Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon: How his Death Affects the Las Vegas Speedway

Dan Wheldon was an international Indy Car Series driver. He was originally from England, but he travelled all over the world, racing and winning. In both 2005 and 2011, Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500, the biggest race in the Indy Car series. He was also the 2005 Indy Racing League Indy Car Series champion. For those of you that don’t know much about Indy cars, they are very different from the popular NASCAR Series vehicles. Indy cars are low to the ground, thinner, and lighter. Dan Wheldon was a very talented driver, he “won 16 races in his storied…career”, but unfortunately his career and his life were ended when he raced and crashed on the Las Vegas Speedway on October 16th, 2011 (Little, 2011).

Before the race, comments about the track were made on the Indy Car website, saying things like “this race could be the wildest race of the season” (Gregory, 2011).  A rookie driver, James Hincliffe commented that “The racing is so close and when something goes wrong it can really go wrong” (Gregory, 2011). Those commentators did not know just how right they were. The racers might have been expecting some wild racing, but they could not foresee what would happen that day. Twelve laps into the race, two cars made contact with each other causing a chain reaction. The crash ended up involving 15 cars. Many drivers were injured and Wheldon’s car turned over as it went airborne and sailed into what’s called the catch fence, which sits over a barrier that’s designed to give a bit when cars make contact. After the crash, Oriol Servia, a driver that was involved in the Las Vegas race said “We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat” (Gregory, 2011). To “go flat” means to accelerate quickly and freely and the “high banking” refers to the degree at which the turns are set. “The Las Vegas Motor Speedway changed the banking of its turns, from 12 degrees to 20 degrees, which increased speeds on the track,” something that is now being considered unsafe for the Indy Series (Gregory, 2011). Dario Franchitti, another driver also commented “I said before we even tested here that this was not a suitable track for us, and we’ve seen it today” (Gregory, 2011).

The Indy Car Series and the NASCAR series are both very popular events in Las Vegas. People enjoy getting to see their favorite drivers race. I know I love the noise the Indy Cars make as they zoom around the track, and I love getting to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. (a NASCAR driver), even though he rarely wins. Due to the accident, us fans might not get that chance anymore. This year, the Indy Car series was investigating “to [determine] if the series can continue racing on high-banked ovals such as the one at Las Vegas” (Los Angeles Times, 2011). The set schedule for 2012 is on the official website and Las Vegas is not on the list. Will Indy Car ever return to Las Vegas or has the death of one of the Series most popular drivers scared drivers away from racing the track? According to Eric Smith, “the series has announced they won’t return to Milwaukee, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Las Vegas next season…it’s looking like there will only be 14 races on the circuit…if there’s only 14 races, … this may be nearing the end of the best racing out there” (Smith, 2011). The Indy Car event is a very popular event with seventy-five thousand people attending at Las Vegas speedway that weekend. It is a shame that such a talented man died on the track, and that the event might no longer be held in at our speedway.



Gregory, S. (2011, October 17). Ominous signs: Track conditions questioned before wheldon’s death. Retrieved from http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2011/10/17/ominous-signs-track-conditions-questioned-before-wheldons-death/


Indycar will not race in las vegas next season. (2011, December 8). Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/08/sports/la-sp-newswire-20111209


Laberge, R. (Photographer). (2012). Nascar sprint cup: Will dan wheldon’s death loom over the kobalt tools 400?. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1095087-nascar-sprint-cup-will-dan-wheldons-death-loom-over-the-kobalt-tools-400


Little, J. (2011, October 17). Dan wheldon dies after indycar crash. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/racing/indycar/story/_/id/7111712/dan-wheldon-dies-following-indycar-crash-vegas


Smith, E. (2011, December 8). Indycar: Effect loss of las vegas motor speedway and other tracks will have. Retrieved from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/975117-does-recent-loss-of-tracks-including-vegas-mean-indycar-is-taking-steps-backward









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