Las Vegas IndyCar Race Questions Unanswered?


(WOMR file photo)

After viewing the moments that were leading up to the violent crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that prematurely took the life of Dan Wheldon, it is not precisely clear who caused the incident.  More importantly, it is not going to make the incident go away.  And that is ok.  No good will come out of “fingering” the guilty party, in this instance.  Again it is impossible to cite any one individual Sunday.

However, there are some circumstances that need to be examined that led up to one of the most devastating IndyCar wrecks in recent memory.  The IndyCar officials must examine these elements and correct them immediately!

Items that the officials need to re-examine and apply a correction are as follows:

The first: Was INDYCAR in violation of its own rules? Rules which govern the number of cars in races at specific tracks.

It appears that the series may have been in violation of those rules.

On page 93 of the 2011 rule book, it says:

“The starting fields for each Race shall be a maximum of 28 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals), except as follows:

(a) Brazil – 26 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals)

(b) Indianapolis 500 Mile Race – 33 Cars (no provisionals)

(c) Toronto – 27 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals)

(d) Mid Ohio – 27 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals)

(e) Motegi – 26 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals)

(f) Baltimore – 26 Cars (which includes 2 provisionals)”

So, according to the rule book, the field at Las Vegas was six cars larger than it should have been. The fact that INDYCAR has rules in place that govern the size of fields would seem to acknowledge that problems could occur from excessively high car counts.

Rules aside, putting 34 Indycars on the Las Vegas track seems to violate common sense. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval. Its surface is banked to 20 degrees in the corners. It is lightning fast to put it mildly!

Both the drivers, as well as the teams, were nervous about the impending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  IndyCar officials only gave the divers 3 1/2 hours of total practice time prior to the race at a facility that had not seen an IndyCar race since its reconfiguration.  Probably that was not in keeping with safety standards of the IndyCar procedures, as well.

After the fatal wreck, which occurred on lap 11 and prompted INDYCAR to cancel the remainder of the race, driver after driver questioned the decision to hold the event in the first place.

Veteran drivers such as Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti used terms such as “unsuitable” when talking about the track vis-a-vis modern Indycars and the size of the field.

This, too, is common sense for virtually everyone who follows racing, but it still needs to be said: Indycars are not NASCAR cars. The drivers of Indycars are much more vulnerable to the kinds of things that happened at Las Vegas than are NASCAR drivers.

The second: Were there people on that track who should not have been on that track?

Perhaps. I think it fair to argued that there were people on that track, and other tracks, simply because they could drum up enough sponsorship to be there. So-called ride-buyers.

That belief here is; ride buying can be a dangerous practice.

That is nominally so in stock cars where the drivers are surrounded by steel and composite cocoons. In open-wheel racing, a lack of talent and experience can be highly dangerous.

One of the things that has kept more crazy wrecks from happening, and fewer medical helicopters in the air at Indycar events over the years, has been the fact that the vast majority of people in the cars were qualified to be there.

Drivers knew and could trust the person next to them on the track. They knew dumb moves would be kept to a minimum.

But the new economics have caused changes when it comes to hiring and keeping drivers. Sponsorship money is having a bigger say in who pilots the cars that teams put on the tracks.

INDYCAR says an investigation has been launched. And you can bet it will be as thorough as possible, no matter who it is doing the investigation.

My hope is that any and all investigations result in the adoption of measures which will prevent a replay of lap 11 at Las Vegas from ever happening again.

Drivers’ and spectators’ lives are on the line. Additionally, the future of the sport may also be on the line.  From the viewpoint of WOMR, it’s a good sport, very exciting, and a very exhilarating sport to watch.

What are your thoughts ?


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