A day after Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car wreck during the IndyCar World Championships in Las Vegas, some people in the racing world are calling out IndyCar’s brass for ignoring pre-race safety concerns.
“I said before this is not a suitable track. You can’t get away from anybody. One small mistake and you have a massive wreck,” Dario Franchitti told ESPN after the race.
“I was really nervous coming into today,” racer Danica Patrick said yesterday.
The concern was that on high-banked oval tracks like the one in Vegas, speeds of over 220 miles per hour are extremely dangerous. In addition, the racers were allowed to go three-wide — meaning cars would be bunched up and drivers would have little room to manoeuvre left and right.
“Within five laps people started to do crazy stuff,” Franchitti said. “I wanted no part of it. I love hard racing, but that to me is not what it’s about.”
In a column for FoxSports.com today, writer Greg Couch took these concerns a step further and accused IndyCar brass of creating a “death trap” in a last-ditch effort to save the sport financially.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard had said that if ratings didn’t go up from this championship race, didn’t beat last year’s minuscule TV ratings, then he would hand in his resignation.
So he offered up a $5 million winner’s prize to any driver who wasn’t an Indy racer. It was a challenge to prove the talent level of Indy drivers. (…)
Imagine that: Cars would be going 225 mph, side by side, packed together, and an X-Games athlete, Travis Pastrana, who has NASCAR aspirations, was going to try.
The conventional wisdom is that tragedies like the one we saw yesterday — as awful as they are — are an occupational hazard for race car drivers.
The concerns that Franchetti, Patrick, and others had seem ominous now. But drivers publicly speaking out about race conditions is fairly common practice in the sport.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that IndyCar will have to consider significant safety changes going into next season.
“It is just not right that some one has to die to make those changes,” driver Alex Tagliani said after the race.
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