Monday, October 17, 2011 00:07
Thanks to technology like air bags, crumple zones, and anti-lock brakes, driving a car is safer than it’s ever been. The same goes for racing cars, a sport that routinely sees drivers walk away from truly terrifying crashes. But as safe as racing is these days, the unthinkable still happens as it did on Sunday when two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon died as a result of a multi-car crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300.
Dan Wheldon joined the Indycar series in 2003, winning Rookie of the Year honors that season. He won the Indianapolis 500 and the IRL Indycar Series Championship in 2005, and again won Indy in 2011 when rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed in the last corner on the last lap, handing Wheldon the win.
Wheldon looked like a driver on the way up, but racing is an insanely expensive sport, and despite his Indy win, he lacked the financial backing to secure a full-time ride this season. He worked as a TV commentator for several races, proving himself as skillful behind a mic as he was behind the wheel, and he test-drove prototypes of future Indycars, including some incorporating proposed safety advances.
But for racers like Wheldon, there’s only one place to be––in a race car––and the Las Vegas Indy 300 might have turned his fortunes around. Indycar CEO Randy Bernard had selected Wheldon to drive in the $5 million Go Daddy Indycar challenge at Las Vegas. Wheldon had to start at the back of the field, but if he won, he would split a $5 million payout with a fan who entered a Verizon Mobile contest. More...