Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

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Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

Postby Bryce Turner » Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:09 pm

By: Bryce Turner
Dan Wheldon shouldn’t have been in yesterday’s deadly crash on lap 11 of the IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas, right? There’s no way Wheldon would be so far back in the field, right? Right. But, it was decided that Wheldon would start at the back of the pack for the race and if he won he’d split 5 million dollars with a lucky fan. But no one knew that starting at the back of the pack would be so costly.
Wheldon was already up to 24th position when the crash happened as ABC was showing his in car camera live on TV. Once the crash happened the network switched to another shot. Looking at the in car camera you can tell that Wheldon would be involved in the wreck in front of him but nobody would predict what happened next.
The crash involved 15 cars, spinning all over the place, crashing into the wall, becoming airborne and bursting into flames. According to ESPN.com the crash appeared to happen when Wade Cunningham’s car swerved onto the track running into JR Hildebrand’s car and starting a deadly domino effect. Three other drivers were then taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. This sad crash brings to light the danger of open wheel racing. Dan Wheldon was a big part of making IndyCar safer. He was working with IndyCar on a new 2012 car before this tragic incident happened.
After Wheldon’s death was announced drivers went out for a five lap memorial driving three wide in silence while Wheldon’s car number, #77, was put atop the tracks leaderboard. A day that was supposed to be full of celebration, a championship to be crowned, Danica Patrick’s last race before moving on to NASCAR, was cut short and turned into tragedy on the lap 11 crash.
Bryce Turner is chief NASCAR correspondent for carnuts.ca.
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Re: Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

Postby meteorite » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:30 pm

All points that are well taken, Bryce. I was channel switching and didn't see the crash. But I know that in discussions during the red flag period afterwards many drivers - including Canadians James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani - let slip that they had expressed serious reservations about racing on the Vegas track. They raced just a few weeks before at Kentucky, another 1.5 mile oval, and earlier in the season at the Milwaukee Mile, but I gather that Vegas must be configured rather like Texas where then ChampCar had to cancel a race because the configuration of the track allowed speeds that generated g-forces so strong the drivers were blacking out - bad news at 220 mph. This wasn't so much the problem at Vegas as the ability of the cars to run at full throttle all the way round so no separation could be achieved and a Talladega-style wreck became inevitable.

The cost to IndyCar is huge. They lost the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion - a huge promotional blow. They lost the lead test driver on the 2011 car project, and all the knowledge and experience he had developed with it. After all the hype and hoopla about the decisive World Championship race, the decision came not through a battle on the track but when Will Power's car was wrecked in the crash of which he was the innocent victim and bore no guilt. And all the celebrations planned for after changed to dust and ashes.

Meanwhile fairly or not, Indycar is being accused of arrogance at best and callousness at least in disregarding the advice of its drivers and running the event on an unsuitable track. What has been an increasingly triumphant season of building sponsorships, entries, and television coverage is now shattered and devastated.

Perhaps they had grown careless - certainly the expertise of the drivers in meeting the most challenging conditions has been constantly pushing the bounds of credibility. Huge efforts to build safety into the cars have resulted in blessedly great reductions in the frequent fatalities the in earlier years were the hallmarks of racing. Perhaps there is faulty judgment, as has been charged, at the top of the organizational hierarchy. Perhaps simple hubris, derived from plans mostly going so well, was the culprit.

The bottom line remains: Dan Wheldon ws a huge and proven talent. His loss is catastrophic to IndyCar and motorsports as a whole. He leaves a shattered widow and two children who will never know their father. It is a tragedy of boundless dimensions for all concerned.

And we can only offer our deepest sympathy to Dan Wheldon, his widow and family, all his army of friends, supporters and admirers, and all who care about motorsports and its people around the globe.

(There is a separate posting below about Dan Wheldon specifically).
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Re: Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

Postby meteorite » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:54 pm

At least there is a little good news.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES DRIVERS MANN, HILDEBRAND RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL

LAS VEGAS (Monday, Oct. 17, 2011) -- IZOD IndyCar Series drivers JR Hildebrand and Pippa Mann were released from University Medical Center in Las Vegas on Oct. 17.

Mann had surgery last night to clean and assess a severe burn injury to the little finger of her right hand sustained in an accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She will need a subsequent surgery in 2-3 weeks to fully repair the injury but is expected to make a full recovery.

Hildebrand had a severely bruised sternum in the same accident and was held overnight for observation.
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Re: Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

Postby meteorite » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:17 pm

So what is the Indycar organisation doing about it all? They're using a high-tech approach. Some of it is obvious - new film, track record film, and what they can gather from other sources. But I suspect that there will be a surprise or two even for the very well informed in the number, variety and types of crash recording sources constantly active in an Indy car. (And depending on how new it is, maybe in your personal chariot as well - be warned). But let Indycar speak for itself:

INDYCAR CONTINUES INVESTIGATION OF 15-CAR INCIDENT AT LAS VEGAS INDY 300

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, Oct. 24, 2011) - INDYCAR continues to move forward with its investigation into the 15-car accident on Lap 11 of the Oct. 16 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in which two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon sustained unsurvivable injuries.

