The official IndyCar accident review has been released concerning Dan Wheldon's fatal crash at Las Vegas earlier this year. Although Wheldon's head coming into contact with a fence support post was ruled the specific cause of his death, the verdict on the context of the accident is that "multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life."

Two days of safety testing had been conducted at the Vegas speedway, but drivers still knew it could be a "hairy" race. The size of the track allowed for a huge field of 34 cars, and the particular geometry of the track not only allowed high speeds, it also meant that there were no 'racing grooves' that would channel the cars into some kind of order. That meant ''nearly unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions." The ability for drivers to race just about anywhere the banked oval also meant it would be hard for drivers to know where everyone else was, meaning it was problematic to identify any predictable route to safety without standard racing lines.

Wheldon's car wasn't the only one to go airborne, nor was it the only one to impact the fence above the SAFER barriers. It just so happened, however, that his cockpit was turned toward the fence as it impacted. The report's conclusion was that "While several factors coincided to produce a 'perfect storm,' none of them can be singled out as the sole cause of the accident. For this reason, it is impossible to determine with certainty that the result would have been any different if one or more of the factors did not exist."

IndyCar will not return to Las Vegas next year, but more testing will be conducted at the track for a potential return in 2013. Additionally, the Dallara chassis entering the series next year has been engineered to address issues with wheel-to-wheel contact.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      dirtraxx23
      • 3 Years Ago
      There is a much better detailed report on the accident on another website. Go to RACER.com for the full report. The telemetry from Wheldon's car indicated he was nearly off the throttle one second before impact with another car and his speed had dropped from 224mph to 165mph. Wheldon's car traveled 325 feet in the air, rolling to the right, exposing the cockpit to the catch fence. Some years back, Mario Andretti was shaking down his son's Indy car, hit debris and launched the car into the catch fence at Indianapolis. He walked away with only a very sore body. The difference was the car didn't hit the catch fence with the cockpit. Dale Earnhardt, Sr died at Daytona traveling at much less speed than Wheldon in a car with full bodywork and a very strong rollcage. In both situations, it was the right combination of circumstances coming together all at the same time resulting in a fatality. Rapid deceleration played a big part in both incidents.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @dirtraxx23
        [blocked]
          emserge
          • 3 Years Ago
          He might have also survided if he wore his seatbelt correctly.
          dirtraxx23
          • 3 Years Ago
          My point being ....2 different car designs......2 different types of crashes......same result. Earnhardt impacted the wall at aproximately 160 mph at a severe angle. He did indeed have a 5 point harness in his car. That is the minimum driver restraint system available from manufacturers. I know....I have purchased 3 such systems for my own use. IndyCar and F-1 both utilize a 6 point restraint system. I am well aware of the circumstances which caused D.E. Sr's death. I have seen enough replays and also read the official report from NASCAR on line,as have many others. Earnhardt's lap belt failed, which was a major contributing factor to his fatal injuries,along with the angle of impact. And "only 20 -30 mph", as you put it, can make a huge difference in a crash. along with the angle of impact. I have seat time in a race car, so I know of what I speak. I was not trying to make one death less severe than the other. Am not here to argue either. I was simply attempting to make the point that there is an inherent risk in any type of race car. The speed is not always the biggest factor, as some would believe. I have been around race tracks since 1963 ,I'm not new to this. Racing itself is relatively safe. The danger doesn't become a factor until something goes wrong.
      Matt
      • 3 Years Ago
      Similarly, it's a "chance" accident when a drunk driver runs a red light and t-bones your... Sure, you were just unlucky enough to have been in the intersection at the wrong time, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have been prevented, and it doesn't mean that there was no wrong done.
      wlh1923
      • 3 Years Ago
      Most unfortunate accident indeed. That being said does anyone who watched the accident really need to see an autopsy report to know this driver died in the accident? Firey missile crashes at over two hundred miles an hour. Was he incinerated, baked or crushed first? Does it really matter?
      blinn8656
      • 3 Years Ago
