Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIP, Dan Wheldon

I'm a huge NASCAR fan, and one of the things I am so glad about is how they've changed the stock cars and race tracks since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001. Wrecks occur far less often than ever now, and when they do, it is amazing at how these drivers just walk away, mostly unscathed by it all.

I watch Formula One and Indy Car much less frequently, mainly because the F1 races are unexciting and Indy Car just hasn't caught my fancy as much. One thing I don't like about either open wheel series, though, is the tremendous danger the drivers face. These cars just fall apart when in a wreck. There's no protection for the driver.

We saw that again today, just a couple of hours ago, when on the 12th lap of the last Indy Car race of the season, driver Dan Wheldon was killed in front of our eyes. In a wreck that devoured some 15 cars, his was one of at least two that went flying through the air and into the catch-can fence. The cockpit was the part of the car that hit that fence.

The race was canceled, and the remaining 19 drivers just did a 5 lap salute to their friend and competitor. In a race that was to decide the season champion, focus on the final Indy Car race of Danica Patrick who is switching to NASCAR full time in 2012, and also celebrate the potential of Wheldon winning $5 million as well as one million for a fan, it all ended tragically with a reminder that racing is deathly serious and dangerous.

It's a sad day and racing fans join family and friends to mourn the loss of Dan Wheldon.

The checkered flag is out.

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