As part of Phase 1 of the investigation, an internal team led by series safety and competition officials is evaluating data to make a factual determination of the circumstances surrounding the entire incident.

The investigation team will utilize outside, independent experts and consultants for analysis of various aspects of the data. The results of the investigation will be turned over to an independent, third-party group for validation.

"We must continue to move forward with a thorough investigation," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "Fortunately, that has already begun, and we have the protocols in place to get this done. This was a tragic accident, and INDYCAR needs to understand everything possible about it."

INDYCAR anticipates Phase 1 will be complete in several weeks. Phase 2 of the investigation will utilize the information learned in Phase 1 to minimize risks in the future.

Accessible data currently being utilized by the investigation team includes:

· Accident Data Recorders (ADR3s) from all 15 cars involved in the accident. The ADR3 senses and records 1,000 samples per second just prior to, during and after an accident-triggering event. The ADR3 crash-hardened system can record data from the both the vehicle's internal sensors as well as information from the car's on-board data acquisition system.

· Accelerometers from all 15 drivers involved in the accident. These sensors are integrated into the left and right radio earpieces worn by drivers to measure dynamic forces during an accident, including the acceleration in the X, Y and Z axes.

· Analysis of all cars involved in the incident.

· Personal safety equipment including firesuits, Nomex underwear and helmets.

· Analysis of videos, including footage from in-car cameras, safety vehicles and Race Control.

· Analysis of photos, including the accident itself, as well as track conditions post-accident.

· Post-incident reports from Race Control and the Holmatro Safety Team.

· Event-specific data from Timing & Scoring.

Guidelines emphasizing improved driver safety and quality car construction were the key specifications stressed to chassis manufacturers that produced the current generation car, which was introduced in 2003. Key safety mandates include energy-absorbing materials, side intrusion panels and increased distance between front and pedal bulkheads.

INDYCAR and Dallara continue to work on developing its next generation chassis, which will debut in competition in 2012; a universal road/oval chassis with an enhanced driver safety cell and design, which reduces the risks of wheel-to-wheel contact and interlocking wheel.
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Re: Deadly Crash costs Wheldon's life

Postby meteorite » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:34 pm

THE FINAL EXPLANATION (Courtesy of INDYCAR)

LAS VEGAS ACCIDENT REVIEW COMPLETE

INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 15, 2011) - A comprehensive review of the racing accident that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon is complete, INDYCAR announced Dec. 15.

Wheldon, the 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, suffered a non-survivable head injury Oct. 16 in a 15-car crash in Turn 2 of Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the final race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

"There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life," said Brian Barnhart, President of Operations, INDYCAR. "It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan's family."

The accident review revealed that Wheldon's path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. The No. 77 car became airborne and ultimately impacted a vertical post of the track fencing. The pole intruded the cockpit, and the impact with the driver's helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.

The response to the scene by INDYCAR's Holmatro Safety Team was rapid and decisive, according to the review.

INDYCAR analyzed data from the accident data recorders carried on board each race car involved in the crash, the on-board data acquisition system from teams, timing and scoring data, video, still photographs, physical evidence and eyewitness reports from participants. Third-party experts with Indianapolis-based Wolf Technical Services provided independent assurance that the investigation protocol, evidence examined and reviewed, and the conclusions reached are consistent and appropriate to standard scientific and engineering investigation methods.

Examination of video of the incident demonstrates normal "pack racing" that is common on high-banked ovals. However, there was almost unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions not previously experienced that is attributed to track geometry beyond banking. Such freedom of movement outside of normal racing grooves not only increased the probability for car-to-car contact, but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers. As a result, the opportunity for this incident was increased.

While this incident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamic of the current car and the overall track geometry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appears to have been one of the contributing factors in this incident.

The 34-car starting field was determined to be acceptable based on factors such as length and width of the racetrack and pit space capability. This incident and its consequences could have occurred with any size starting field at any track.

"INDYCAR's commitment to safety was enhanced by Dan Wheldon's testing throughout 2011 of the new car to be used by INDYCAR in 2012," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season ushers in an era of a new race car and the opportunity for continued safety advancements. Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of this new car and the safety innovations that it represents. We are thankful for his efforts and commitment to racing."

The 2012 Dallara Automobili chassis enhances safety components such as side intrusion panels and wheel tethers. The cockpit is longer and wider than the decommissioned monocoque, which allows for additional padding underneath and behind the driver. Also, a "floating headrest" works in conjunction with the mandatory FHR (Frontal Head Restraint) attached to the helmet. Driver positioning allows for better sightlines.
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