I died doing what I love.”
― Dale Earnhardt
Dan Wheldon's death was a tragedy because it never should have happened.
Sunday afternoon I tuned into the highly publicized IndyCar finale. Once again the championship was coming down to Dario Franchitti and Will Power. There was also the intriguing story of Dan Wheldon racing from last place for the win for 5 million dollars. Added the fact it was the largest IndyCar field on a high banked 1.5 mile oval. Oh the excitement.
With the race coming up both drivers and owners voiced concern about the high banks and larger fields. After the test the driver made comments about how fast it was and how they were going to be a lot of side by side racing at 220+ MPH. It is hard to say, but the drivers seemed a little uncomfortable about this, but they are paid to race.
This event was the brain child of Randy Bernard the CEO of IndyCar who was newly appointed last year (2010). He came to IndyCar from PBA (Professional Bullriding Association) which he built into a very successful sporting league in 15 years. Unfortunately he did not know anything about racing. Bull riding is very dangerous but it only last 8 seconds and it is one on one, one rider and one bull. I am not sure that he understands racing is dangerous from the green to checkered which can take 2 to 3 hours with 20-30 people racing at 200mph.
Randy has felt it is important to increase the sport visibility. To do this he has tried to create more intriguing story lines. He has manipulated the racing and made it more dangerous. Well Mr. Bernard you got IndyCar in the spotlight. Not beacuse of an exciting championship finale. But for the lose of great driver, a driver who never should have died. But you cute little plan to add a lot more cars to the track and let Dan race from the back had to happen. Lets just endanger everyone for rating, fans, driver and crew.
This is not Randy's first stupid mistake in managing IndyCar, but it should be his final one. At New Hampshire Motor Speedway in August Randy ordered the start on a wet track. Five cars wrecked before getting back to the green flag. Drivers and Owners were enraged. Bernard should have been fired the next day.
Unfortunately IndyCar still had faith in someone who is willing to gamble with the lives of drivers. Well in Vegas he lost. We all lost. We lost Dan, who was an amazing driver and person. The Drivers lost a brother. The worst part is Dan's children lost a father and his wife lost a husband.
If the race was run like any other IndyCar race with a cap on the field and no gimmicks with people racing from the back. We would have seen an exciting season finale. But we saw something very very different. Something we have not seen in very long time. Something we will not hopefully see ever again. I know personally as racecar driver that is not the case. But the first step to protecting drivers is finding someone to run IndyCar that puts the drivers before the rating.
RIP Dan Wheldon 1978-2010