      In all things in life there are risks. Racers are aware of the potential for disaster. They choose to take those risks and sometimes the stars align and disaster strikes. No amount of safety equipment or car or track design can prevent that. Driver run fast and hard for the thrill of mastering man and machine while accepting those risks. Tragedy strikes very seldom so when it does it is a great loss to us all. Racing is safer than it has ever been but still there are risks just as things in all life. We miss you Dan and know some good will come of this terrible accident.
        Rhonda
        • 3 Years Ago
        @blinn8656
        Very true. That is the sport. The tracks, the cars and the racers themselves are a work in progress. That's competition. Blame game serves no purpose. If the track is narrow, slow down. An uncompetitve race or two and the track is either changed or the NHRA sorry NASCAR crews move on. Yeras ago the attendance would have doubled like Talladega, so really, who's to blame.
      Maverick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Every accident is a chance accident... otherwise you're implying a planned accident.
      Jon Acton
      • 3 Years Ago
      It just goes to show you that when your number is up nothing is going to stop it from happening.
        tkosoccer03
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jon Acton
        i disagree.. i hate the idea that i'm not in control of my life, in fact i don't believe it. we control the choices we make in this life. we choose which path we take. dan knew the risks.. every driver knows the risks.. it's a dangerous sport. i'm not saying for one second it was his fault and he chose to die. but he did choose this career. and it's unfortunate that crash happened to begin with..
          LONNIE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @tkosoccer03
          But you do not have control of the other people around you. You may do everything right but then some drunk, driving the wrong way on a road takes you out. You have no control of that, but you are dead the same.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @tkosoccer03
          [blocked]
        rann948
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jon Acton
        Absolutely. Whenever you engage in a risky activity, the chance your number will come up increases. I guess your real choice is to live a longer and boring life, or a shorter and exciting life.
      thePeterN
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Wheldon's head coming into contact with a fence support post was ruled the specific cause of his death" This wouldn't have been an issue if the cockpits were enclosed, like a fighter jet. Neither would Massa's accident have happened, where he was hit by a 3 pound spring lost by another car, nor Senna's death, where a axleshaft from his own car hit his head.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @thePeterN
        [blocked]
        Elmo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @thePeterN
        Do you actually think ANY of those incidents could have been prevented with a closed cockpit? Dan's car was going over 180mph into the catch fence. That would have DESTROYED the canopy on contact. Same goes for Massa's and Senna's accident. Something with the weight of those 2 parts at the speeds they were going would have gone through the canopy and still caused serious injury. Plus, they'd have to seriously detune the hell out of these cars with closed cockpits. Closed cockpits would give the car better aero, letting them get up to higher speeds.
        rann948
        • 3 Years Ago
        @thePeterN
        Trapped in a cockpit in a fire would be just as deadly.
        wrxfrk16
        • 3 Years Ago
        @thePeterN
        You realize in IRL cars the high strung motor is right behind the driver's head, if a fuel line ruptures or is compromised in a crash and the car ignites, the drivers usually like to be able to escape before the driving suits fail.
          dirtraxx23
          • 3 Years Ago
          @wrxfrk16
          Hey WRX.....in an IndyCar the fuel cell is located in between the driver and the engine. There are also breakaway connections to prevent fuel from spewing everywhere in the event of a huge impact . Yes , we may see an initial flash fire but it goes out quickly once the fuel is gone from the lines. Any fire we see after that is usually an oil fire or lube from the drive train burning, which is what we saw at Vegas.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      recorby
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is disgusting. There is zero chance for a driver to control his car at Las Vegas, because the track configuration requires the the drivers are flat all the time (i.e., flat out). Nobody has reflexes this fast. If one car gets out of shape there's not chance to save it, and you wind up with accidents like this. IndyCar should drop the track until it's changed.
      nhy76p
      • 3 Years Ago
      Move the race back to Pocono Raceway and don't put it in May.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Justin
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not having the cars serve as ramps for other cars would be a good start.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Justin
        [blocked]
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