October 16, 2011

Dan Wheldon Dies in 15-Car Crash at Las Vegas: Dan Wheldon died Sunday from injuries suffered in a 15-car wreck during lap 13 of an IndyCar race in Las Vegas. He was 33. Wheldon won this year's Indianapolis 500. "I've never seen anything like it," driver Ryan Briscoe said of the crash. "The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from Terminator or something."

posted by etagloh to auto racing at 06:29 PM - 28 comments

Wheldon was writing a three-part series for USA Today on this race.

posted by rcade at 06:37 PM on October 16, 2011

A damn good driver.


posted by NoMich at 06:38 PM on October 16, 2011

Wow. I didn't catch this until after it happened but the last thing I saw was that there were 3 more drivers in the hospital who were still being treated, and they didn't know their condition. I don't know if that means that their lives are also in danger or not, but that crash was really bad.

I don't know much about indycar but it seems likely that there will be some changes before next season.

posted by feloniousmonk at 06:39 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by Demophon at 06:45 PM on October 16, 2011

Just horrific. RIP.

posted by bperk at 06:48 PM on October 16, 2011

That was fucking carnage. It had the look of a crash from an earlier, deadlier era, and IndyCar will need to look very very hard at itself. A number of drivers had expressed qualms about the kind of race expected at LVMS before the start, and some of the comments in the preview (Danica: "The race is going to be crazy and the crashes will be spectacular") turned out to be true for all the wrong reasons.

Wheldon's decision to race in the US meant that he never really got the attention or the respect of his British peers in F1. He was a damn good driver.

posted by etagloh at 07:00 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by TheQatarian at 07:31 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by paulus andronicus at 07:35 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:38 PM on October 16, 2011

:| <<<< that's my shocked face over the fact that the Metafilter thread on this subject is a fucking nightmare.

posted by NoMich at 08:57 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by yzelda4045 at 09:43 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by dviking at 10:12 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by insomnyuk at 10:28 PM on October 16, 2011

From what I could gather from the clip that etagloh posted, when one of these cars gets the least bit of air under it at speed, it is guaranteed to get airborne. NASCAR tried with some success to mitigate this problem by installing deployable flaps on the vehicles that tended to provide additional downforce in addition to increasing aerodynamic drag to help the car slow. I don't think the Indy cars have any such feature. It sounds like some serious safety re-design of the cars is in order. The track here in NH hosted an Indy car race this past season. It did not draw well, so the Indy car association decided not to come back. In part I'm glad they won't repeat that here in NH. Automobile racing has steadily become safer in the past few years, but as this illustrates, it is still a very dangerous sport. If nothing else, a tragedy such as this will spur the search for more safety.


posted by Howard_T at 10:56 PM on October 16, 2011


It sounds like some serious safety re-design of the cars is in order.

That's been in the works for some time. Two new chassis (separate ones for ovals and road courses) are to be used in IndyCar in 2012. According to Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin, "The new design protects the rear wheels to prevent launches like Wheldon and [Will] Power experienced." Not to suggest that other factors didn't contribute as well.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:18 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by tselson at 11:18 PM on October 16, 2011


posted by tommybiden at 11:29 PM on October 16, 2011

correction, IndyCar 2012 is just one chassis with different body coverings and aerodynamics for road and oval courses.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:54 PM on October 16, 2011

They're also going back to ground effects underneath the car (which was what CART/ChampCar used for their chassis) to lessen the dependence on the wings for downforce. instead of the flat bottomed cars they were racing in Indycars from the founding of the IRL up to this season. That should also decrease the tendency for cars to get airborne, especially if their wings get damaged.

It's such a shame. We were one race away from leaving these 8 year old cars for good. :(

posted by gyc at 12:38 AM on October 17, 2011

R.I.P. Dan Wheldon.

Condolences to his family and friends.

posted by steelergirl at 01:15 AM on October 17, 2011

You poor bastard at least I hope you lived doing something you loved, which is more than many of us can say.

posted by phaedon at 01:32 AM on October 17, 2011


posted by NerfballPro at 03:15 AM on October 17, 2011

New Jersey racing fan Ann Babenco got up Sunday morning with a chance to win half of Wheldon's $5 million if he won the race. She was at the race and had dinner with him during the week. Her husband John Torkildsen, watching from home, said he was crying after he saw the wreck. "I'm 60 years old," he said. "I've been watching Indy racing for a long time and I've never seen a crash like that."

The fact that this was the last race in those cars is exceptionally tragic.

posted by rcade at 08:10 AM on October 17, 2011


posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 08:59 AM on October 17, 2011


posted by BornIcon at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2011

Several things.

First of all, what a totally heartbreaking loss for his family, his fans and the sport in general.

Second of all, thank you, Sportsfilter, for being classy in this thread. As a community, we can all act like asses sometimes, but for the most part we're a pretty respectful bunch when it comes to tragedy.

Finally, I've been reading accounts of this on many different sites and there are an alarming number of people out there that need a humanity transplant. Not going to call out any websites in particular, but its been infuriating reading around. I need to install a script in Firefox that prevents me from reading comments on news articles.

Anyhow, rest in piece, Mr. Wheldon. You were a superb athlete and competitor and, by all accounts, a fine human being.

posted by Joey Michaels at 08:13 PM on October 17, 2011

This story makes it sound as if the changing cars next season helped put some unready drivers on the track. Teams had excess inventory of the cars that were going to be obsolete.

posted by rcade at 09:25 PM on October 17, 2011

Dan Wheldon and his wife Suzie spent the night before he died getting his-and-her tattoos.

posted by rcade at 09:51 AM on October 18, 2011

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